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May 01. 2014 8:30PM

NH Senate Roundup: Home-grown marijuana for ill people not happening

CONCORD — With little debate and facing a sure veto, the Senate on Thursday effectively killed a bill that would have allowed medical marijuana patients or their caregivers to grow cannabis.

Senators voted 14-9 to send the bill to interim study, which the next Legislature does not have to take up.

House Bill 1622 passed the House by more than three-to-one vote, but senators last year removed the provision from the bill establishing the state’s medical marijuana program after Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would veto the bill unless the home-grow provision were removed.

Supporters of the bill say chronically or terminally ill patients will have to wait at least another year for relief until alternative treatment centers to dispense the marijuana open.

Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, said that patients qualified under the program would benefit from growing their own marijuana but questions remain how the home-grow provision would coordinate with alternative treatment centers and need further study.

She said the approval process for the centers needs to be accelerated, but believes passing the bill would interrupt the current work on that process.

“We want to get the alternative treatment centers up and running as soon as possible,” Stiles said.

Three Democrats joined four Republicans in voting against sending the bill to interim study including Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.

Paint tax

The Senate showed little support for a bill that would have New Hampshire join a national program developed by paint manufacturers to dispose of old paint.

The program established in House Bill 1570 is used by most other New England states and relieves cities and towns of the cost of disposing of old oil-based and latex paints and make disposal more convenient for consumers, said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.

Manufacturers fund the program by assessing retail establishments about 75 cents a gallon of paint; but opponents call that a new paint tax. Supporters said it will save cities and towns money and is more environmentally responsible than the current system, which sends old paint to landfills and incinerators.

Conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity NH and Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire have actively opposed the bill.

Five Democrats joined 11 Republicans to defeat the bill on a 16-7 vote.

The House passed the bill on a 161-142 vote, nearly down party lines.

Alternative fuel

People driving vehicles that use alternative fuel such as compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas or propane will no longer escape paying the state’s gas and diesel tax.

The Senate preliminarily approved House Bill 1142, which would expand the state’s current 18 cents per gallon gasoline tax to 22.2 cents starting July 1 and apply to alternative fuels.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair, Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, said it is a basic matter or fairness.

“Vehicles that use alternative fuels use the same roads as vehicles that use gas and diesel,” Rausch said. “They are getting a free ride at the expense of those using traditional fuels.”

The bill requires alternative fuel dealers to be licensed by the state and the Department of Safety to collect and remit the tax,

The tax rate would be calculated through a formula to be the same per-gallon rate as the gas tax.

The Senate Finance Committee will review the bill before a final vote.

The Senate has a May 15 deadline to act on House bills.

Charitable gambling

Tightening regulations and controls over the charitable gaming industry will ensure that the state and patrons are treated fairly, supporters of House Bill 1630 say.

The Senate preliminarily approved the bill that will go to Senate Finance for review before a final vote.

Supporters say the bill would provide greater transparency and the assurance of integrity for those playing the games, the beneficiaries and the state.

The bill was proposed after the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority last year reviewed current gaming in the state and concluded the regulatory scheme is not sufficient to determine how much is bet at the state’s 10 charitable gaming facilities.

The authority said the state lacks controls to determine if the games are run fairly or if charities and the state receive all the money due.

The bill would provide greater oversight over the industry, have the state regulate video gaming machines now regulated by local communities or “gray machines” and establish a commission to do an in-depth study of the industry and the state’s regulatory role.

The Racing and Charity Gaming Commission has tried for years to tighten regulations and requirements but lawmakers have failed to agree on what action to take.

When the law was changed to allow private facilities to host charity gaming events, the charities were to receive a guaranteed 35 percent of the net earnings, but the charities’ take eroded over time.

Charitable gaming produced more than $13 million for state charities during the 2013 fiscal year.

Keno dies

Without debate and on a voice vote, the Senate killed a bill to allow Keno.

Under House Bill 485, the Lottery Commission would have been able to install electronic keno games in bars, restaurants and clubs that serve alcohol. Keno would generate an estimated $9 million annually with the money going to the Education Trust Fund to support local school districts.

Communities would decide whether to allow keno, which is legal in 15 states and Washington, D.C.

Keno players select from an 80-number card while a computer selects 20 winning numbers every six minutes, showing them on a video screen. Players can bet from $1 to $30, with higher payouts if the player selects a higher percentage of winning numbers.

Good Samaritan

The Senate killed the “Good Samaritan” bill, which would have granted immunity to those reporting drug or alcohol overdoes through the state Emergency-911 system.

House Bill 1159 supporters said people are often reluctant when someone overdoses to call for emergency help for fear of prosecution, costing people their lives.

The bill passed the House after it was revised last year to clarify who would have immunity.

Rapists as parents

The Senate killed a bill that would make it easier to terminate the parental rights of a rapist.

Rape victims who decide to keep a child conceived during a rape often have to make a deal with the perpetrator not to testify against him in criminal court to end his claim for parental rights.

New Hampshire is one of 15 states that require a sexual assault conviction to terminate the parental rights of the rapist and one of 26 states to allow rapists to have full parental rights.

House Bill 1176 is nearly identical to a Senate Bill 253, which passed the House Wednesday. Senators said the House bill is not needed.

grayno@unionleader.com


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