Submitted by Representative Carol McGuire.
This week, the House continued work on Senate bills. My committee started a hearing on SB 535, licensing art therapists, and recessed – at the sponsor’s request – until next week. However, one art therapist hadn’t got the word about the delay, and she explained art therapy to us. A separate license seems unnecessary to me, since an art therapist must be a mental health worker with a specialty in art therapy, and we license mental health workers already. SB 508, creating a study committee on PTSD among first responders, struck a chord with the committee, and we’re likely to pass it: the only concern is that a bill creating a more comprehensive study commission on the same topic is up for a vote this coming week. No need for two groups to work on the same topic. SB 513, declaring September recovery month, had a crowd of supporters and we immediately voted to recommend it to the House. SB 373, on rulemaking by the department of corrections, had started as almost identical to HB 192, which we have in interim study. The Senate amended it to be a much more focused bill, but it still requires a new rule-writer in the department. SB 458, allowing a surviving spouse to purchase creditable service in the retirement system, was meant to allow a widow, whose husband died of cancer with 9.91 years of service, to buy the last month so that she qualified for a survivor’s pension. He also had military service, which he could also have bought – but that needs 10 years of service also! We debated this for a bit, with some interest in phasing in these options rather than having an all or nothing vesting at ten years of service. I pointed out that making law for one person is bad policy, and was the only one to vote against the bill. (at least three committee members told me afterward that they wished they had.) SB 570, allowing parents to receive child care scholarships when attending mental health or substance abuse programs as well as when they’re working, was very well attended. We got all sorts of information about the importance of good child care, and the difficulty in recovering without treatment. SB 581, on drug compounding, essentially is a turf battle, with the pharmacy board attempting to declare that preparing drugs for infusion (reconstituting in water and adding to a IV solution) was “compounding,” which is typically creating a drug from scratch. If infusion must be done in a hospital (which can meet the requirements for compounding) instead of a doctor’s office or at home, costs will balloon from $2,000 or so to five or six times as much. Since millions of doses of infusion drugs have been administered there without any reported complications or adverse effects, I’m strongly opposed to this idea.
SB 407, membership of the McAuliffe-Shepard discovery center board, simply deleted the legislators from the board. It was sponsored by both the House and Senate members, and not opposed by the board, so I expect we’ll pass it. SB 461, on continuing education for real estate licensees, was opposed by two senior real estate brokers, who pointed out that the currently required “core” courses were repetitive and uninformative, so adding another would be a waste of time. The supporters, including the licensing board and the board of Realtors, pointed out the need for more training: but the people who needed it were typically part time agents who don’t do enough sales to keep current, or new salespeople whose agencies don’t supervise and train them well enough. I don’t think this is something a change in the law can fix. SB 459, on license reciprocity for real estate brokers and salespersons, was an attempt to fix an inconsistency in the statute that appeared to limit reciprocity to salespeople. However the language was not exact, and it seems to delete the current, established reciprocity programs! We’ll have to work on this a bit.
SB 487, on license requirements for some alcohol and drug counselors, was a complex bill with multiple parts. Some are very good – requiring the board of mental health practice to accept practice in another state towards the license requirements – but others seem problematic. Thursday we had another short session, with only 32 bills to consider, nineteen of them (including four from my committee) on “consent,” to be voted on as a group. SB 392, a study commission on the effect of discharging prisoners into Concord, passed without discussion, as did SB 470, on positions in the insurance department. SB 532, allowing six directors in the department of corrections to keep their group II status, was also not debated, but the requested roll call gave me a chance to point out why we had recommend killing it: the House voted 231-93 to support us. Then we debated SB 500, allowing farmers and others to have loaded long guns in vehicles as long as they were on their own property and off public roads. The opposition claimed that “loaded” was an ambiguous term, and they lost, 184-146.
SB 555, creating a right to know ombudsman and a appeal commission, so that citizens will not need to go to superior court to get government data, passed without comment, as did SB 300 and SB 345, both naming bridges.
SB 309, on drinking water standards for perfluorochemicals, was amended to make the language agree with a previously passed bill, and passed, 263-71. SB 516, prohibiting motorcycle-only checkpoints, passed on a voice vote.
SB 517, setting up a commission on electric vehicle charging stations, was debated, with the proponents urging us to catch up with neighboring states in terms of electric vehicles. I decided to vote against it because of the cost, and because it would set up public charging stations to compete with private ones. Still, it passed, 180-155. SB 575, setting up a regulatory framework for charging stations, was amended to make sure any publicly funded ones were usable by all brands of electric cars, and passed without debate. This bill made more sense than SB 517, so I voted for it.
SB 411, reducing the R&D tax credit to $2 million, to agree with HB 1554, which we passed earlier, was briefly debated, the committee amendment adopted 170-165, and the bill passed on a voice vote. Finally, SB 559, creating a study committee on highway sound walls, was debated and killed, 240-93, after it was pointed out that we know we need some sound walls, we just don’t know where to get $200 million to pay for them. We may not have more study committees than usual this year, but we sure are debating more of them!