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Senate Roundup: Abortion-clinic buffer zone approved

State House Bureau

May 22. 2014 8:21PM

CONCORD — Senators overturned a recommendation to delay approving a bill to establish 25-foot buffer zones outside facilities where abortions are performed and instead sent the bill to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is expected to sign it.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, who opposes the bill, urged colleagues to ask the House to negotiate over the two versions of the bill to allow time for the U.S. Supreme Court to release its decision on a similar buffer zone in Massachusetts law.

Carson said by waiting until the decision is released, which is expected next week, lawmakers could adjust the bill to align with the decision.

“This is really dealing with the freedom of speech issue,” Carson said, echoing arguments voiced by opponents in earlier debates.

But Senate Bill 319’s prime sponsor, Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said the House made a minor change in the bill and reminded members they voted 15-9 to approve the bill earlier this session and questioned if they wanted to re-debate the issue.

The Senate voted down Carson’s recommendation before voting 13-10 to agree to the House version of the bill and send it to Hassan.

The House version of the bill requires facilities to clearly define the buffer zone’s layout and dimensions for local officials to help with enforcement and makes the bill effective 30 days after it is signed.

Earlier, Soucy said the bill results from activities and protests at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s center on Penacook Street in Manchester. However, the bill applies to the five abortion clinics in the state.

Representatives from Planned Parenthood have told lawmakers more than 60 patient complaints have been logged since the beginning of 2013, with some involving local law enforcement.

Similar problems have occurred at facilities in Concord and Portsmouth.

But bill opponents refute the claim and instead say the bill restricts 1st amendment rights to speech. They said they have a right to express their opinions and offer counseling to women about to enter the facilities.

Campaign money

The Senate decided to agree with the House on a bill that would require political and advocacy groups that promote the election or defeat of candidates in state elections to publicly report their receipts and expenditures.

The bill was introduced as a response to spending in 2012 by Americans for Prosperity and other groups targeting Democrats and several Republican incumbents who had conservative primary opposition.

The bill would require all independent special interest groups to report to the Secretary of State once they spend $5,000.

The Senate voted 12-11 to agree with the House version of Senate Bill 120.

Regulating drones

The Senate did not debate a bill that would regulate drones, a bill it sent to interim study last month. It suffered a polite death in the second year of the two-year session.

The House’s leading privacy advocate, Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, worked for two years to reach consensus on a bill to restrict the use of commercial drones.

Kurk successfully attached his bill to Senate Bill 264 last week, but the Senate killed it quickly Thursday.

Kurk’s bill would regulate the use of aerial drone photography and broadcasts by government agencies and private individuals and businesses.

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