Legislative Update - week of 4/09/18

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, a delegation from Portsmouth traveled to Concord testify against HB 1766--a bill I’m co-sponsoring that would force the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to order the Coakley Landfill Group to clean up PFC contamination on the site. While I’m disappointed that Mayor Blalock and the City of Portsmouth have decided to oppose an immediate clean-up of the site, I will continue to press for what is in the best interest of the families and communities near the site.The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee will send its recommendation on the bill to the full Senate soon. I expect it to be amended, but chances for passage--and action at Coakley--are possible. Meanwhile, Right to Know Requests by the Portsmouth Herald, myself, and other Seacoast Legislators have started to lead to interesting revelations about the City of Portsmouth’s management practices when it comes to Coakley. These led the Portsmouth Herald to publish a blistering editorial criticizing the city’s handling of the situation. In response, City Attorney and the Coakley Landfill Group Executive Board Chairman Robert Sullivan began restricting access to documents under our Right to Know request. Even if there’s nothing to hide, the appearance of a cover-up is not a good look for the City of Portsmouth. It’s also wasn’t very good news to the dozens of local residents who came out to an EPA-hosted public meeting on Thursday in Greenland, only to hear that current EPA plans only call for more testing and monitoring of the site with no cleanup of the hazardous chemicals anywhere on the horizon.

On Tuesday, I’ll be going to court with other Seacoast area legislators to try to obtain access to ALL of the documents held by the Coakley Landfill Group--including the ones withheld last week as well as documents related to private parties responsible for contamination at the site.

Last Week at the State House

Bills to fund Medicaid Expansion and a new state program to provide work and family medical insurance were approved and happily move on to the next step.

Additionally, two bills I cosponsored were passed and forwarded to the governor for his signature which include: HB1281 (a bill that requires the Governor to establish an executive order registry), SB574 (clarifies the reimbursement period for which a parent or guardian may be required to reimburse the state for services provided in a juvenile court proceeding).

My HB1446, that establishes September as Childhood Cancer Prevention Month, passed the House and Senate and will now go to the Governor.  I wrote this bill so that each September we pause and remember that children in our state have died from cancer. Much of my legislative work encourages the state to set more protective environmental standards so we can lessen environmental exposures and prevent cancer in our children.

This Week at the State House

Hearings and votes are scheduled on several bills I’m sponsoring or co-sponsoring.

HB 1592 will receive a public hearing by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 103 of the State House. This bill has already been approved in the House and would require the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services to set lower limits for arsenic contamination in drinking water. Arsenic can occur naturally in groundwater or can be released as a result of pollution. It is a known environmental trigger for bladder and lung cancers. Lowering the arsenic drinking water level by one-half would also lower the incidence of bladder cancers by approximately one half in New Hampshire.

On the same day at 1:15 p.m.,  HB 1356 will get a hearing 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. This bill has already been approved in the House and ensures that each agency knows what the other is doing when it comes to protecting public health from contaminated sites across the state.

On Thursday, two bills will be up for final votes after already being approved in the other chamber:

The House will vote on SB 309. This bill would require the Department of Environmental services to set state standards for perfluorochemicals in drinking water, ambient groundwater, and surface water. It would also establish the position of a state toxicologist.

The Senate will 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.

Also Coming Up This Week

HB 1264: On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. in Room 102 of the Legislative Office Building across from the State House, the Senate Election Law Committee will hold a public hearing on yet another bill that attempts to suppress the voting rights of college students. This time it’s by redefining who is eligible to vote. This bill is the “twin” of HB 372 and changes the meaning of “residency” in New Hampshire. It also eliminates the ability to vote as a “domiciled” voter. Both bills are opposed by student groups, the ACLU, and voting rights groups. Activists are planning a protest outside the building at 9:00 a.m. and a press conference is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. In a year when so many young people have been inspired to new levels of activism, HB 1264 and SB 372 are blatant attempts to trample on the rights of first-time voters. This self-destructive move only makes our state less attractive to young people. It gives them a reason either to never come to New Hampshire or to leave when their college days are over. The GOP majority will likely have the votes to force it through. Although Governor Sununu initially promised to veto both of these bills, he has been silent after expressing strong initial opposition. That’s why a good turnout at the hearing and the protest beforehand is critical. The governor must see that New Hampshire voters are ready to hold him to his word.

Kimberly Sychterz