NH Politics

Michael Brindley/NHPR

Questions about who should be allowed to vote in New Hampshire - and how - are likely to be front and center again at the State House this year.

One bill would bring ranked-choice voting to New Hampshire — where people would rank candidates in order of preference, instead of voting for just one at a time.

Another Republican bill would mandate that poll workers provide information on New Hampshire drivers license laws to anyone registering with an out-of-state license.

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New Hampshire House lawmakers are expected to vote Wednesday on a bill that would legalize home liquor distilling.

Booze enthusiasts are currently allowed to make up to 200 gallons of beer and wine at home - depending on the size of their household.

But distilling liquor at home is against state law.

That doesn’t make sense to Representative Scott Wallace of Danville.

"The natural progression of the hobby is you make some wine, if you’d like to turn that into brandy, that’s not currently lawful. So this bill would allow for that."

New Hampshire Lawmakers Look Ahead To A New Year

Jan 1, 2018
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We hear from State House and Senate leaders about their priorities for 2018.  Among them: Medicaid expansion, voting rules, water contamination, and school choice.


The question of whether to continue New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion program is shaping up to be one of the biggest policy debates on deck.

There are three broad paths on the table.

A cohort of mostly Republicans has opposed the program all along and are likely to continue fighting for repeal. One bill with largely Democratic support would extend the program permanently.

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The new year means New Hampshire businesses will pay lower taxes.

Two key state business taxes were first reduced in 2016, the result of a compromise between then Governor Hassan and Republican lawmakers. The deal allowed for further tax cuts as long as revenues didn’t decline.

But the state’s relatively strong economy has pushed receipts up, triggering a new round of business tax cuts for 2018.

“This is all part of a process of trying to make the state more competitive,” says Greg Moore with Americans For Prosperity-New Hampshire.

Via Penuche's Ale House's Facebook page

Sam Penkacik looks hip enough to hang out a bar in Brooklyn, but New Hampshire enough to show up to the NHPR studio in a t-shirt, even though it’s below freezing.

Or maybe he hasn’t bought a new jacket since he moved back from San Diego.

"The bars out there - like I really got into the craft cocktail scene out there because there’s a lot to experience. I mean it’s a city, so you’re going to have a lot more options," Sam told me.

GouldHillFarm.com

A proposal to make it easier for New Hampshire farms to host things like weddings and larger-scale events will be up for consideration by state lawmakers in January.

The issue has come up repeatedly in recent years, both in the state legislature and in court cases.

Local regulations on what's known as 'agritourism' — events that bring visitors onto farm property — vary significantly from town-to-town.

Henniker Christmas tree farmer Stephen Forster, for example, has been fighting with officials in his town for years to host weddings on his property.

FIRSTNET

Governor Chris Sununu is reversing his decision to opt out of the national first responders network FirstNet.

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There are thousands of historic cemeteries and burial grounds all over the state of New Hampshire, and a state lawmaker wants to make it easier to keep track of them.

Senator David Watters of Dover has been fascinated by old gravestones and cemeteries since he was in high school - he also researched them while teaching at UNH.

He says burial grounds reflect New Hampshire's history and tradition.

"In many towns they didn't have a local or central cemetery established you know sometimes into the 1800s."

A bill to study the impact of lower tax rates for undeveloped land will be considered in the legislative session beginning next month.

The tax structure is known as “current use.” It started decades ago as a part of a pro-environment push.

Basically, landowners who keep their property undeveloped — keep it forested, for example — pay a significantly lower tax rate, in theory encouraging them to preserve their land.

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A handful of lawmakers are proposing changes to some of the state’s policies on marijuana in 2018.

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Next legislative session, New Hampshire lawmakers will again take up the question of how young is too young to get married.

The minimum legal age for marriage in the state right now is 13 for girls and 14 for boys, though at that age the couple would need permission from both a judge and from parents.

Last year, lawmakers attempted to raise the marriage age to 18, but that effort was shot down after some in the New Hampshire House voiced concerns about its impact on young members of the military.

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Some New Hampshire towns hit hard by storms this year are still waiting for federal disaster relief funds. That's led to a proposal to offer short-term aid from state coffers to fill the gap. 

Orford, for example, suffered bridge damage and road washouts after storms in July and October. The Grafton County town is expecting to be reimbursed in part by FEMA funds, but there's a delay before that money comes through.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Some lawmakers in New Hampshire want the state to celebrate Indigenous People's Day, instead of Columbus Day, next year.

The bill was introduced by Democratic State Rep Wayne Burton.

He says he hopes people would use the new holiday to reflect on the history of people who lived here for thousands of years before European settlers arrived.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As the state continues to grapple with a drug problem, top state lawmakers are hoping to get businesses to be a part of the solution.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A Republican state lawmaker who has tried for years to regulate drones in New Hampshire will try again in 2018.

FILE

A proposal next legislative session seeks to make it easier for needle exchange programs to open up in New Hampshire.

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Judges in New Hampshire may soon get a few more years on the bench.

FILE

Overdose deaths remain high, as 2017 comes to a close and state lawmakers are looking to secure more resources for the crisis when they return to the State House in January.

Via USGS.gov

Lawmakers will consider at least a dozen bills about water contamination and other environmental hazards when they return to session in January.

Courtesy of the N.H. General Court

A state lawmaker from Concord pled guilty Friday to assaulting a political opponent.

Rep. Katherine Rogers, a Democrat, accepted a plea deal on a misdemeanor assault charge. The deal suspends a $1,000 fine pending good behavior, but Rogers must take an anger management class.

Jason Moon for NHPR

Since taking office in February, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut has drawn criticism that he’s politicizing what’s supposed to be a nonpartisan office — by speaking at Republican party meetings, for example, or using his official Twitter account to take a jab at Democratic executive councilor Chris Pappas.

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Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan have introduced legislation to give the town of Swanzey its own, unique zip code.

The issue is North Swanzey shares a zip code with neighboring Keene. But North Swanzey isn't part of Keene — it's technically part of Swanzey.

And, because there's crossover with street names and addresses in the two zip codes, there's been issues with mail delivery. There's also been delays for emergency responders as they try to figure out where to go.

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The New Hampshire Democratic Party is criticizing Governor Chris Sununu’s support for the repeal of so-called net neutrality laws, arguing the FCC’s decision could harm consumers, as well as the state’s longshot bid to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to the state.

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New Hampshire lawmakers will not be taking up a proposal to increase the state’s highway tolls Wednesday.

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Governor Sununu's Advisory Commission on Transportation will vote Dec. 20 on whether to increase tolls statewide.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

New Hampshire Democrats are backing a bill that would allow money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be used to combat the opioid crisis.

The “RESCUE Act” would permit the governor or the state legislature to declare a public health emergency, triggering the release of 10 percent of the Rainy Day Fund, which currently totals around $100 million.

Senate Democrats say the money is needed to address the opioid crisis, and make up for a lack of funding from Washington.  

A Republican-backed bill tightening definitions for voting eligibility in New Hampshire could run up against resistance from Gov. Chris Sununu, if he maintains the position articulated in a video clip that’s being circulated by a progressive group that advocates for voting rights.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Republican State Senator and 1st District Congressional Candidate Andy Sanborn has acknowledged his use of “crass language” in early 2013 prompted an internal review involving the Senate’s legal counsel and then-Senate President.

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

Stories of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct are not just relegated to Washington or New York. They ricocheted from Congress to Concord, as Casey McDermott reported this week. Her story, "Women Lobbyists, Legislators Describe Coping with Harassment at N.H. Statehouse," pulled the curtain back on serious complaints. 

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