Minimum wage hike, paid family leave die in Senate
NASHUA – Minimum wage workers in West Virginia and Arkansas will continue earning more than their New Hampshire counterparts because state senators on Thursday sustained Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of Senate Bill 10.
This was only one of several veto override victories this week for Sununu and fellow Republicans. Despite being relegated to minority status in both the New Hampshire House and Senate, GOP members managed to prevent Democrats from reaching the two-thirds majority vote required to override most of Sununu’s vetoes.
Sununu vetoed just one bill in 2017 and six last year when his party controlled both the House and Senate, according to the Associated Press. However, Democrats won majorities in both chambers last fall during the “blue wave,” sparking a veto spree that far outpaced the actions of past Democratic governors who faced Republican Legislatures.
“I thank members of the House and Senate for siding with common sense in upholding 98% of my vetoes this week,” Sununu said in a statement. “The bills were extreme, and the Legislature was right to sustain these vetoes.”
The lone bright spot for Democrats on Thursday came when lawmakers managed to override the veto on marijuana prescriptions.
In his veto message, Sununu said current law allows patients to obtain appropriate treatment while preserving responsible prescribing. However, senators who supported the bill argued that it was unfair to make patients wait three months when no such rules apply to far more dangerous drugs, including opioids.
Senate Bill 10 would have increased New Hampshire’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour, effective Jan. 1 — and ultimately to $12 per hour on Jan. 1, 2022.
If an employee earning the current $7.25 minimum wage worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks in a year, he or she would realize an annual salary of $15,080, or $290 per week.
However, Sununu claims less than 1% of Granite Staters earned minimum wage in 2018, with most of those being employees who also collected tips.
“This bill would have led to lost jobs, cut hours, and less money in the pockets of hardworking Granite Staters, and I thank the Senate for sustaining this veto,” Sununu said after the Thursday action.
“Sustaining Gov. Sununu’s veto of this job killing legislation was the right thing to do,” Sen. Jeb. Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, added. “While this bill was well intentioned, the problem with a minimum wage is it helps some people while others lose their jobs.”
State Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, sponsored SB 10.
“While it is disappointing that my Republican colleagues joined Gov. Sununu to block legislation to re-establish and raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage, I remain committed to this fight and extend my sincere gratitude to the advocates and lawmakers pushing to raise the wage. New Hampshire values work–it’s far past time for us to guarantee that hardworking Granite Staters earn enough to support themselves and their families,” Soucy said on Thursday.
Mandatory Paid Leave
“This bill establishes a system of paid family and medical leave insurance,” states Senate Bill 1.
“SB 1 is an income tax and the people of New Hampshire will never support it,” Sununu said after the Senate upheld his veto.
However, Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, and Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, said workers in New Hampshire need a sense of stability.
“Gov. Sununu and Senate Republicans are holding New Hampshire back from making progress on issues critical to working families, including paid family and medical leave,” Feltes said. “No one should have to choose between caring for a loved one and financial security, but those are the decisions Granite Staters will be forced to continue making because Republicans put politics before people and voted once again to block paid leave.”
“In a year of record vetoes, more than a third of the Senate bills nixed by Gov. Sununu sought to advance workers’ rights and workforce development opportunities in New Hampshire,” Cavanaugh added.
Senate Bill 2 states that it: “Reduces an employer’s unemployment contribution rate and requires that a portion of the administrative contribution be deposited in the unemployment compensation fund.” The short title of the bill was the “Granite State Jobs Act of 2019.”
“The failure to pass SB 2 is a failure to move forward legislation that would triple the state’s funding for job training programs, without raising taxes, help attract and retain employees, and expand opportunities for Granite Staters,” the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, said.
“It just shows how far Gov. Sununu and Senate Republicans are willing to go to look out for big, out-of-state corporations while small businesses struggle to fill over 10,000 jobs right here in New Hampshire,” he added.
Speaking against the bill after Thursday’s action was Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield.
“New Hampshire already spends over $84 million in job training programs and diverting an additional $4 million from the Unemployment Trust Fund for more funding is irresponsible,” Reagan said. “Granite Staters expect their elected representative to be responsible with their tax dollars and I am pleased the Senate was able to sustain Gov. Sununu’s veto.”
The Senate also sustained Sununu’s vetoes of Senate Bills 67 and 68 dealing with voting and election law.
“These bills would have repealed laws passed last year to create more fair and open elections while protecting the privacy of New Hampshire voters,” Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, said after the veto overrides failed. “We should not be supporting legislation that weakens our voting system, doing so would be an injustice to Granite Staters.”
“It even would have allowed third parties to access the private information of Granite Staters through the voting rolls, Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, added regarding his view of SB 67 and SB 68.
However, Sen. Melanie Levesque, D-Brookline, said New Hampshire must protect the right to vote.
“As the first-in-the-nation primary state, New Hampshire should do all we can to ensure eligible voters are able to cast their ballots and that we have transparency and accountability in our election laws. Instead, Senate Republicans voted today to restrict voting rights for college students and service personnel and block common sense disclosures for political advocacy organizations and businesses funding campaigns,” Levesque said.