Sununu signs PTSD recognition for suffering first responders

Gov. Chris Sununu signs legislation adding PTSD to the list of work-related injuries for all first responders on Tuesday.

Sununu reaches modern-day record of vetoes, signs sales tax protection, allows rail money to become law

{child_byline}By Kevin Landrigan

New Hampshire Union Leader

{/child_byline}

CONCORD — During a frenetic day of executive action on legislation Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed eight bills, signed a landmark one to give businesses protection from becoming out-of-state tax collectors and allowed another to become law that could advance the commuter rail project.

Sununu continues to plow through bills the Democratically led Legislature adopted and sent to the governor’s desk.

Unofficially, the two-term Newfields Republican has now vetoed 38 measures for the 2019 session — that’s a modern-day record.

Sununu said some of the latest rejected bills were well-intentioned, such as creating a protective order for vulnerable adults.

In his veto measure, Sununu said this one (SB 696) could inadvertently endanger the victims of domestic violence by lumping this new order into the existing ones abuse victims can secure from a judge for a stalking or domestic violence protective order.

“However as drafted, this bill potentially reduces the protections available to domestic violence victims who are vulnerable adults by creating a tool that includes far fewer protections than current law,” Sununu said.

Some gun owner activists had urged Sununu to veto the bill and Sununu agreed under the bill someone’s Second Amendment rights “could be violated without judicial oversight.”

Sununu rejected a mandate that prevailing wages be paid on state-funded public works projects.

He said the state already has some of the highest wages in the country.

“The cost and administrative burden on employers would lead to less competition for government contracts, higher wages and poorer outcomes for America,” Sununu wrote.

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg took to Twitter to criticize Sununu.

“It’s deeply disappointing that @GovChrisSununu today turned his back on New Hampshire workers by vetoing a prevailing wage for construction workers,” Buttigieg tweeted. “We need an economy where everyone has a role and everyone can succeed and that includes a living wage.”

Sununu vetoed a bill that would prevent employers from rejecting job applicants based on answers to a criminal background check question. The bill would permit employees to ask about a criminal past during a job interview or on the phone with the applicant.

“One of the best pathways to recovery is a job, but Governor Sununu’s veto of this bipartisan legislation holds New Hampshire back from providing survivors of the opioid epidemic the opportunity to compete for jobs and re-enter the workforce,” said Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, who is seriously exploring his own bid for governor in 2020.

Bruce Berke, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, thanked Sununu for the move.

“Small-business owners are often willing to give someone a second chance, but this legislation puts a huge burden upon them by dragging out the hiring process when they need to fill a vacancy quickly. By the time the employer discovers the candidate he’s interviewing isn’t appropriate for the job, other applicants may be long gone,” Berke said in a statement.

Advocates for transgender adults criticized Sununu for turning aside a bill that would make it easier to make changes to birth records to reflect someone’s gender identity.

“This law has been needed for many years to help transgender and gender variant people live a more normal life in our community. I am deeply disappointed that the Governor has chosen to disregard the transgender and gender variant community with his veto today, showing his true lack of understanding the incredible challenges this community faces,” said Rep. Gerri Cannon, D-Somersworth, a transgender advocate before her election to the House in 2018.

In his veto message Sununu said there was already a “reasonable process” to change a gender designation and altering the birth record process should be done “infrequently and cautiously.”

Sununu did gain bipartisan praise Friday for signing legislation to protect the rights of New Hampshire businesses when out-of-state tax collectors try to make them collect sales taxes in online purchases.

This bill compels any other taxing agency to notify state prosecutors here 45 days before they try to collect these taxes.

It lets New Hampshire lawyers file suit if the Department of Justice believes these out-of-state entities are improperly targeting our businesses.

“As governor, I am going to do everything in my power to fight any attempt to force New Hampshire’s businesses to collect out of state taxes in violation of the United States or New Hampshire Constitutions,” Sununu said.

This was a sweet victory for Sununu who tried and failed to get this done during a special session last year after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its so-called Wayfair decision that allowed South Dakota authorities to collect these taxes.

Sununu let become law without his signature a measure that allows state transportation officials to seek federal grants and to use turnpike toll spending as matching money for the development phase of restoring commuter rail service from Boston to Nashua and then on to Manchester and Concord.

As an executive councilor, Sununu opposed the project but then he signed on to the concept as part of the state’s unsuccessful bid to get Amazon to locate its second world headquarters in New Hampshire.

Sen. Melanie Levesque, D-Nashua, was the bill’s prime author.

“Passenger rail is a key component to New Hampshire’s efforts to grow our economy, ease traffic, improve commutes, and attract and retain young professionals. I’m pleased SB 241 will become law, which lifts a barrier to passenger rail in New Hampshire by allowing our state to access federal funds for an in-depth analysis of expanding rail in the Granite State,” Levesque said.