With Eyes On Medicaid, N.H. Legislative Leaders Seek Common Ground

Jan 2, 2018

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire's Senate President Chuck Morse says work on Medicaid expansion in 2018 will be a balancing act that weighs federal requirements, fiscal impact on the state, and critical services.

“In any case we have to make sure that we protect the New Hampshire taxpayers,” he says.

It's clear that Medicaid remains a top priority for both Republicans and Democrats on the opening day of the legislative session Wednesday.

The common ground is agreement that Medicaid expansion is playing a role in helping the state combat the opioid crisis.

House Speaker Gene Chandler, a Republican from Bartlett, House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Democrat from Concord, and Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat from Whitefield, joined Morse today on The Exchangeto discuss 2018 priorities.

Chandler says the opioid crisis should be in the forefront of bipartisanship in Concord.

Woodburn said Medicaid expansion is critical for thousands of Granite Staters seeking substance abuse recovery services. He pitched the Democrats’ proposal to tap the state’s rainy day surplus fund and direct an extra $10 million toward the opioid epidemic.

“We need to open up our hearts and open up our minds to investing money in stopping this epidemic,” Woodburn said. “It’s destroying our workforce and it’s destroying the state of New Hampshire.”

Chandler calls that plan unwise. He says the state should review what is currently working from investments in the state’s two-year budget, which was enacted in July.

“It’s just a political move, that’s all it is,” he says.

The Republicans and Democrats split over legislation to define residency for voting qualifications. Woodburn claims it will disenfranchise voters and become a de facto “poll tax,” which Morse called playing politics.

Chandler says the goal is black and white. “The main thrust of this is not voter fraud,” he says. “The main thrust of this is really very simple. The system is broke in New Hampshire. It’s simple - people should vote in New Hampshire who live in New Hampshire.

(Left to right) Senate President Chuck Morse, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, and House Speaker Gene Chandler.
Credit The Exchange

Other highlights from this edition of The Exchange:

  • The legislative leaders said sexual harassment has no place at the Statehouse. “Sexual harassment, or any kind of harassment, is something that will not be tolerated,” Chandler said.
  • All four men said they support a proposal - a constitutional amendment - to raise the mandatory retirement age for New Hampshire judges from 70 to 75.
  • All four expressed support for a bill to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16.
  • On a bill to include gender identity in the state’s anti-discrimination statute, Shurtleff and Woodburn support; Chandler and Morse are opposed to it.