Legislative Update - week of 4/16/18

Legislative Update - week of 4/16/2018 
This week, both the House and the Senate will be in session on Thursday to vote on bills. Committee hearings are also scheduled throughout the week.

Coakley Landfill Update

Last week, the Coakley Landfill Group and the City of Portsmouthbegan restricting access to documents previously accessible under a Right to Know request by myself, the Portsmouth Herald, and other Seacoast area legislators. A court date to try to obtain access to ALL of the documents was postponed and will take place next week. Meanwhile, in an Op-Ed in the Portsmouth Herald,Portsmouth City Manager John Bohenko continued his campaign to dodge responsibility. While Bohenko argues that groundwater migrating off the site is “safe”, Coakley neighbors are having none of it and continue to ask the City of Portsmouth to end the city’s opposition to remediating contamination at the site. Over the weekend, Sen. Dan Innis also turned up the heat by pointing out that Portsmouth city officials are looking out for their own interests while failing to address an obvious conflict of interest. Under the EPA Consent Decree, the city has a responsibility to act in the best interest of people in towns affected by the contamination. But Portsmouth, whose residents weren’t exposed to PFCs, seems mainly interested in trying to minimize costs for taxpayers. While no one wants to spend public money unnecessarily, there is strong evidence that more waiting will only translate into more exposure for people living in the area. We also now know that Portsmouth is also responsible for paying back a huge amount of money to the federal government if no treatment system is ever built on the site. The bottom line is that while sometimes it seems like there are no good choices when it comes to Coakley, simply maintaining the status quo is the worst choice possible. Avoiding the cost of a clean-up may save money in the short run. But the final cost will likely be much more over time--especially when you factor in the cost of illness averted and lives potentially saved. Meanwhile, HB 1766--the bill I’m sponsoring that requires an immediate cleanup of the site--continues to work its way through the state Senate with more news to come this week or next.

Last Week at the State House

  • A bill intended to change state residency requirements to make it tougher and more expensive for out-of-state college students to vote continues to make its way through the legislature. Hundreds of students and voting rights activists turned out at a Senate hearing to oppose HB 1264. This is one of a series of voter suppression bills introduced by the GOP majority this session that I am strongly opposing. It looks like there may be enough votes to pass this bill as well as an identical bill in the Senate (SB 373). Governor Sununu promised to veto both months ago,but has been silent since.

  • A bill I’m co-sponsoring with other Seacoast area legislators that would require the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to set ambient groundwater standards for two types of PFAS contaminants was unanimously approved by a Senate Committee. It now heads to the House Finance Committee.SB 309 has support on both sides of the aisle and should make it to the governor’s desk for signature soon.

This Week at the State House

On Thursday, several bills I’m sponsoring or co-sponsoring are up for votes in the state Senate:

  • HB 1592 will be voted on in the full Senate after receiving a unanimous Ought to Pass recommendation from a Senate committee. During last week’s public hearing, two Keene State environmental services majors--Allen Chague and Ethan Carr--gave powerful testimony that tougher arsenic standards in water mean fewer health issues for kids and pregnant moms. Lowering the arsenic drinking water level by one-half would also lower the incidence of bladder cancers by approximately one half in New Hampshire.

  • HB 1356 gets a full Senate vote after a strong endorsement from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.  It would require the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a data sharing protocol regarding health and environmental information collected by each agency.

  • The Senate will also vote on HB 1807, This much-need bill makes it easier for outside parties to obtain protective orders to safeguard the health and financial well-being of elderly, disabled, or impaired adults.

IMPORTANT!!! Also Coming Up This Week

  • HB 1319: On Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Room 100 of the State House, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on #TransBill2018. This much-needed bill would explicitly protect transgender Granite Staters from unfair treatment in housing, employment, and public places like restaurants, hotels, and doctors offices. There are a pre-hearing rally and news conference at 12:30 p.m.

Kimberly Sychterz