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March 12. 2014 10:05PM

Legislative Roundup: House votes down changes to headlight off-on times

CONCORD — Drivers would have been required to use their headlights and taillights during rain, snow or fog and from sunset to sunrise, but the House instead voted to kill the bill.

The House failed to pass House Bill 1601 on a 182-151 vote after an hour of debate.

The bill would essentially have added fog to the times when drivers are required to have their lights on when driving and would have done away with the half-hour grace period after sunset and before sunrise before lights are required.

Supporters of the bill said the issue is safety.

“The whole thing about visibility is safety,” said Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Nashua. “If you can be seen hopefully people can avoid you.”

But opponents said vehicle manufacturers are already adding daytime running lights to all vehicles making the bill unnecessary.

They said all surrounding states have the same requirement as New Hampshire requiring headlights on a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before sunrise.

Changing that requirement would be confusing for drivers from other states, they said.

The bill would have also required motorcyclists to have headlights on all the time.

But Rep. Steven Beaudoin, R-Rochester, said his vehicles have automatic settings to turn headlights on when needed.

“If we pass this bill that is not going to work,” Beaudoin said. “I have four cars I leave in automatic position all the time.”

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Jonathan Manley, D-Bennington, said the question is whether you can be seen.

“Police say many times after accidents, (the person) says ‘I just didn’t see them coming,’” Manley said. “This will help make the roads safer.”

Fracking

The House decided Wednesday New Hampshire does not need to be protected from hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

The House voted 248-66 to kill House Bill 1608, which would have prohibited fracking in the state as well as the importation of waste water from fracking operations.

Bill opponents said there is no oil or natural gas exploration in the state and they are not naturally found in the state’s granite bedrock.

They said the nearest fracking activity is in Pennsylvania and there is little likelihood the waste water from fracking would be transported to New Hampshire for treatment because the cost would be prohibitive.

But supporters said the dangerous practice is nearby noting the procedure is also used to expand production in water wells.

“This proposal provides New Hampshire with the protection we will not be able to get in any other way,” said Rep. Lisa Whittemore, D-Londonderry. “Our committee and others are convinced in the words of Frank Zappa that ‘It can’t happen here.’”

Fracking which is used to extract shale oil and natural gas from existing wells is controversial. Birth defects have been found in areas near fracking operations in other states.

Several states have banned fracking.

Liquid cremation

The House endorsed again a new method of cremation supporters claim is cheaper and more environmentally sound.

The House voted 209-116 to approve House Bill 1577, which allows the process of alkaline hydrolysis to be used by funeral homes to reduce bodies to bone fragments and a water-potassium hydroxide solution. The House passed a nearly identical bill last year, but the Senate killed it.

During House debate, opponents raised concerns about the disposal of the resulting liquid, saying it may enter groundwater or aquifers.

“This is the third time this inhumane legislation has come before us,” said Rep. Lawrence Kappler R-Raymond, “and it needs to go where it has gone the last three times, down the tube.”

He gave a detailed description of the process over the objection of some House members.

Bill supporters said the process would provide families a choice they do not have now, although families in others states such as Maine do.

The bill goes to the Senate which has killed it three times.

grayno@unionleader.com


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