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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: 'Conversion therapy' for gay youth back on the agenda

January 14. 2018 12:38AM
Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett 

Two of the most dramatic moments in the House last week came when Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, had to cast tie-breaking votes to kill two bills that would ban gay conversion therapy, the practice of attempting to change a child's sexual orientation or gender identity through psychological or spiritual intervention.

The House bill (HB 587) failed by one vote, 166-165, after Chandler cast the tie-breaker. The Senate version (SB 224) was defeated 170-169, again requiring Chandler's vote to break a 169-169 tie.

But the issue is not laid to rest. House rules allow the matter to be reconsidered if a representative on the prevailing side asks for another vote. Eight-term Rep. Henry Parkhurst of Winchester, who voted with the winning side, filed such a request.

The House will vote on the motion for reconsideration at its next session, most likely Feb. 7. If it fails, the previous vote stands. If the motion to reconsider is successful, then the bill is back up for a vote again.

Also up for reconsideration in the next session is, HB 413, which calls on the state to resume contributions to the retirement system for municipal employees, thanks to a request from Rep. Catt Sandler, D-Dover. The bill failed in the first go-round.

Evolving on election law

Gov. Chris Sununu's views on legislation to create a new definition of residency linked to voting appear to be evolving.

Opponents of HB 372, which passed the Senate in a 14-9 party line vote, took heart several weeks ago when Sununu was on video telling a young political activist who asked about the bill, "I hate it."

"I hope the Legislature kills it. ... I will never support anything that suppresses the student vote," he said. But when asked this week if he would veto the Senate-passed bill if it gets to his desk, he was not quite so unequivocal.

"I'm not going to comment on that because that bill may very well not be what comes to my desk," he said. "I am not supportive of what passed the Senate last week, but I do believe it has a further process to go through the Legislature."

A few tweaks, and the bill could well become something the governor will support.

In a radio interview with WKXL on Thursday, Sununu softened his opposition even further, saying he supports the heart of the bill, which is a change in the definition of residency.

"I do believe that firming up the definitions of domicile and residence, what it is and what it allows you to do, is critical," he said. "You have to do that, but if you don't do it in the right way, it could have unintended consequences that could backfire."

Farmers are heard

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday held a well-attended hearing on SB 338, the bill that would protect the right of New Hampshire farmers to grow marijuana should the drug ever become legal for retail sales in the Granite State.

The committee is likely to refer SB 338 to the joint House-Senate committee studying the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, with a request to address the bill in its final recommendations in November.

Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that heard testimony largely in favor of the bill also serve on the study committee - Sen. William Gannon, R-Sandown and Bette R. Lasky, D-Nashua.

Gannon, a strident legalization opponent, was one of six senators to vote against decriminalization in a 17-6 vote last May. Lasky voted with the majority.

Farewell Frizzell

One of the most visible advocates for access to abortion in New Hampshire, Jennifer Frizzell, ended her 15-year tenure with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England on Friday.

A spokesman for the organization says Frizzell, PPNNE vice president for public policy, is taking a sabbatical in 2018 to devote more time to her sons and to community involvement.

She leaves at a time when many abortion-related bills are under consideration in the Legislature, including HB 1511, which removes the immunity for pregnant women in the state's fetal homicide law.

Other abortion-related bills on the docket include HB 1680, prohibiting abortions after viability; and HB 1707, requiring doctors to provide women with certain information before an abortion, including risks of the procedure and alternatives.

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