House overturns one of four Sununu vetoes

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire House of Representatives gathered on Thursday for likely the last time in 2023 to address a series of vetoes from New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.

395595099 1847661039035295 6874973281672310676 n
NH House of Representatives, Oct. 26, 2023. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

HB 35

This bill requires student identification cards to include the National Eating Disorders Hotline

In his message to the House, Sununu said he vetoed the bill due to the uncertainty whether the National Eating Disorders Hotline existing in the future given that all of its staff were terminated.

An ought to pass with amendment roll call on the bill passed 238-105 earlier this year

The governor’s veto was sustained 350-0.

HB 142

This bill would allow the modification of a contract between the Burgess Biofuel Plant in Berlin and Eversource, which was Public Service of New Hampshire at the time of the original agreement in 2013.

Changing power costs led to requests of debt relief by Burgess, with agreements to pay approximately $70 million by Burgess to Eversource completely forgiven.

Legislators from Berlin said that the plant provided 30 jobs in Berlin and significantly impacted other companies across New Hampshire, also providing energy through woodchips, a renewable source of fuel that is plentiful in the area.

Michael Harrington (R-Strafford) spoke in favor of sustaining the veto, stating that Burgess would request further debt forgiveness in the future, the amount of power generated at Burgess was minimal, and that costs would be passed along to ratepayers.

The bill originally passed the house with amendment by a vote of 269 to 109. On Thursday it failed to meet the threshold for a 2/3rds veto override, getting only 194 votes to override versus 159 votes to sustain the veto.

Sununu released the following statement after the vote.

I thank members of the House of Representatives for siding with New Hampshire ratepayers today and voting against the continuation of subsidies for a company that has failed time and time again to find a stable financial model.

Burgess spokesperson Sarah Boone released the following statement after the vote.

We are deeply disappointed the legislature did not reach the supermajority required to override the Governor’s veto of HB 142. This override was blocked by a legislative minority and will create serious financial events for the forest products industry, the City of Berlin, and Burgess. 

Over 10 years of operation, Burgess has generated enough energy to power 67,000 homes annually and has delivered more than $700 million in economic benefits to the state’s economy.  Despite today’s vote, we continue to believe the legislature got it right with HB 142, which developed a new model for Burgess’s continued operation. HB 142 was a result of more than two years of collaborative, bipartisan work between legislative leaders and the NH Department of Energy.

Today’s vote jeopardizes hundreds of jobs Burgess supports statewide and its $70 million in annual economic benefits. The plant has been a vital component of the state’s annual $1.4 billion forest products industry, consuming nearly 800,000 tons of low-grade wood from more than 150 communities. 

The company is evaluating the veto’s impacts and considering its next steps.

Americans For Prosperity-NH State Director Greg Moore released the following statement after the vote.

Despite receiving some $200 million in subsidies from hard-working Granite Staters, the Burgess Biomass plant still has not demonstrated any intention or plan to make the plant economically sustainable.

Cate Street Capital—the owners and mangers of the plant—have a long history of rent-seeking, but thankfully lawmakers understood that continuing to subsidize Burgess would be throwing good money after bad. As “Bidenomics” continues to eat into the paychecks of hard-working taxpayers, it’s reassuring that New Hampshire lawmakers are combatting big-government spending with sound policy and maintaining the New Hampshire Advantage.  The long term future of Burgess requires a new management team that understands how to run an economically viable plant and not constantly demanding that taxpayers and ratepayers shower it with millions of dollars annually.

HB 337

Notice for the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification (OPLC) regarding public notice and creating a new attorney II position.

The only statement on this bill came from Carol McGuire (R-Epsom) who noted that the bill unanimously passed the House and Senate.

Sununu vetoed the bill stating that it would create a unique set of requirements for the OPLC that no other governmental body in New Hampshire would have. McGuire said this was a valid point, but also noted that there had been a history of complaints against the OPLC regarding transparency and that if these new requirements were successful, they could be given to other boards across the state to help ensure the public has a better understanding of what boards are being asked to make decisions upon.

The veto was overridden in the House, 251-104. However, the bill did not receive a two-thirds majority in the Senate, with only 12 votes to override. The Senate did not override any bills originating in the Senate that were vetoed by Sununu on Thursday.

HB 342

This bill aimed to facilitate lead testing for children prior to school and day care.

Lucy Weber (D-Walpole) said the bill would not prevent any children from entering school, only provide another point where they could obtain testing for lead poisoning in the blood, which can cause serious health risks if not caught before the age of 2.

Erica Layon (R-Derry) said that the recent dip in lead testing came from a recall of testing devices, which had been addressed, agreeing with Sununu that while lead testing is important, that this bill was redundant toward addressing the issue itself.

The bill received a 184-171 majority, not enough for an override.


About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.