- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire lawmakers on Thursday sent Gov. Chris Sununu bills to reauthorize the state’s expanded Medicaid program, ban therapy to change a child’s sexual orientation and change residency rules for voting.

With the legislative session coming to a close later this month, the House and Senate spent Thursday sorting out which bills are ready for the Republican governor, which need more work and which are past hope for a compromise. Sununu plans to sign the therapy and Medicaid bills, but opposes a bill that would end the distinction between full-fledged residents and those who claim the state as their domicile for voting.

Current law allows college students and others who consider the state their domicile to vote without being subject to residency requirements, such as getting a New Hampshire driver’s license or registering a vehicle. Lawmakers sent Sununu a bill Thursday that would align the definitions of domicile and residency, while a similar measure is still under consideration. The House has appointed members to a committee of conference on the second bill, and the Senate is expected to do the same.

A spokesman for Sununu said the governor remains opposed to both bills and believes they should undergo a strict review by the state Supreme Court. The Legislature on occasion asks the court for an advisory opinion on pending legislation, though no one has done so in this case.

The House also rejected one of Sununu’s top legislative priorities, voting down a bill to give parents state money for private school tuition or home schooling.



The Senate passed a sweeping school choice bill last year, but the House voted last month to study it further after significantly narrowing its scope. The Senate responded by adding its original proposal to a different bill, which the House rejected 180-163 on Thursday.

The goal was to provide parents with the state’s basic per-pupil grant of roughly $3,000 to be used for private school tuition or home schooling. Supporters contend that a voucher system simply returns money to taxpayers who should decide which school best fits the needs of their children, and that it would have minimal impact on districts that lose students.

“We can’t kick this can down the road any further,” said Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill. “You’re only 9-years-old once.”

Opponents argue that the bill siphons money from already cash-strapped public schools and sends it to private schools that can discriminate against children with disabilities.

“A committee of conference would, in conforming with House rules, be unable to remedy great deficiencies in student accountability, program oversight and support for students with special needs,” said Rep. James Grenier, R-Lempster.

Sununu’s spokesman, Ben Vihstadt, said the governor understands that substantive education reform won’t happen overnight.

“Governor Sununu has been a relentless champion of expanding educational opportunities for low income families - which is why he stood his ground and exhausted every possible opportunity to move this issue forward - and looks forward to continuing this discussion in the legislative sessions ahead,” Vihstadt said in an email.

On Medicaid expansion, the Senate voted 16-6 to accept to minor changes made by the House to a bill it passed in March.

The current program uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health plans for about 50,000 low-income residents, but it will expire this year if lawmakers don’t reauthorize it. The proposal headed to the governor would continue it for five years but change its structure to a more cost-effective managed care model. The plan also would impose new work requirements on enrollees and use 5 percent of liquor revenues to cover the state’s cost as federal funding decreases.

“It’s not perfect, but the Senate Democrats are not willing to burn down the barn to get rid of a few rats,” said Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield.

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