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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Conference time, when miracles can happen
Bills that were killed are miraculously resurrected and issues once thought put to rest resurface.
Nothing is off the table when conference committees of House and Senate negotiators sit down to try to compromise on two versions of the same bill.
Often there are half a dozen bills or more that are interrelated, maybe not by subject matter but strategically so that one bill cannot be settled until another is set and so on.
Earlier last week, the House added the contents of HB 668, which aligns the state's health insurance regulations and rules with the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), to a bill Senate Majority Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, wants, SB 148, which would make changes to the state's electric renewable portfolio law.
House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, and Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, met Wednesday when the House was about to put HB 668 on SB 41, a Senate favorite that would overhaul the state business corporation laws.
The House believed the subject would be kept alive, but the Senate added the language of SB 148 to HB 542 Thursday night, a bill that would change electric renewable portfolio standards.
The House killed SB 100, which would allow employers to issue payroll cards instead of paper checks to pay employees. The Senate added the provision of that bill to House Bill 357, which would prohibit an employer from using a person's credit history in hiring decisions.
The House has done some of the same maneuvering, adding a provision to increase the limit on charity betting by $2 that the Senate killed in the budget bill and a resolution requiring the state to acquire a portrait of noted suffragist Marilla Marks Ricker, who was also the first woman to run for governor in New Hampshire.
It's like throwing 50 balls in the air at once and trying to track each one to see where it lands.
Medicaid Expansion and ACA: Medicaid expansion took a hit last week when the Senate voted along party lines to kill an amendment proposed by Democrats who wanted to add it to the next biennial budget.
The Senate debated the issue for about 90 minutes, with more than half of its 24 members speaking, including Bragdon, who has led the Senate Republican charge against Medicaid expansion.
What is a New Hampshire solution? Later in the day, Bragdon noted 60 to 80 percent of the people who would qualify for Medicaid if eligibility was expanded to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — or about $15,000 a year for an adult — would qualify for subsidies through the health insurance exchange set to begin Jan. 1.
Several states have asked the Obama administration to approve expansion through private health providers.
Another option that could be explored would be similar to what the Maine Senate passed last week, which is to have a sunset date for expansion after the first three years, when the federal government pays 100 percent of the cost of adults covered under expansion.
Can Bragdon and the majority of Republicans go along with an alternative? Who knows, but there are a couple of Republican senators who would sure like to see something to expand health care for the uninsured and not wait another year with an election soon to follow.
Budget Negotiations: No one will confirm it officially, but budget negotiations may not start until June 17, which would mean only three days of wrangling before the Senate deadline of June 20 at noon and the House deadline of June 20 at 4 p.m.
What is known is the Senate will not appoint the budget negotiators until Wednesday when it meets. Norelli is expected to name her negotiating team by early this week.
New Commissioner: Gov. Maggie Hassan's choice to be the new state Department of Labor commissioner, former House Minority Leader Jim Craig of Manchester, will have a public hearing Monday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. in Executive Council Chambers.
If the results are favorable, and they almost always are, the council will vote on Craig's nomination at its next meeting, June 19.
Turkey Trip: Four representatives who recently went on a trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan saw firsthand the anti-government protests in Turkey over a police crackdown on a local protest over an Istanbul park.
Smith said the protests did curtail some of their activities.
Lobster Rolls: While senators spent six hours debating the budget package last week, they did have some relief.
The ante room off the Senate floor is off limits to all but senators and staff, and many senators were taking advantage of the retreat during the debate.
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