CONCORD – The hot-button, election-year issues of gun control, abortion rights, public employee labor rights and citizen suits over PFAS contamination all took center stage as Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed four bills on those topics Friday afternoon.
In all cases, the two-term Republican has enough GOP minority support in the Legislature if it sticks together to win veto override fights.
All of these bills are expected to come up when lawmakers are brought back into session Sept. 16 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
The most hotly contested was Sununu’s decision for the second straight year to turn back legislation that would put New Hampshire in the ranks of 19 states with “red flag” laws.
New Hampshire and Maine are the only New England states without them.
These measures permit a judge to temporarily seize the guns of someone a judge determines is at “extreme risk” of causing violence to that person or to others.
Sununu charged that the bill (HB 687) violated the Second Amendment rights of firearm owners along with four other constitutional provisions including unreasonable search and seizure and the right to a speedy trial.
Although Sununu supports abortion rights, he struck down legislation (HB 685) that would require all commercial health care plans that cover maternity costs to insure abortion services.
The governor said this runs afoul of a federal law that bans discrimination against plans that don’t reimburse for abortions.
“This bill would risk the state’s federal health care funding in the middle of a pandemic, take away the freedom of choice for those employees and employers who object to being forced to partake in or to provide abortion services, and expose the state to expensive litigation,” Sununu said.
The PFAS legislation Sununu vetoed (HB 1375) was part of an omnibus health monitoring measure.
Sununu said under his watch the state has adopted some of the nation’s toughest limits on PFAS allowed in drinking water and sued companies to hold companies accountable for damages.
But the governor attacked what he considered the vague legal rights for citizens to sue over contamination.
Sununu said the labor rights bill (HB 1494) he vetoed had some laudable parts to it, but one section would let labor groups get certified as unions by a public, written majority signed by potential members, bypassing the current process done by secret ballot.
“It is particularly odd that the Legislature has now sent several bills that would undermine public employee privacy despite New Hampshire citizens resounding passage of a constitutional amendment in 2018 that protects privacy rights of our citizens,” Sununu said.”