CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire lawmakers on Wednesday failed to override more than 20 bills vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, including a catchall one containing 40 wide-ranging measures that was passed during during a truncated session in the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers said the bill would have changed building codes to help construction workers; provided death benefits to emergency medical technicians and rescue squad members; set up a database to track animal health records; allowed for expanded voting for sports book retail locations; regulate hemp; and many other topics.
Sununu said he was concerned that parts of the 77-page legislation didn't have the chance to go through the public hearing process and that most of the bills do not relate to one another.
“The bill affects every city and town in this state," Rep. Mary Beth Walz, a Democrat from Merrimack, said during the House session. “It touches the life of every single citizen." She noted that soon after vetoing this bill, Sununu signed another one that packaged multiple topics.
The House and Senate are controlled by Democrats, but needed help from Republicans to override bills by a two-thirds majority. Both chambers' efforts came up short Wednesday.
Among the bills was one that would have allowed guns to be taken from people who present a danger to themselves or others. The so-called “red flag” bill would have allowed relatives or police to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms. Supporters argued it was needed in a state where the suicide rate is rising faster than elsewhere, and would be used only in cases of extreme risk. Opponents argued it violated not only the right to own firearms, but also other constitutional guarantees, such as the right to due legal process.
Among other measures that failed a veto override was a bill that would have required insurance plans that cover maternity benefits to also provide coverage for abortions; another that would have added an adult dental benefit to the state's Medicaid health insurance; and one that would set a state minimum wage.
For the third year in a row, a paid family and medical leave bill failed. Also not making it was a bill that would have created a protective order guarding against financial abuse for vulnerable adults — those who are elderly and those who have disabilities.
Sununu had vetoed a similar bill related to protective orders last year, in part over concerns that protections available to domestic violence victims would be reduced.
“My office repeatedly sought consensus to move forward with a bill that would have protected vulnerable adults while safeguarding protections for victims of domestic violence," Sununu said Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that the legislature rejected our serious concerns and instead moved forward with a bill that could potentially erode protections for victims of domestic violence.”
The 400-member House once again met at the University of New Hampshire's arena in Durham for a socially-distanced session. The Senate met in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse.
The House voted to send a request to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on whether holding legislative sessions remotely is permissible under the state Constitution.