NH Week in Review for March 12: House stalls transgender protection

Mar 12, 2017

Social issues -- in particular, whether transgender individuals deserve specific protection by state statute -- took the stage this week at the State House.

HB 478 would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. It received an “ought to pass” recommendation from the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.

While Republican Gov. Christopher Sununu was neutral on the issue, the measure faced opposition from the speaker of the Republican-controlled House, Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson. He cited his concerns in personal terms about the safety of his wife and daughter in a public bathroom, and pushed that the bill be tabled, which it was by a 187-179 vote. See a Union Leader story here.

A transgender student said after the vote: “I want be able to go to college, get a job, get housing at an apartment. Now that (the bill) has been tabled, I could be denied a job, an apartment or admission to colleges, just because I’m transgendered.”

Another social issue that came up for consideration this week was whether to raise the minimum age for marriage in New Hampshire.

HB 499 would have raised the minimum age to enter into a marriage contract to 18. Currently, it is 13 for women and 14 for men.

The House Committee on Children and Family Law unanimously gave it an “ought to pass” recommendation, but the full House rejected the bill, 179-168. Opponents of the measure cited unintended consequences, such as the 17-year-old who goes into military service and wants to get married so the spouse can be eligible for government benefits. See a Concord Monitor story here.

In other House action this week, lawmakers overwhelmingly supported HB 640 to decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. While the issue has the support of Gov. Sununu, past decriminalization efforts have been derailed in the Senate. See an NH1 story here.


As was expected, Attorney General Joseph Foster announced his resignation before he was not rehired by Gov. Sununu. Foster’s term expires at the end of the month, and it’s no question that the new governor would want his own AG. Foster is a Democrat and there’s speculation already that he may be in the mix somehow in the 2018 election cycle. See a WMUR story here.

The stock car racing folks at NASCAR caused a stir in the Granite State when they announced this week that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway will lose one of its two races to Las Vegas. There are economic implications to the decision, given how much tourist money is spent in the state during a race weekend. See an NHPR story here. Speedway officials hope to fill the void with other, non-racing events such as music festivals. See a Laconia Daily Sun story here.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, with the backing of President Donald Trump, released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The plan, officially titled the American Health Care Act, is already being referred to as Trumpcare.

The plan keeps elements of Obamacare -- pre-condition coverage, kids on their parents plan until 26 -- and it modifies other elements of Obamacare, such as tax credits instead of subsidies, and higher premium rates instead of penalties for those without coverage. The Democratic congressional delegation from New Hampshire has been unanimous in its critique of the plan, in particular how it might reduce treatment options for those caught up in the opioid abuse epidemic in the state.

There is also concern about what happens with the Granite Staters who have health coverage because of the expansion of Medicaid made possible by Obamacare. See an NH1 story here. AARP in New Hampshire also decried the new plan as harmful to people between the ages of 50 and 64.

The delegation was also unanimous in its criticism of the revised travel ban ordered by Trump on Monday. See a Concord Monitor story here.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session was a surprise visitor to a youth summit on opioid awareness held in Manchester on Tuesday. According to WMUR coverage, he told the 8,000 students that he was on the front lines of the drug crisis in the 1980s, and he is inspired by New Hampshire's efforts to address the problem.

News reports this week raised speculation about some division within the ranks about support for the Northern Pass project to bring hydro-electric power from Canada through the New Hampshire North Country. There is pressure to bury portions of the high tension lines needed to carry the power.  Northern Pass partner Hydro-Quebec said it will not pay to bury the lines, raising concern that the cost would be pressed onto New Hampshire customers of Eversource. Eversource said its investment will be recouped through revenue from the use of the line. See a Union Leader story here.

We asked the question: “Should NH require a course in civics for high school graduation?” We based the question on SB 45, passed by the New Hampshire Senate to require students in New Hampshire to take a civics class before graduating high school. We wanted your opinion on the matter and you spoke loud and clear. See the results here.

On our Facebook page, we were talking this week about lead testing, food stamp eligibility, and medical marijuana for chronic pain. Join in on the discussion here.


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