New laws address abortion, taxes, immigrants' tuition
The abortion ban, enacted over a veto by Gov. John Lynch, makes it illegal in nearly all instances to kill a partially delivered living fetus or for a doctor to do anything other than deliver a partially delivered living fetus. A partial-birth abortion to save the life of the mother is allowed only if a second physician certifies that the procedure is necessary.
New guidelines for establishing drug courts in the state also took effect with the start of the new year.
Already, drug courts exist in Rockingham, Strafford and Grafton counties. Cheshire County expects to open its first session soon, and there has been work in Hillsborough County to establish a drug court.
"There is not much consistency," said state Rep. Laurie Harding, D-Grafton, who sponsored the drug court legislation. "It solidifies and legitimizes something done in New Hampshire already and done successfully."
Drug courts focus on underlying substance abuse problems that lead to criminal activity.
"The rate of recidivism is extremely low," said Harding. "The judges have a lot of ways of trying to hold people's feet to the fire about accountability and responsibility."
Other new laws taking effect this year include:
-- State university admissions: Students admitted to the state university system are now required to submit an affidavit stating on their oath that they are legal residents of the United States in order to pay tuition at the in-state rate.
At the University of New Hampshire, in-state students currently pay $13,670 in tuition per year; non-residents pay $26,130.
-- Jury nullification: Defense lawyers can now tell a jury that it has the right to decide a case by "judging the facts and the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy."
The language is said to mean the jury can be told it has the option of finding the accused not guilty, even when they committed all of the elements of the crime, provided jurors agree that acquittal is a fair result.
-- Tax impact statements: A town or district meeting can now require a governing body to include a notation on the warrant estimating the cost to taxpayers of the proposed budget and each special article.
-- Taxes: The research and development tax credit due to expire July 1 has been extended for two years. It allows the state to grant tax credits for 10 percent of some research and development expenses - up to $50,000 per business with a $1 million statewide cap. Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has vowed to double the credit.
Lawmakers also increased the minimum receipts needed to force a company to file a business enterprise tax return from $150,000 to $200,000 and provided for an automatic adjustment for inflation every two years.
-- Release of annulled arrest records: An arrest, conviction or sentence that is annulled is still legally considered never to have happened, but the original records are now public provided a notation of annulment is made. Employers can only ask applicants if they have a record that has not been annulled.
-- Arrest records: For anyone 17 or older, police must create a public arrest record which includes the reasons why and how the arrest was made, identify the officer involved unless withheld by a superior for good cause, and state whether a warrant was issued for the arrest.
-- Alcohol ignition interlock: The Department of Safety can now order a device to prevent someone who has been drinking from starting a car. It would be installed as a condition of letting people convicted of alcohol-related offenses get a license. Previously, judges could order the device installed. The law also allows use of an enhanced system that transmits video of the driver to authorities.
-- Public employee unions: If an impasse develops in negotiations between a public employer and one or more of its unions, the governmental body can ask to make a presentation directly to the rank-and-file membership of the union. Representatives of the union can ask to make a presentation to the governmental body's board. In either case, if one side is granted permission for the presentation, it also has to allow the other side to make a similar presentation.
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Bill Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.