House: State Vets Home needs to change smoking policy
The House voted 181-157 not to kill House Bill 1396 and instead sent the bill to interim study.
In July 2013, the Veterans Home became a smoke-free campus except for the eight residents of 190 who were grandfathered and allowed to smoke in a designated area.
Supporters of the bill said that while the goal is laudable, the current policy is discriminatory and veterans who smoke should be allowed admission.
“The administrators at the Veterans Home have a high probability of doing nothing to stop their discriminatory practices,” he said. Sending it to interim study will send a “strong message” to the administrators to “do the right thing,” Meaney said.
“Why are people making decisions to take rights away from people who fought for our rights?” Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry asked. “Who are we to tell some 85-year-old veteran, with a Purple Heart, that you don’t qualify no more?” Baldasaro, who is a smoker, said lawmakers should not let the home’s board tell veterans they cannot stay at the home because they are smokers.
Rep. Thomas Sherman, D-Rye, said the policy was developed by the home board after a “deficiency” was cited by the VA on smoking policy.
Sherman said the majority of the committee felt the decision was best left to the home’s board.
Without debate, the House killed the latest version of a “bottle bill” requiring a deposit of 5 cents for beer, wine, water or soda containers.
Opponents claimed the bill would mean the loss of millions of dollars of revenues for the state Liquor Commission, higher insurance and workers compensation costs for distributors, as well as storage and insect problems.
New Hampshire has seen a number of bottle bill proposals over the years, the most recent in 2010. That bill, like all before it, was killed.
The House voted 251-68 to kill House Bill 1486, which would have lowered the fine for underage drinking from between $300 to $500 per violation, to between $100 and $300.
Bill opponents said it would send the wrong message to young people, but supporters say the current penalties are too severe.
The House gave preliminary approval to two bills that the House Finance Committee will have to review before a final vote.
House Bill 1105 would require the state to fully fund special education costs instead of the approximately 72 percent it currently provides school districts. If approved, the bill would require the state to provide an additional $8 million to $9 million a year.