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New Hampshire legislators are sponsoring roughly 850 bills this year, but dozens of those are repeats from previous years. Sometimes legislators refine a bill based on feedback, but sometimes the bill text is identical. Here are three hot debates that will get a do-over in 2023.
“Parent Bill of Rights”
Arguably the most notable repeat bill this year is HB 10, the “Parent Bill of Rights.” Generally speaking bills with very low numbers – such as HB 10 – are top priorities for legislative leaders.
HB 10 covers everything from a parent’s “right to direct the education and care of his or her minor child” to criminal penalties for violating the law.
Last year Republican legislators sponsored a similar “Parent Bill of Rights,” HB 1431. That bill included more controversial provisions, such as a requirement for schools to notify parents about a student’s “gender expression or identity.” Opponents expressed concern this would force schools to “out” at-risk youth to abusive parents. Gov. Sununu vowed to veto HB 1431, and the bill narrowly failed to pass the House.
HB 10, the 2023 version of a Parent Bill of Rights, does not include the word “gender” anywhere in the bill text. Legislators can always amend a bill text as it moves through the House and Senate, but it seems this year’s “Parent Bill of Rights” is written to address Gov. Sununu’s concerns. He has yet to weigh in.
Extending Medicaid for new mothers
HB 565 is a 2023 bill that would extend Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers, from sixty days postpartum to twelve months postpartum. The first few years of funding would come from the federal government.
The language in this bill is almost identical to a 2022 bill, HB 1536. Last year Rep. Joe Schapiro (D-Keene) wrote in support of that bill, “This is a common sense and inexpensive remedy for our nation’s high rate of preventable pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity.”
Republican opponents argued that it would create an incentive for Medicaid recipients to intentionally become pregnant every twelve months. They also expressed concerns about state costs if federal funding runs out.
This debate is notable because it will take place within a larger conversation about Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire. The original “Obamacare” program is scheduled to expire unless reauthorized by the New Hampshire Legislature this session.
Restrictions on landfills near water
Prompted by a plan to build a landfill near Lake Forest State Park, in 2020 and 2021 the New Hampshire Legislature debated bills to ban new landfills near state parks. In 2022 they passed a more refined bill with a formula to calculate the minimum setback for any landfill near a river, lake, or coast. Gov. Sununu vetoed that bill last June, arguing that New Hampshire’s existing process for siting landfills was adequate and that the state needed more landfill space.
In 2023 legislators are sponsoring three bills that are variations on this same theme: HB 56, HB 602, and SB 61. HB 56 is identical to the bill vetoed by Gov. Sununu. HB 602 establishes many other requirements for landfill siting, taking into account nearby water supplies, residences, significant wildlife habitats, etc. SB 61 would more broadly enable the Department of Environmental Services to adopt rules relative to surface water setbacks for landfills, without getting too specific in state law. It remains to be seen if Gov. Sununu can be persuaded.
Other memorable do-overs
These are just a few examples of duplicate bills before the Legislature this year.
HB 88 would prohibit any new restrictions on abortion in New Hampshire, protecting both the 24-week abortion ban and the right to get an abortion before that time. The text is almost identical to two bills from last year, HB 1674 and SB 436.
Republicans Representatives Kevin Verville and Gregory Hill are reviving a 2021 proposal that would allow towns to adopt a local version of “Education Freedom Accounts.” This would let students access the local per-pupil share of education funding for private and home school expenses.
In addition to several marijuana legalization proposals, the House of Representatives will once again debate a bill to allow home-growing of medical marijuana (HB 431).
There are also familiar bills to either increase energy efficiency grants or increase ratepayer rebates from clean energy programs.
Visit CitizensCount.org/Bills to browse all of the 2023 New Hampshire bills by topic.
Citizens Count is a nonprofit serving the New Hampshire community by providing objective information about issues, elected officials, bills, elections, and candidates. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.