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January 01. 2012 10:02PM

From perfume to veggies, it soon could be a NH law

CONCORD — It’s the time of year to start taking down Christmas decorations and start keeping — or breaking — New Year’s resolutions.

And for some New Hampshire state legislators, it’s time to introduce bills that might make you say ... huh?

If some legislators have it their way, state prisoners would be forced to eat a mostly vegetarian diet and state employees who interact with the public would not be allowed to wear perfume.

Rep. Michele Peckham, R-North Hampton, is the prime sponsor of the perfume bill, which she said she put forward after a constituent asked her to do so. She said there are people allergic to fragrances.

“It may seem silly, but it’s a health issue,” Peckham said. “Many people have violent reactions to strong scents.”

State Rep. Robert Kingsbury, R-Laconia, who wants the vegetarian diet for state prisoners, said he is serious about each of several bills he’s put forward.

“The bills I put in should, in my opinion, become law,” he said. “Whether they do or not, we’ll have to see.”

Other bills introduced by Kingsbury include measures that would have the Legislature nominate candidates for primary elections for the U.S. Senate; require federal agents to inform New Hampshire law enforcement before beginning an investigation or law enforcement action in New Hampshire; and inform the U.S. Congress that the General Court does not want the New Hampshire National Guard serving outside the state, except upon the declaration of war. He also wants the Magna Carta referenced in bills on individual rights and liberties, wants judges to be at least 60 years old, would require pupils to stand during the pledge of allegiance and wants jurors to be paid a living wage when called to serve.

Requiring the vegetarian diet would increase food costs for the Department of Corrections by an average of about $700,000 per year over the next four years, according to estimates by legislative staff.

It’s a number Kingsbury disputes.

“I’ve had problems with some of the people” who conduct research for bills, he said.

He said the bill, which has no co-sponsors, would save taxpayers as much as $7 million annually by mostly eliminating meat, which he said is costlier than starches or vegetables. Prisoners would be allowed to have meat on Sundays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to the bill.

Another of his proposed bills would increase fees paid to jurors from $10 per half-day to $80 and increase mileage compensation from 20 cents per mile to 55 cents per mile.

He said he doesn’t understand why the Legislature “would require jurors to serve at less than a living wage.”

The legislation would increase annual general fund spending by anywhere from $3.9 million to $14.2 million, according to estimates in Kingsbury’s bill.

Here are a couple of other bills suggested for 2012 that may raise an eyebrow or two:

-- HB 1451, introduced by Rep. Robert Malone, R-Alton Bay, would establish a property tax credit of $75 for a residential vegetable garden of larger than 100 square feet.

-- HB 1218, by Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, would require the governor to seek Executive Council and legislative approval before applying for federal emergency assistance.

-- HB 1446, by Rep. Laurie Harding, D-Lebanon, would exempt horse meat from inspection, prohibit the slaughter of horses for meat and prohibit the sale of horse meat for consumption.

Searches of bills being proposed can be done at gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/.

New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Garry Rayno contributed to this story.

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