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House approves funding for mental health settlement
Under House Bill 1635, the state would use about $7 million in federal funds and about $4 million in state general funds over the next year-and-a-half to pay for the cost of the settlement.
Gov. Maggie Hassan backed the bill, saying it carries out the settlement reached between the parties.
Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said additional state workers could be hired to carry out the terms of the settlement instead of contracting with the community mental health agencies, saving the state millions of dollars.
“We heard yesterday a deal is a deal, is a deal,” Kurk said. “A budget is a budget, is a budget. We don’t reopen budgets.”
Rep. Sharon Nordgren, D-Hanover, said the plaintiffs and U.S. Justice Department may withdraw their consent to the settlement if the Legislature does not fund it and revive their claims against the state.
But House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said the House wants to use money it has yet to collect to pay for the settlement.
The House voted 174-105 to kill a bill that would have prohibited purchasing alcohol and tobacco with electronic benefit transfer cards used by welfare and food stamp recipients.
Questions have been raised about the use of the cards with some saying they are being used to purchase non-essential items or used in cash machines with no way of tracking purchases.
Health and Human Services officials say it is almost impossible to track what people using the cards purchase.
Lawmakers have established an interim study committee to look into the issue.
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