- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Lawmakers will return to Concord in mid-June for another vote on a $1.5 million funding bill for drug enforcement that unexpectedly failed in Wednesday’s final session day.

If the bill passes, the money will be divvied up to county and local police departments to put more officers on streets and crack down on highly drug trafficked areas. The program, called “Operation Granite Hammer,” already is in operation in Manchester. The bill’s failure Wednesday surprised Republicans and Democrats alike.

Announcing plans Thursday for the extra session day, Republican House and Senate leaders said the program is critical to fighting the state’s opioid abuse problem. They blamed Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan for failing to lock up her party’s votes. Earlier Thursday, she urged the Legislature to reconvene for another vote.

“I expect the governor to deliver the Democratic votes,” Republican Senate President Chuck Morse said.

Many Democrats balked at an unrelated portion of the bill that would’ve required some state retirees to pay premium contributions on their health care plans. The new proposal that will be introduced on June 16 will not include the retiree health changes.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, protested the fresh law enforcement spending as part of what they called the failed war on drugs.

Despite the bickering over why the bill failed, leadership in both parties agrees the $1.5 million in funding is a useful tool in the opioid fight.

“We need to come together, quickly, and provide this support to state and local law enforcement who are battling this crisis on the front lines,” Hassan said in a statement.

The legislature can reconvene without declaring a special session through the end of June.

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