News from Concord
In January the legislature returned to work in Concord. First we took up bills that had been retained last year for more work. Despite two long days we are not done with them yet. Of the ones we did vote on, several passed the House including:
- Legalization and regulation of marijuana – we would join many states including Mass., Vermont and Maine in legalizing small amounts of marijuana for those over 21
- Restoring the stabilization grants for education – helps towns pay for education
- Establishing a children’s savings account program – a small amount but it would help students pay for college and career training
- Improve the standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water
- Prevent childhood lead poisoning by lowering the acceptable level in the blood, have universal testing of 1 and 2 year olds , and provide a revolving loan fund for landlords to get rid of lead paint in their buildings where it has been found
- Reorganize registrars of probate, which may end up shifting costs to the counties
- Prohibiting the Public Utilities Commission from raising the System Benefits Charge (SBC) on your electric bill without legislative approval. This is a bad bill that makes it nearly impossible to change the SBC in the future. The SBC is used for low income bill assistance and energy efficiency around the state. The bill passed by 2 votes and goes to the Senate.
- Make changes to the use of money in the RGGI fund, which is used to do energy efficiency (EE) projects around the state. Businesses will no longer pay into the fund, nor will they be able to apply for any more grants to do EE work. Residential customers will now see 100% of their funds put to work for EE projects, more than doubling the number of homes that can be improved each year. I’m in favor of this bill (HB 559). It has gone to the Finance Committee next where they are trying to kill it.
- SB 193, the “voucher bill”, would establish “education savings accounts” which could be used by parents to pay for private schools including religious schools and also for home schooling. I’m against taking money away from public schools.
- HB 628 Would set up a family and medical leave insurance program.
Some bills were voted down. In some cases that’s a good thing, for example:
- A bill that would have defunded the RGGI program
Other bills were voted down but I wish they had passed:
- Update the state building code to the 2015 version. Since it failed to pass, we are still using the 2009 code.
- Update the NH fire code to 2015 – we are still using the 2009 version.
- Have the state pay a portion (15%) of the retirement system for state employees, as they used to do. It failed so the burden remains on the local towns to cover this for their teachers, police and so on.
- Ban the use of conversion therapy with minors, which tries to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Now committees are having hearings on the 2018 bills. I have introduced HB 1230 which would set up a commission to study the economic impacts of a national or regional carbon fee. Such a fee is being considered in some form or other in four New England states and at least four other states across the country. There will be a press conference about it this coming Wednesday to highlight work being done around the country and in Washington, D.C. The purpose of a carbon fee is to pay the full costs of carbon fuels including environmental damage and health problems. It gradually decreases the use of fossil fuels while encouraging clean, renewable fuels. Best of all, it is revenue neutral for 70% of Americans who would see a rebate equal to or greater than the increased cost of fossil fuels they buy.
I have also been attending broadband discussions which Sen. Kahn has been instrumental in pulling together in the Monadnock region. There is also a study committee working on this, thanks to a bill last year by Rep. Carol Roberts.
Finally, I am starting a Marlborough Democratic Committee. We are meeting once a month at the Marlborough School to get organized for the next election. If you would like to join us, the next meeting is Feb. 15 at 6:30 PM. We will need many volunteers to help our next candidate run for office in November. It’s also a chance to learn what’s going on in the state and to find out about issues that are important to you. You can call me for more information or just show up on Feb. 15.
In the meantime check out our new Facebook page at “Marlborough Dems”!