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New Hampshire legislators introduced more than 960 new bills in 2022. Rather than focus on individual bills, sometimes it is useful to focus on larger themes. The sheer number of bills proposed on any given topic gives insight into legislators’ priorities.
There are more than three dozen new bills that relate to vaccination. Most of the vaccine-related bills aim to limit employer vaccine mandates. For example, House Speaker Sherman Packard is the lead sponsor of HB 1455, which would prohibit state enforcement of federal COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandates. HB 1210 would require any employers with vaccination mandates to allow medical, religious and conscientious objector exemptions. Two Republican senators introduced SB 300, which would add “refusal of experimental drug” to state laws against discrimination.
There are a handful of bills that do look to go in the other direction. For example, HB 1332 would allow the University of NH and other public colleges to require COVID-19 vaccination. These vaccination mandate bills are unlikely to succeed in the current Republican-controlled legislature.
Election Security Concerns
Legislators introduced about 30 bills this year aimed at some aspect of election integrity. For example, HB 1064 would require the use of paper ballots and forbid the use of vote-counting machines. SB 418 would establish special “affidavit balloting” for anyone who votes without the required identification documents; these ballots could be deducted from final vote totals if the voters do not return verification paperwork. SB 366 is a bipartisan bill that would require an audit for the next election in 2022.
New Hampshire’s new Secretary of State David Scanlan says that NH’s elections are secure. However, he supports some of these bills as an effort to restore voters’ faith in election outcomes.
There are a handful of bills that look to expand voting access. For example, Democrats introduced SB 427 to allow no-excuse absentee voting. However, the Republican-controlled legislature is unlikely to ease voting requirements this year.
Legislators introduced roughly two dozen bills that look to increase worker rights or raise the minimum wage in 2022. The total here excludes any bills related to vaccine and testing requirements. The bills in this category cover everything from prohibiting the use of credit history in employment decisions (HB 1385) to regulating productivity quotas (HB 1076).
Most of these bills only have Democrat sponsors, so they face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled legislature.
Education Freedom Account
There are roughly two dozen bills related to the new Education Freedom Account (EFA) program in NH. That program allows some parents to apply for their student’s share of state education funding as a scholarship for private school or home-schooling expenses. Supporters hail the program as a route to better educational outcomes for students; opponents argue the program defunds public schools in favor of unaccountable private groups.
Many of this year’s bills aim to add additional oversight or reporting related to the use of state funds through the EFA program. For example, SB 351 would require the Department of Education to publish online annual performance measures and financial accounting reports for all students and private or religious schools receiving public funds through the EFA program. HB 1120 would add new requirements for education providers that receive EFA funding, such as completing background checks for employees that have direct contact with students.
Addressing the Housing Shortage
There are a just over 20 bills aimed at housing development in NH, including everything from tiny house regulations to renter protections to a new housing appeals process. Three of these bills look to make more state funds available for workforce housing.
Given the many headlines about NH’s housing shortage, it may be surprising there are not more bills in this category. Many legislators are reluctant to disturb the local approval process for housing. This reverence for local control is one reason last year’s flagship housing legislation, HB 586, failed. This has not deterred Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) from introducing a similar bill this year, SB 400. That bill would do everything from offering free training to zoning and planning boards to creating a “housing champion certificate” that would give municipalities preferential access to state funds.
To explore all the 2022 NH bills by topic, visit citizenscount.org/bills.
Anna Brown is director of research and analysis at Citizens Count, a nonprofit that provides NH residents with information about issues and candidates.
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