Submitted by Representative Carol McGuire.
This week, we’re meeting as committees of conference between the House and Senate. My committee had 12 conferences, which is a lot more than usual; I ended up on seven of them. Fortunately, many are being quickly settled by explaining our changes to the Senators until they agree with us. SB 459, reciprocity for real estate licensees, SB 589, petitioning licensing boards for review of criminal records, and SB 487, licensure of certified recovery support workers, went that way. HB 561, part time employment of retirees from the state retirement system, was more complex, since we needed to combine the two versions. We simplified the reporting requirements, deleted the penalty (a percentage of pay) for retirees who worked between 1400 and 1660 hours per year, and clarified the “grandfathering” clause to include any part time position filled by a retiree as of January 1. We also lowered the definition of “part time” from 32 to 26 hours per week, or 1,332 hours per year. There are only a few retirees who work more than that, and the grandfathering clause will allow the employers to plan for those few positions. HB 1254, a committee to study the adoption of building codes, had been amended to include a moratorium on changes to both the building code and the fire code until the committee reported. The House had no problem with a moratorium in principle, but since we knew both groups were in the middle of favorable modifications, the conference committee agreed to delay the start of the moratorium until July. The committee on HB 1273, allowing doctors from the Manchester VA to practice (on veterans) in other facilities without needing a New Hampshire license, agreed to disagree when we learned that the Senate had agreed to the changes on SB 488, which covered the same issue.
HB 1565, accrediting the secure psychiatric unit as a psychiatric hospital (or behavioral health center, in the Senate version,) was a bit more contentious: the Senate refused to consider any other accreditation. The House conferees agreed to that, as long as the final bill included the “findings” from the House version: that a separate forensic psychiatric hospital would be the preferred solution for persons who are violently psychotic; that the placement of the secure psychiatric unit inside the state’s men’s prison causes problems for civil patients and their families; and that transferring patients to forensic facilities outside of New Hampshire is not a viable option. SB 535, using sales of commemorative liquor bottles to fund the State House bicentennial, was problematic in that the Senate preferred their version of the bill, which included a new license and licensing scheme for art therapists. The House was staunchly opposed to the new license, and I objected to the new advisory council, which had the authority to accept new types of license, but not to discipline licensees. After some debate, we recessed for a day; when we resumed the House members presented an amendment to define art therapy and declare that proclaiming oneself to be an art therapists without the required educational background was an unfair and deceptive business practice. This was accepted as a way to prevent unqualified art therapists from practicing in New Hampshire, and we agreed on the change. If we both hadn’t wanted to preserve the liquor bottle section, we might well have agreed to disagree.
I joined the committee on SB 370, the interstate compact for emergency medical services. We made some minor changes to implement the House version, for example by declaring compact rules to be an emergency for the purpose of issuing emergency rules, which solved the concern that full approval of these rules might delay implementation. Otherwise, the Senate accepted the House version.
HB 1415, which left the House as a death benefit for school employees killed in the line of duty, had been modified by the Senate to be a $10 million appropriation to the school security building fund. The conference committee, in a rare show of ecumenicalism, voted to have the bill do both. It’s easy to see that revenues are up this year and the surplus is burning a hole in some pockets.
All in all, it was a successful committee of conference session for my committee. We’ll have to see what the full House and Senate have to say next week before declaring victory!