- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NEWPORT, N.H. (AP) - The Legislature will reconvene this month for a special session intended to address New Hampshire’s substance abuse crisis.

The Executive Council voted 4-1 Wednesday in favor of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan’s call for a special session despite some Republican lawmakers’ objections that the state shouldn’t rush the legislative process.

The council, which is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, approved Hassan’s request at a meeting in Newport. Republican David Wheeler cast the lone no vote. The session will start Nov. 18.

Hassan said the bipartisan vote proves that “combating the substance abuse crisis and saving lives transcends politics.”

Among the efforts she has outlined include increasing penalties for dealing the prescription drug fentanyl; requiring state medical boards to revamp their rules for 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.

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, a Republican who is running for governor in 2016 as Hassan seeks a U.S. Senate seat, said he reluctantly voted for the special session.

Sununu said he voted to “find a clear path forward to deal with heroin’s impact on our state, but I remain frustrated with the governor’s unpreparedness and the slow pace at which her office has responded to this crisis.”

Among New England states, New Hampshire spent the least on substance abuse per capita in 2014, at $8.18, according to data from the commission’s annual report. The new budget includes $42 million for substance abuse services, which is up nearly $14 million from the last budget.

GOP House and Senate leaders say they will get to work at the special session, but they would have preferred gathering in at the normal time in January to expedite five pieces of substance abuse legislation.

“I am disappointed that she has taken this step to bring the entire legislature back to Concord in an attempt to try and hastily push through a solution,” said House Speaker Shawn Jasper, a Republican from Hudson. “What she needs to understand is that we intend to work through the process in a fair and open manner, listening to all stakeholders. A solution to this problem is not something that will be accomplished in one day or even one week.”


This story has been corrected to show attribution of Republican comments to House Speaker Shawn Jasper, not Senate President Chuck Morse.

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