By KATHLEEN RONAYNE
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ Talk of the state budget has dominated the 2015 legislative session in New Hampshire, with other high-profile items such as casino gambling and changes to the state’s marijuana laws occasionally stealing the spotlight.
Most of the more than 900 bills submitted this legislative session met quick and quiet deaths, while others prompted lengthy debates in the House and Senate.
With about six weeks to go, several potentially influential pieces of legislation are working their way through the Legislature and could soon arrive at Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk. Lawmakers have until June 25 to take final action on legislation.
Here’s a look at some of these under-the-radar bills:
Businesses with more than 50 employees would be required to provide break time and a private place that is not a bathroom for women who are breastfeeding. The bill wouldn’t require employers to compensate employees during the break time, unless the employee is using their regularly paid break time. Employers who violate the law would be subject to a civil penalty, imposed by the commissioner of labor.
The bill also exempts nursing mothers from jury duty. Senators passed the bill on a voice vote and it is now in a House committee.
BEER AND LIQUOR
Several bills winding through the Legislature expand where beer, wine and liquor manufacturers can sell samples of their products. One bill allows manufacturers to give or sell samples of their product on site. Under the bill, liquor makers could sell 1/2 ounce samples, wine makers could sell up to 2 ounce samples and beer manufacturers up to 4 ounces. The bill is through the Senate and in the House.
Another bill aims to study whether beer and wine samples can be sold at farmers’ markets. A number of local brewers often sell their brews at these outdoor markets.
A constitutional amendment giving any taxpayer power to sue the state could be before voters in 2016. Lawmakers passed a bill giving taxpayers the power in 2012, but the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional last year during a dispute over the state’s education tax credit law. The court ruled the individuals suing the state over the law didn’t have standing because they couldn’t show the law personally harmed them.
This constitutional amendment says any taxpayer can bring a suit against the government without having to demonstrate “that his or her personal rights were impaired or prejudiced beyond his or her status as a taxpayer.”
Constitutional amendments require three-fifths support to pass, a threshold it already hit in the Senate. If it passes the House, voters will have a chance to weigh in during the November 2016 election. Governors do not have authority over constitutional amendments.
Failing to give a “wide berth” when driving by highway workers or police officers could soon result in a fine of $100 to $200. State law already requires drivers to move over if possible when passing highway workers, traffic stops or road side emergencies but there are no penalties in place. A bill establishing the fines has passed the House and Senate.