It's school vacation week in New Hampshire, but your dogged citizen legislature is continuing to work. Well, kind of. The House of Representatives is in session Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Senate's next session is March 7. The legislative week ahead includes these hot topics:
Unanimous Support for a Gas Tax Hike? On the House Public Works and Highways Committee, anyway. This is House Bill 617 and it's before the full House on Wednesday. In past sessions, this was a third rail of sorts. And this year? The last increase in the road toll (aka gas tax)? Twenty-two years ago. Rep. David Campbell, for the committee, says the bill begins to resolve an infrastructure crisis. "Only money, not words and not ideology, will fix roads and bridges," according to Campbell, D-Nashua. Here are four parts of the proposal:
- raise gas tax by 4 cents per gallon in each of the following three years, and 3 cents per gallon in the fourth, for a total of 15 cents.
- generate slightly less than $1 billion over 10 years.
- raise nearly $800 million for the state DOT to finish I-93 and chip away at the number of red-list bridges.
- raise $200 million more in municipal aid.
- (as amended, this bill does not increase the cost of vehicle registration.)
Though the committee had bipartisan support for the bill, it wasn't without its share of Republican critics. Chuck Morse, the Senate Finance Chairman and Salem Republican intent on I-93 widening, panned the bill.. And Corey Lewandowski, state director for Americans for Prosperity, said the bill would be a heavy tax yoke on Granite Staters.
The Abortion Bill. House Judiciary is calling on the full chamber to defeat House Bill 483, a requirement for pregnant women seeking abortion to be informed at least 24 hours prior to the procedure. The committee majority said it would "impose ideologically driven obstacles to women seeking this medical service and is both impractical and burdensome and could lead to increased health risks for some patients." The minority report calls it a "pro-educational/pro-choice bill. ... there is no reason why an abortion cannot have a 24-hour waiting period."
No luke-warm beer? "Selling warm beer at the roadside liquor stores is just not going to work," according to the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, which wants the House on Wednesday to reject a proposed pilot program for the sale of New Hampshire microbrewery and nano brewery beers at state liquor stores.
Franklin Pierce panned? A committee voted unanimously to recommend the House rejected a bill to establish Franklin Pierce Day on Nov. 23 of each year. Opponents cited Pierce's support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which extended slavery to the western territories, according to House reports.
Lobsters and scuba. A two-year pilot program for scuba divers to take legally-sized lobsters in the month of September would be established under House Bill 259. This is up for a vote Wednesday.
Need for speed? The House takes action on three bills Wednesday that deal with driving speeds on state and interstate highways. They are:
- House Bill 146 – raise speed limit to 70 mph on I-93, from Exit 18 in Penacook to the Vermont border. A committee recommended the bill.
- House Bill 289 – raise speed limit to 70 mph on the interstate and 65 mph on the central turnpike system. A committee asks the House to reject this, citing safety.
- House Bill 291 – raise speed limit to 75 mph on the interstate system, among other changes for lanes. The recommendation on this, too, was "inexpedient to legislate."
Budget Review Continues. House Finance has budget presentations throughout the day on Feb. 25, including review of Employment Security, Liquor Commission, Lottery, and Fish & Game department budgets. Rooms 210-211, 212, and 209, in the Legislative Office Building. Finance members are back at it Feb. 26, Feb. 28 and March 1, too.