- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Gov. Maggie Hassan said Tuesday she wants lawmakers to come back to Concord in two weeks for a special session to address New Hampshire’s substance abuse crisis, but Republican lawmakers said the state shouldn’t rush the legislative process.

The Executive Council must approve Hassan’s call for the special session, and the five-member body will debate and vote on her proposal Wednesday. The council is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats.

“We must act quickly to give patients, providers, parents and law enforcement better tools to combat this epidemic,” the Democratic governor said. “This is the most important issue facing our state, and it deserves the full and swift attention that comes from a special session of the legislature.”

If the session is approved, Hassan is already outlining efforts she’d like lawmakers to take up. Among them are increasing penalties for dealing the prescription drug fentanyl; requiring state medical boards to revamp their rules from prescribing opioids; and strengthening the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

She’s also seeking $11 million in new spending to open more drug courts, support law enforcement and give more money to the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.

GOP House and Senate leaders say they will get to work on legislation if the special session is approved, but they’d rather go through the normal legislative process. Republican senators have prepared five pieces of substance abuse legislation that they planned to take up in an expedited fashion when the session begins in January.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley pointed to Hassan’s efforts to tighten the rules around prescribing painkillers as evidence of the harm in rushing the process. Doctors and the state’s Board of Medicine have criticized the draft rules, saying they could prompt some doctors to stop prescribing altogether or lead more patients to illegal drugs.

“If the Board of Medicine rules are any indication, that’s why there’s a problem here,” Bradley said. “We want to do it right.”

If the session is called, legislators have the power to set the length of the session and rules around the public hearing process.

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