CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu and a top Senate Republican unveiled legislation to protect vulnerable adults Wednesday.
The governor said he fixed flaws in a 2019 version of this proposal that he vetoed last spring.
Sununu and Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, showed off their work on the first day to officially file legislation for the 2020 session.
“I have long believed one of the foremost responsibilities of government is to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Sununu said in a statement.
“When I vetoed House Bill 696 this summer, I did so because it reduced the protections available to domestic violence victims. I pledged to work with the Legislature in a bipartisan manner to make sure we got the bill done right. In close partnership with Senator Bradley, we have accomplished that goal and look forward to working with Democrats, Republicans and the many interested stakeholders to get this done.”
A group of strange bedfellows worked for markedly different reasons to kill this bill last spring.
Gun-rights groups and advocates for domestic violence victimes had urged Sununu to veto the measure.
The bill would enable elders and other vulnerable adults, along with their guardians or lawyers, to seek protective orders similar to those that victims of domestic violence and stalking seek from judges.
“The state must be able to provide a legal pathway to protect vulnerable adults from abuse, exploitation and neglect from those who would take advantage of them,” Bradley said. “This legislation I filed today improves upon past legislation to protect this population from the tragic occurrence of physical, mental and financial abuse. I am grateful to have worked with Governor Sununu on this bill and look forward to working with stakeholders and my colleagues in the Senate and House to get this bill to his desk.”
State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, worked three years on the bill Sununu vetoed with a broad coalition including New Hampshire Legal Assistance, lawyers that represent seniors, the New Hampshire Alzheimer’s Association and the state chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.
“I’m pleased to see the governor follow through on his promise to find common ground,” said Cushing who had not seen in advance what Bradley and Sununu have now proposed.
“I think this dramatically improves the odds we actually get something done in 2020.”
Different versions of House Bill 696 made it through the House and Senate, with support from most Democrats — and solid opposition from all but a handful of House Republicans.
When a committee of conference took it up in June, lawmakers agreed to remove the gun-confiscation language to save the bill.
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence came out in opposition, saying the victims they represent could get the wrong kind of order as this bill was written.
Cushing had offered an amendment the coalition wanted but the conference committee rejected it and Sununu’s veto message carried much of the coalition’s argument.
In his veto, Sununu also mentioned “the real possibility that an individual’s Second Amendment constitutional rights could be violated without judicial oversight.” And, he said, “Other advocates have raised legitimate concerns regarding Fourth Amendment considerations.”
Cushing has re-submitted his own bill for 2020.
“We had been working with the coalition to alleviate their concerns,” Cushing added.