- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Despite divided control in the Legislature, lawmakers came together in 2014 to expand Medicaid and fund road and bridge repairs. They voted against legalizing a casino and repealing the death penalty, two long-debate issues that seemed ripe for passage. Republicans and Democrats point to the session as an example of bipartisanship and productivity in Concord.

Here are some of the session’s highlights:

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Lawmakers expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act with the goal of giving 50,000 people access to health care. Newly eligible adults get coverage through Medicaid or assistance toward plans bought through their employers while the state waits on approval from Washington to use federal money to help these adults buy private insurance plans.

“It’s one of the best things we’ve done in a decade,” former Democratic House Speaker Terie Norelli said.

The plan expires at the end of 2016 if lawmakers don’t renew it. Reauthorization could be difficult in the Republican-led House. Senate Republicans helped craft the bill.

GAMBLING

Legalizing casinos failed by a single vote in the 400-member House, the closest it’s ever come to passing the chamber.

The casino plan would have legalized two casinos, included a regulatory role for the attorney general’s office and set aside money for gambling addiction treatment. It also included revenue sharing with cities and towns. Gov. Maggie Hassan has publicly backed one casino and never said whether she’d sign a bill for two.

Lawmakers will debate casinos again in 2015.

DEATH PENALTY

Death penalty repeal passed the House but fell one vote short in the Senate. Hassan had said she would sign a repeal bill, only if the state’s only man on death row - Michael Addison - stayed there. Rep. Renny Cushing, a longtime repeal advocate, has filed a bill to debate the issue again in the upcoming session.

GAS TAX INCREASE

Lawmakers increased the state’s gas tax by 4 cents - the first increase since 1991 - generating $32 million for road and bridge repairs. Republican Sen. Jim Rausch led the charge despite strong opposition from Republican-leaning outside groups. The bill also included bonding to finish the expansion of Interstate 93.

MENTAL HEALTH SETTLEMENT

Lawmakers passed a measure to fund the state’s $30 million settlement with the federal government over inadequate mental health treatment options. The bill required the state to spend roughly $6 million in the current budget, primarily to expand community treatment options. The next state budget will include an additional $24 million.

MEDICAID ENHANCEMENT TAX

The state settled a second lawsuit over a tax on hospitals called the Medicaid Enhancement Tax. For years, the state taxed hospitals for certain services but paid all the money back through a combination of state and federal dollars. The system allowed the state to pocket some of the federal cash. But facing budget concerns, the state recently reduced payments to the hospitals, prompting the lawsuit.

Hassan reached a deal with almost all the hospitals to reinstate the reimbursements in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. The deal saved the state from facing a $145 million hole in this budget, but means $45 million to $95 million less in revenue in the next budget.

JOSHUA’S LAW

Lawmakers passed a bill to classify crimes between family members or intimate partners as domestic violence, a law supporters say will help police and advocacy organizations better identify and react to patterns of abuse. The law was inspired by a Manchester murder-suicide that killed 9-year-old Joshua Savyon.

CELLPHONE BAN

Starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal to talk on a hand-held cellphone while driving. House Speaker Shawn Jasper has already introduced a bill to repeal the ban.

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