- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - As the legislative session reaches its halfway point, Medicaid expansion, tackling the drug crisis and changes to election laws remain top priorities for New Hampshire lawmakers.

All bills that passed the House are now in the hands of the Senate and vice versa, putting them one step closer to hitting Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk between now and the end of the session in June.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Once a hotly contested issue in New Hampshire, a plan to renew the state’s Medicaid expansion program is well on its way toward passage. New Hampshire began the program, which insures 48,000 low income people, in 2014, but it will sunset at the end of this year if lawmakers don’t renew it.

The renewal plan has passed the Republican-controlled House and faces friendly territory in the GOP-led Senate. It makes several changes to the program, including adding a work requirement for recipients - something the federal government has never approved.

The renewal plan relies on hospitals and insurance companies kicking in the state’s share of the costs when federal funding drops below 100 percent next year. Hassan strongly supports continuing the program but declined to say Wednesday if she would sign the bill as written.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Senators just voted to spend about $5 million more on prevention, treatment and recovery initiatives, sending the proposal onto the House.

Also still on the table are efforts to pave the way for a needle exchange program, more money to set up drug courts statewide and efforts to revamp the opioid prescribing guidelines for doctors.

Tackling New Hampshire’s heroin and opioid crisis has been a top concern for lawmakers this session.

ELECTION LAWS

House Republican leaders hope several election-related bills will find favor in the Senate. One would require someone to live in New Hampshire, declaring the state his or her domicile, for at least 10 consecutive days prior to voting. It also creates a more robust definition of domicile and explicitly says that temporarily living in New Hampshire to work on a political campaign does not count.

Another bill allows the secretary of state to begin using a program to cross check voter data with other states.

Supporters of such bills say they will crack down on voter fraud and ensure the integrity of elections, but opponents say they are designed to make it harder for people to vote.

OTHER

Users of solar power could get a boost from a bill raising the cap on a program called “net metering,” which provides a financial incentive for people and businesses that install solar panels. A bill now before the Senate makes the incentive more widely available.

Also in the Senate is a bill that regulates how the police and public can use drones. Advocates have been working on the bill for several years and say it will help protect privacy rights as use of the technology expands.

And New Hampshire is finally moving toward complying with the federal “Real ID” law, which requires enhanced drivers’ licenses to enter federal facilities and board airplanes. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that still doesn’t give residents an option to get a Real ID-compliant drivers’ license, which requires a valid birth certificate and social security number.

A bill now in the Senate provides an option for state residents to get these enhanced licenses but does not require it.

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