CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Legislature won’t be back in session until January, but lawmakers have begun drafting bills and crafting agendas.
After getting the budget out of the way last year, re-authorization of the state’s expanded Medicaid program will be the big issue next year, said House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord.
Medicaid expansion, made possible through former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, subsidizes health care for low-income people. It will sunset if not reapproved by the end of next year, and federal officials recently expressed concern that New Hampshire may be out of compliance with federal rules because it relied on voluntary contributions from insurance companies and hospitals to cover some of the state’s costs to put people on private insurance.
Shurtleff said he expects a close vote but he thinks lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will keep the program going.
“It’s been so positive for New Hampshire in so many ways, so we really want to keep that on the books,” he said.
Republican Senate President Chuck Morse wasn’t as confident, saying no one is sure how the Medicaid debate will play out given the mixed messages from Washington.
“I think we did a lot of good in New Hampshire and I think we want to continue that, but how we do that, I don’t think anyone is ready to say,” he said.
Beyond Medicaid, Morse said he expects the Republican-led Senate to focus on making sure money allocated in the budget is appropriately spent.
“We want to make sure what we put in that budget gets implemented,” he said, particularly in key areas such as child protection and mental health. “We’ve put a lot of money into a lot of different areas, and we want to evaluate all that.”
Senators also will be building on tax cuts from last session with other ways to attract and keep businesses, he said.
Shurtleff said Democrats also will be focused on workforce training and increasing the percentage of liquor sales allocated to substance misuse and prevention programs.
Senators won’t start submitting proposed bills until later this month, but among the more than 680 bill titles submitted by House lawmakers are proposals dealing with water quality, education and elections. Three bill titles deal with transgender issues. One bill would prohibit minors from undergoing sex reassignment surgery; another would prohibit Medicaid from paying for such surgery for patients of any age. The third would include sexual reassignment under the definition of child abuse.
Animals also make multiple appearances in the list of bill titles. One title mentions “trespassing fowl,” another is aimed at the “protection of beavers.” And if another lawmaker gets his way, the New Hampshire Red would be designated as the official state poultry.
More than two dozen bills would create committees to study a range of issues, including the needs of people with disabilities, the fiscal impact of repairing or replacing water supply systems and redesigning the state flag. And perhaps in the most broad proposal, one bill would create a committee to study other boards and committees.