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The surprising list of Republican bills killed by the House Thursday


The surprising list of Republican bills killed by the House Thursday

Jun 14, 2024 | 3:53 pm ET
By Ethan DeWitt
The surprising list of Republican bills killed by the House Thursday
Among the bills rejected by the House on Thursday was legislation that would have outlawed so-called “sanctuary cities." (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The House killed a long-debated proposal to legalize cannabis Thursday, in a spectacular finale on the last day of the legislative calendar that followed weeks of frustrations with the Senate.

But the marijuana bill wasn’t the only bill that died in the Republican-led chamber Thursday. In a series of surprise votes, representatives killed a handful of other bills that had appeared to be Republican priorities. 

Here are some of the bills you might have missed that the House struck down Thursday. 

‘Sanctuary city’ ban

Without debate, the House again rejected a bill Thursday that would have outlawed so-called “sanctuary cities” and required local law enforcement to assist federal immigration officials. 

The House has defeated such legislation nearly a dozen times since 2006 and tabled similar legislation in May. 

The Senate had attempted to revive it by attaching it to an unrelated insurance bill, House Bill 1292. The House tabled that effort Thursday, 192-165.

The legislation’s supporters argued that some New Hampshire cities have adopted policies that essentially shield individuals wanted on immigration detainers. 

Police chiefs from several New Hampshire communities disputed that, saying they alert federal officials if they arrest someone wanted on an immigration detainer. They said they opposed assisting with detainer cases when separate criminal charges are not involved. 

4-year voter roll purges

The House also put the brakes on a bill that would have required town election officials to review the voter rolls more frequently – and purge anyone who hasn’t recently voted. Currently, the rolls must be assessed and updated every 10 years; House Bill 1369 would have lowered that to four.

Under the bill, in the year after every presidential election year, town election officials would need to assess the list of registered voters in their town. Any voter who did not vote within 6 years of that review would be struck from the list; that voter would need to re-register in the town the next time they wanted to vote.

Republicans said the measure would ensure that the voter rolls are more up to date, which they say can be filled with inaccuracies by the end of the current 10-year review period. But Democrats countered that increasing the frequency of the purges could create unnecessary headaches for more voters, especially those who don’t vote in every election. 

In the end, HB 1369 failed to pass the House Thursday, 178-185. 

Voter registration

In a last-minute twist, the House held back a bill that would have imposed more stringent voter identification requirements on Election Day and required new voters to provide hard proof of their U.S. citizenship.

House Bill 1370 was one of two bills seeking to require documentary evidence of citizenship – such as a passport, birth certificate, or naturalization papers – in order to register for the first time to vote. A second bill, House Bill 1569, would do the same thing; lawmakers sent that bill to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk in May. But HB 1370 diverged from HB 1569 by including the creation of a telephone helpline that would be run by the Secretary of State’s Office and would allow local election officials to try to quickly verify someone’s citizenship using state records.

Republicans said the hotline would have helped in scenarios on Election Day where someone did not have their citizenship document but might be in the system. But Democrats said there were not enough details for how the hotline would be staffed and operated, that not all polling places would have the cellular or internet service to access the hotline, and that the hotline would not help voters who were not born in New Hampshire and did not have documents stored by state agencies.

In a surprise move, Rep. J.R. Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican, made a motion to table HB 1370, arguing that the relatively late addition of the hotline option had been adopted without a hearing or sufficient discussion and that the bill was being rushed. That tabling motion passed, 223-141.

Raising the EFA threshold

House and Senate Republicans had both expressed interest in raising the income limit for the education freedom accounts, which allow families to use state education dollars toward home school or private school expenses. 

The two sides had seemed to arrive at an agreement on a bill to do so, House Bill 1665. Currently, the program is capped to families making up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level. House Republicans wanted to raise that to 500 percent; Senate Republicans wanted 400 percent; and representatives of the two chambers agreed in a committee of conference to 425 percent.

HB 1665 would have also extended the phase-out grants that the state gives to public schools who lose students who take EFAs – grants that are meant to alleviate the drop in state adequacy dollars caused by lower enrollment. 

But the compromise bill did not move forward: The vote failed, 168-185, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it.

Parental consent for Medicaid to Schools services

The House also killed a bill that would have required parental consent for each individual service offered to children in schools under the Medicaid to Schools program.

Since 2020, the Medicaid to Schools program has allowed school districts to get Medicaid reimbursement for certain services provided to students as part of the individualized education plans (IEPs). Those services include occupational therapy, speech therapy, mental health services, specialized transportation, and more. Parents must give consent for their children to receive Medicaid to Schools funded services in general – which is given as part of the IEP process. 

House Bill 1616 would have required that parents sign off on each individual Medicaid service provided; any service with its own diagnostic billing code would need parental approval. The Senate added in separate legislation that would have created a pilot recruitment and retention program for the Department of Health and Human Services to allow for sign-on incentives for new employees at the Division for Children, Youth, and Families, the Hampstead Hospital Residential Treatment Facility, the Sununu Youth Service Center, and others. 

But a temporary Democratic majority on the House floor Thursday caused the bill to fail, 173-179, with one Republican, Rep. Dan Wolf of Newbury, siding with Democrats.