New Hampshire’s Republican lawmakers said they would rather create a legislative task force during a special session planned for next week to study some of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s proposals to combat the state’s substance abuse crisis instead of having lawmakers take up specific legislation.
The New Hampshire Senate and House leaders said Tuesday that approach would help ensure quick passage of bills when the regular legislative session begins in January.
“We’re going to do our job and we’re going to do it as expeditiously as possible, as carefully as possible, and make sure the solutions are correct,” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said.
The Legislature comes back into session Nov. 18 and both chambers must vote in favor of creating the task force. Hassan, a Democrat, has put forward a wide-ranging bill she’d like lawmakers to take up that includes increasing penalties for fentanyl-related offenses and creating more drug courts. Many of Hassan’s proposals would be on the task force’s agenda, but House Democratic leaders say they’d rather take up legislation immediately.
“I have too much respect for the position of House speaker to question his motivation but I certainly question the wisdom,” House Democratic leader Steve Shurtleff said. “There are things that could have been done.”
If approved, the task force will also study rules around insurance coverage for substance abuse, strengthening the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, continuing medical education on prescription drugs, and local and state police partnerships. It would make recommendations on each and file legislation by early January. Any bill with unanimous support from the task force would then go through a joint House and Senate public hearing to speed the process.
The goal would be to have some legislation on Hassan’s desk by late January or early February, Bradley said.
Hassan thanked GOP leaders for pledging to send her a bill early next year, but she said the scope of the task force could be widened to address other issues. Hassan’s proposed bill would also give more money to the corrections and justice departments, as well as the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.
Republicans say they want to hold off on spending items until they see a final report on fiscal year 2015 spending.
“The legislature’s proposal is an important step in the right direction, but we know that there is much more that should be part of our comprehensive approach,” Hassan said in a statement.
If approved, the task force will be made up of Democrats and Republicans from both chambers, including leadership from key committees on health, public safety, criminal justice, finance and executive departments.
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