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House tackles Senate bills on elections, school choice

State House Bureau

April 17. 2017 8:12PM

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives this week takes up two of the most controversial bills to clear the state Senate — an overhaul of election law and a proposal to use state education money for “freedom scholarships” at private schools.

Senate bills to fund full-day kindergarten and allow casino gambling are also up for House hearings as lawmakers pass the halfway mark in the legislative session.

While work toward a June 30 deadline on a new state budget continues in the Senate, the House prepares to act on several bills that have already passed in the upper chamber.

A large crowd is expected in Representatives Hall for the House public hearing Tuesday on SB 3, “an act relative to domicile for voting purposes.”

Proposed by State Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, SB 3 has ended up as the “omnibus election bill” designed to accommodate a variety of election reform measures that have been percolating through both chambers since the first day of the session.

It’s focus is making people prove they live where they are registering to vote, and then verifying that proof.

“The requirements are going to be the same whether you’re registered prior to the election or on the day of the election. You’ll be required to show a verifiable act that you are domiciled here,” said Birdsell in Senate hearings on the bill.

People without the necessary proof of domicile will still be allowed to vote, but they will have to fill out an affidavit promising to provide proof within 10 days (30 days in towns where the clerk’s office is open fewer than 20 hours a week).

If that proof is not forthcoming, the supervisor of the checklist will try to verify the voter’s address through documents available at town offices, or by sending someone to knock on the door of the address provided.

If those efforts fail to verify the voter, the name will be stricken from the checklist and turned over to the Secretary of State for further investigation.

Education bills

The House Education Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to work on two Senate-passed education bills that have attracted a lot of attention.

SB 193, establishing education freedom savings accounts for students to attend private schools, has been called a school choice bill by its supporters. Critics say it’s designed to funnel taxpayer funds to private schools.

SB 191, the Senate’s $14 million plan to fund full-day kindergarten, will be the focus of a House hearing today and a work session on Wednesday.

Gov. Chris Sununu plans to testify Tuesday on behalf of the kindergarten bill.

House budget writers in March rejected Sununu’s plan to target $9 million for full-day kindergarten in the most needy communities, but the House Finance Committee budget was never adopted.

The House Health and Human Services Committee is expected to vote this morning on SB 7, a bill to tighten up on food stamp eligibility in New Hampshire, and will hold hearings on SB 242, another attempt by Manchester State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro to introduce casino gambling in New Hampshire.

The anti-gambling group, Casino Free New Hampshire, plans a press conference in opposition to D’Allesandro’s bill just before the 10 a.m. hearing gets under way.

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