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Higher Speeds Approved for N.H.’s I-93

Senate Approves 70 MPH Limit, Hassan Will Review Legislation

Concord — Don’t hit the gas just yet, but New Hampshire is one step closer to raising the speed limit on Interstate 93 north of Concord.

A bill that passed the House last month would increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on I-93 from Canterbury to the Vermont border, except in the narrow stretch of highway through Franconia Notch.

The Senate passed the bill yesterday on a voice vote — prompting Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican, to jokingly raise his arms in triumph and exclaim, “Yes!”

Gov. Maggie Hassan hasn’t said if she’ll sign the bill into law.

“The governor appreciates the hard work that the Legislature put into this measure, and she will review it closely,” said spokesman Marc Goldberg.

There was no extended debate yesterday on the speed limit increase, though Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, did speak in favor of the bill.

“There’s a rule that I read last night about this, ‘85 percent rule,’ that says we should have our laws on the road where 85 percent of the people are currently traveling,” Woodburn said. “We’re going to have fringes, we always do — it’s like politics ... — but we should be in the middle, and that’s where the people are. Anybody who spends any time along 93 knows, north of here, that this is where people are driving now.”

Constitution Day, CHINS

In other action yesterday, the Senate killed a bill that would have required New Hampshire public schools to hold “patriotic exercises” each year to mark Constitution Day, Sept. 17.

The legislation passed the House in January, 326-29. But the Senate killed it on a voice vote.

Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, said schools already have opportunities to celebrate and learn about the state and federal constitutions, and that such decisions should be left to local school boards.

The Senate did pass a bill to establish a committee to study improvements to the Children In Need of Services, or CHINS, program.

Funding for the program was cut two years ago, though more money was included in the budget passed by the House this month. Lawmakers have said they want to study possible reforms to the program, to make it more effective and less expensive in the future.

The study committee was approved by the House in February on a 293-50 vote. The Senate passed the same bill yesterday on a voice vote, sending it to Hassan’s desk.

Push Polls,
Safety Seats, Wine

The Senate also passed a bill that would reform New Hampshire’s 1998 law banning so-called “push polls,” calls that mimic opinion surveys but are in fact intended to push a political agenda.

National pollsters have said New Hampshire’s law is written so broadly that it could interfere with legitimate polls. The reform bill, sponsored by Etna Democratic Sen. David Pierce and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, would tighten the definition of a push poll and include a broad exemption for “bona fide survey and opinion research.”

The bill passed the Senate yesterday on a voice vote and now goes to the House.

The Senate also, on a voice vote, passed a bill requiring children 7 years and younger to use safety seats while riding in cars. The law currently requires kids 5 and under to use such seats, and the House last month voted to increase the age to 6. The Senate’s version now goes to the House for consideration.

And the Senate approved legislation that would allow residents to produce wine at home for personal consumption, up to 100 gallons a year or twice that amount for a household with two producers.

The bill passed the House on a voice vote in February; the Senate approved it yesterday on a voice vote without debate as part of its consent calendar.