After a summer of upheaval in the state Republican Party, it was time for lawmakers in the state Senate to get back to business last week.
Both Republican leaders and Gov. John Lynch can claim victories in override votes. Lynch is probably pretty happy overall with last week’s veto sessions in the Senate, especially since the GOP has the numbers to bypass his veto whenever it chooses. (The House does too.)
The state Senate tried to override several vetoes Lynch handed down this year. Lynch saw lawmakers override his veto on Senate Bill 88, a measure that allows people anywhere to use deadly force in defense of themselves or another person. But lawmakers weren’t able to override the veto of a measure that would have repealed the state’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as well as a bill that would have required voters to show photo identification before voting.
Lynch, interestingly, really stuck his neck out on Senate Bill 88, known as the “stand your ground” bill. Lynch traveled the state holding press conferences pushing for the Senate to uphold his veto. He reportedly needed four senators to convert, but it didn’t happen.
“SB 88 was passed by both chambers of New Hampshire’s legislature to confirm the existence of an unalienable right and House Republicans will work to join the Senate in overturning the Governor’s assault on that right,” said House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt in a statement.
But Lynch had law enforcement on his side.
“Law enforcement officials from across New Hampshire stood united in warning about the dangers of this bill and how it would compromise public safety by emboldening gangs and criminal activity,” Lynch said in a statement. “Yet lawmakers disregarded the warnings of law enforcement that this bill could compromise public safety. I am disappointed that lawmakers did not listen to the men and women who protect the citizens of New Hampshire every day.”
The measure also inserts a civil immunity provision for the use of force against a perpetrator in certain circumstances and amends the definition of “non-deadly force” to include the act of producing or displaying a weapon. The measure has been criticized by law enforcement, but supporters say it is common sense legislation that simply provides people with the right to defend themselves.
It was a savvy political move by Lynch to stand up on the issue. Sure, Republicans could paint him as anti-gun owners’ rights, but to vote for the bill would be to go against the will of the state’s law enforcement community ? that’s not a move made lightly.
Still, it’s fair to say Republican lawmakers look strong in that they didn’t fold as Lynch and law enforcement turned up the heat on this issue.
Backing down on RGGI
The Senate upheld Lynch’s veto of a measure to repeal the state’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of repeal, but the Senate, including Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, voted with the governor.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected. The House had proposed legislation to fully withdraw from the program before senators crafted a bill that would reform the state’s involvement, rather than withdraw. After that measure fell apart, the House repackaged the proposal to withdraw. It passed the Senate, of course, but there seemed to be a solid chance Lynch would get his way on this one.
The Senate drew the wrath of Americans for Prosperity in the case of RGGI repeal.
“The State Senate has once again failed in their responsibility to the ratepayers of New Hampshire who are fed up with having their electricity rates increased,” said Corey Lewandowski, state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire. “To make matters worse, those dollars collected from RGGI are being handed out to private corporations like Stonyfield Yogurt and the Public Service Company of New Hampshire.”
The House did vote twice to repeal New Hampshire’s participation from RGGI, both times by veto-proof majorities.
Voter identification, too
The House wasn’t pleased the Senate went against it on voter identification. Bettencourt said lawmakers would be revisiting the issue as a “legislative priority.”
The measure initially passed the Senate in a 14-9 vote, so that Lynch’s veto was sustained isn’t stunning.
Proponents have said the measure would have helped prevent voter fraud but opponents said it created another barrier to voting, particularly for the 30,000 to 50,000 people in the state who do not have photo identification. Town and city clerks came together against this measure as well.
Still to come?
The big one is still the right-to-work bill. House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, has pretty much gotten his way on just about everything in the House. This one is the exception.
Proponents say the bill would eliminate requirements that state workers join unions and that workers who opt out of unions be forced to pay any portion of union dues. Opponents say there are already legal protections in place for people who opt not to join a union. They say no one can legally be forced to join a union.
O’Brien held off on an override vote in the spring with the assumption being he didn’t have the votes to override Lynch’s veto. That vote is probably the toughest one to call.
The Senate bypassed Lynch’s veto on Senate Bill 91, a measure to remove requirements that mobile home parks have sprinklers.
The Senate was also able to override Lynch’s veto on Senate Bill 57, which would increase the maximum interest charges by title loan lenders.
Senators voted to override a veto of Senate Bill 3, which entailed comprehensive retirement reform.