NH Week in Review for July 16: Full-day kindergarten, residency requirement become law

Jul 16, 2017

Bills signed into law this week by Gov. Christopher Sununu provide funding for full-day kindergarten in any school district and set stricter standards for voters to prove they live in New Hampshire.

“The investments made today will give New Hampshire’s children a strong foundation for tomorrow’s future. I am proud to be the first governor to deliver a real full-day kindergarten program for communities across our state, which will close the opportunity gap and provide students, regardless of their economic status, an extra step up as they enter the first grade. Full-day kindergarten is good for children and families, and a critical tool in retaining our future workforce,” Sununu said in signing SB 191.

The state will provide an additional $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student starting in 2019 and more in later years depending on how much money is generated by Keno, which was part of the deal to fund full-day kindergarten. Keno, like a lottery, is most often played in bars and restaurants, and it will be up to each community to decide whether to allow it.

See a Concord Monitor story here.

The governor also signed SB 3, which he and fellow Republicans are calling an election reform law while Democrats describe it as an act of voter suppression.

SB 3 more closely defines domicile for purposes of voting in the state and it outlines criteria for how to prove that status.

People registering to vote less than 30 days before an election will now have to provide additional proof that they live in New Hampshire, such as a driver’s license or a lease. Those that don't (or who register on election day) would still be allowed to vote, but will have to follow up with elections officials within 10 to 30 days. If they don't, authorities could go their homes to investigate whether they're really domiciled in New Hampshire.

“It’s a sad day when the Governor of  New Hampshire, a state with an outstanding reputation for election integrity and citizen participation in our democracy, endorses legislation that assumes the worst about our voters and stands to turn eligible voters away from the polls,” said state Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield. “This legislation is like throwing a stink bomb in our voting booths. There simply is no evidence to indicate that New Hampshire has a widespread voter fraud issue.”

The kindergarten and voter bills were two of many Sununu signed this week as he continues to review legislation passed by the 2017 Legislature, which completed its work in late June.

Sununu applied his first veto to HB 86, which would have required local zoning boards to vote separately on certain criteria in approving a variance. Current law allows the boards to consider the criteria separately then vote as a whole. Sununu said the mandated procedure in HB 86 “needlessly imposes on local control and is inconsistent with any commitment to remove excess regulation and streamline development and economic growth.” See a New Hampshire Business Review story here.

Several bills became law this week without Sununu’s signature, including a measure requiring a portion of the renewable energy fund to benefit low to moderate income residential customers (SB 129), and other bills related to electric renewable energy criteria and funding. See a Union Leader story here.

Also in the state

Eric Schleien, a Republican state representative for Hudson and Pelham, was charged Friday with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in Portsmouth in July 2016. His attorney said the lawmaker “vehemently denies these allegations. It is important to note that these charges are misdemeanors and do not allege that there was any sort of violence or threats. Mr. Schleien has pleaded not guilty, is cooperating with the process, and expects to be fully vindicated.” See a Seacoast Online story here.

Ronald J. Belanger, 78, a 13-term state representative and former Salem selectman, has died. See a Union Leader story here.

Gov. Sununu said he is encouraged by the attorney general office’s decision to investigate allegations of sexual assault and misconduct at St. Paul’s School in Concord. News of the investigation follows the school’s release of a report in May detailing sexual assaults by teachers on their students, earlier information about student sexual conquest rituals and allegations of a similar ritual reported in June. See an NHPR report here.

Attorney General Gordon McDonald cited prosecution of cases involving carfentanil a priority as the state continues its fight against the opioid addiction crisis. The medical examiner’s office reports that  carfentanil has “caused or contributed to” 10 deaths so far this year. As of June 29, 143 drug overdoses have been confirmed by the medical examiner’s office, with 71 additional cases awaiting the results of toxicology tests. Fentanyl was implicated in 110 of those deaths. See a Union Leader story here.

The release of state voter data to an election integrity commission created by President Donald Trump is on hold, pending resolution of several lawsuits, including one in New Hampshire. Several organizations, including the ACLU, are suing to stop the release of the data on privacy concerns. Trump created the commission, which includes New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, to investigate voter fraud. Two Granite State communities—Durham and Portsmouth—have said they won’t make their voter data available for release to the commission. See a Seacoast Online story here.

Should New Hampshire tourist towns get more money from the state based on how much meals and rooms tax they generate? Should towns have the power to veto high voltage transmission lines, such as Northern Pass, that would pass through their borders? Those are a couple of the questions we’ve posed on our Facebook page for you to comment on. See you there.

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