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Thursday, June 5, 2014

NH legislators pass limited privileges for drunken drivers, rape victim rights, oil fund reform bills

CONCORD – A legislative session often marked by partisan infighting came to a quiet close Wednesday as the state House of Representatives and Senate embraced more than 60 compromise bills.

Most years, there are one and sometimes more bills that fall through the cracks on the final day. ...

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CONCORD – A legislative session often marked by partisan infighting came to a quiet close Wednesday as the state House of Representatives and Senate embraced more than 60 compromise bills.

Most years, there are one and sometimes more bills that fall through the cracks on the final day.

But all of the bills that House and Senate negotiators worked out over the past week won support.

Among those bills now on their way to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk:

First-time drunken drivers: New Hampshire would join 22 other states allowing first-time drunken drivers to get limited privileges so they could drive to work, care for an ill relative or pursue their education.

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a compromise bill (HB 496) for motorists to be able to ask a judge’s permission to install an ignition interlock device.

Rights of rape victims: This Nashua senator’s bill (SB 253) would make it easier for a rape victim to terminate the parental rights of the rapist.

The agreement emerged after House leaders agreed to pursue a related issue they had attached to it as a separate bill next year. That measure would let the mother get child support while avoiding contact with the rapist.

Nashua Sen. Bette Lasky authored the measure to end the state’s distinction as one of 15 states that require that a rapist be convicted to end the rights to seek custody of a child conceived during the crime.

Oil fund reform: This bill seeks to crack down on abuses by home heating dealers with pre-buy customers.

This agreement emerged after House and Senate leaders agreed to settle a dispute over how much state money should go to towns to support flood control efforts along the Merrimack and Connecticut river watersheds.

Ultimately, the compromise gave the communities half the money the state owes them.

Supporters have tried for more than six years to attach more requirements onto home heating dealers to prevent pre-buy customers from being ripped off or not getting their fuel on time.

What sparked the issue this past winter were delivery problems that Fred Fuller Oil and Propane Co., of Hudson, had with customers in its region, which led to Gov. Maggie Hassan setting up a hotline in support.

The reform sets inventory requirements for oil dealers and prevents them from having to sign these contracts nearly a year before the heating season begins.

Hassan; Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord; and House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, all praised lawmakers from both political parties for working together during the final days of the legislative meetings.

“As another legislative session comes to a close, I want to thank all lawmakers for working across party lines this year to constructively address our challenges, including coming together to pass bipartisan legislation on health care expansion, transportation funding, pay equity, the mental health settlement and the Medicaid Enhancement Tax agreement,” Hassan said in a statement. “Thanks to our commitment to collective problem-solving, we have helped protect our budget while maintaining our status as one of the safest, healthiest and most livable states in the nation.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).