by Heather Morton
With Democrats in the majority in both chambers and a Democratic governor for the first time since the 19th century, the New Hampshire General Court adjourned on June 27. House Speaker Terie Norelli and Senate President Sylvia Larsen took the leadership reins after Democrats took the majority in the House with a net gain of 78 seats and in the Senate with a pickup of four seats in November.
The General Court passed a $10.3 billion two-year state budget that sends $20 million into the state's rainy day fund and ends the biennium with a projected $7 million surplus. The budget adds $13.5 million to the state highway fund and $8.5 million to the welfare reserve fund.
New Hampshire joined several states in rejecting Real ID, finding that the federal act is "contrary and repugnant" to the New Hampshire and United States Constitutions. A bill that would have required adult drivers and passengers to wear seat belts failed in the Senate. New Hampshire continues to be the only state without a mandatory seat belt law for adults.
Complying with a court ruling issued by the state Supreme Court, the Legislature defined what constitutes an "adequate education." In the new definition, kindergarten will now be mandatory in all school districts.
After much debate, New Hampshire allowed gay and lesbian couples to form civil unions. A smoking ban in bars and restaurants will go into effect in three months. It raised New Hampshire's minimum wage in increments from the current $5.15 an hour to $6.50 on Sept. 1, and then to $7.25 next year. The governor vetoed a bill that would have changed how damages were divided up between defendants in civil lawsuits.
In a postscript to the legislative session, New Hampshire's Joint Legislative Facilities Committee yesterday approved a new pay and classification plan for legislative employees based on a study conducted by NCSL.
Heather Morton is NCSL's liaison with the New Hampshire General Court.