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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: Batch of bills signed into law

June 10. 2018 12:00AM

Hundreds of bills cleared the Legislature in the session that ended last month, and Gov. Chris Sununu has been signing them in big batches over the past two weeks.

After another "sign-o-rama" on Friday, several important bills became law, including civil rights protections for transgender individuals and a bill of rights for children in foster care.

Those were the headline grabbers, but several other important pieces of legislation will soon be added to the state's "Revised Statutes Annotated," known as RSAs in legal shorthand, including:

HB 1822, making hormonal contraceptives available directly from pharmacists through a standing order. This bill allows pharmacists to dispense birth control pills in accordance with statewide procedures that would be agreed to by health care providers and pharmacists.

It's the result of a study commission that worked on the issue for more than a year.

"The idea is to create a statewide protocol as a model, so pharmacists can use standing orders to dispense birth control pills to people who need them without going to see doctors first," said Rep. William Marsh, R-Wolfeboro, a member of the commission.

The bill takes effect two months from now.

HB 1564, regarding sexual assault on a prisoner by a person with supervisory or disciplinary authority.

This bill emerged after a judge last year dismissed rape charges against a former Belknap County deputy sheriff.

Ernest "Justin" Blanchette had been serving a 10- to 20-year state prison sentence after a jury in Hillsborough Superior Court found him guilty of aggravated felonious sexual assault in connection with an assault on a female inmate during a prisoner transfer from Belknap County Superior Court to the State Prison for Women.

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction on a technicality, pointing out that Blanchette was not a person with authority over the inmate, as he was not employed by the state prison where the female inmate was incarcerated.

The law was changed to clarify that anyone with any supervisory authority over an inmate can be charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault in such cases.

SB 435, regarding alternative programs for high school graduation credit.

This bill requires the state Board of Education to adopt rules for approving alternative programs for granting credits leading to graduation.

According to Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, the legislation allows the board to approve out-of-school activities like sports and arts for high school credit.

Sununu says the bill is about "transitioning away from seat time, in favor of a structure that creates flexibility, allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place or pace of learning."

SB 366, regarding membership and procedures of the Site Evaluation Committee.

The makeup of this committee has always been controversial, as it rules on big energy proposal like the Northern Pass hydro-electric project and Antrim Wind. The bill gives the governor more flexibility in appointing the two public members of the nine-member committee, and creates a training requirement.

All new to the committee will be required to complete a training program on siting rules and administrative regulations conducted by the Department of Justice.

"If New Hampshire is going to be serious about optimizing our energy system, we must have a siting process that is fair, predictable and communicative," said Sununu in signing the bill. "By easing the burden on overworked SEC members and allowing for their greater education, we will be better able offer an equitable process."

SB 303, relative to a security freeze on a consumer credit reports.

This bill was proposed after highly publicized hacks of credit reporting agencies, and prohibits agencies like Experian or Equifax from charging consumers for a security freeze on their accounts.

A consumer reporting agency can no longer charge a fee to put a security freeze in place, remove a security freeze or lift a security freeze for a specific period of time.

So far this year, Sununu has only vetoed two bills, one that would give the parole board more flexibility in how it deals with non-violent drug offenders (HB 143) and another increasing the threshold for governor and council approval from $75,000 to $150,000 for dam maintenance (HB 1736.)

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