N.H. Senate Still Far From Budget Deal

Concord — Senate Republicans yesterday killed a bill that included language allowing the state to accept a $5.3 million federal grant to provide consumer education related to the implementation of President Obama’s 2010 health care reform law.

The Democratic-led House attached the language to an unrelated bill, which dealt with court-ordered placements at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, last week and sent it to the Senate on a 179-132 vote. But the Senate’s Republican majority decided to kill the bill rather than pass it or send it to a committee of conference for further discussion.

Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, said the last Legislature enacted legislation to make the planned health insurance exchange for New Hampshire a federal, not state, responsibility.

The state doesn’t need to get involved in helping enact a federal program, he said.

“Everyone knows that these exchanges are going to be very complex and very difficult, hard for people to understand” Sanborn said. “Do we really want to have four or five different groups of advocates running around the state, tripping over each other to try and do the same job?”

But Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, said confusion could ensue if residents don’t have local resources to help them understand the major changes coming next year under Obamacare.

And Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, said by accepting the grant, “public health will be supported, and the workforce that supports our state business and economy will be healthier and more productive.”

The vote to kill the bill was 13-11 and split along party lines, with Republicans in the majority and Democrats in the minority.

But the office of Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said she isn’t done fighting for the consumer assistance grant.

“Rejecting these dollars will hurt our consumers and make it more difficult for them to access health insurance, and the governor will continue to advocate for accepting this grant as the budget process moves forward,” said spokesman Marc Goldberg.


In other action yesterday, the Senate passed 18 bills and sent an additional 36 to committees of conference to work out differences large and small with the House.

The bills headed to committees of conference, where House and Senate negotiators will try to hammer out compromise versions, include House Bills 1 and 2, the state’s operating budget for the biennium that begins July 1, and House Bill 25, the capital budget. They also include a bill legalizing medical marijuana, a bill making changes to the state’s 2012 voter ID law and legislation dealing with health care reform implementation and renewable energy.

In all, 42 bills have gone to committees of conference, which face a June 20 deadline to complete their work. Final votes are expected on those bills the following week.

For 18 other bills, the Senate yesterday concurred with changes made by the Democratic-led House and sent those pieces of legislation to Hassan’s desk.

They included a study of site evaluation criteria for wind farms and a bill requiring proposed amendments to the state Constitution to include the language that would appear in the official voter’s guide ahead of a ratification vote.