Sunday, August 19, 2007
New Hampshire State House Update 2007
The 2007 legislative session in Concord saw significant action on a number of fronts, including health care, the environment, and economic and educational issues. Some of the highlights include successfully:
- expanding access to affordable health insurance for young adults and putting a new focus on prevention in public health (which I believe is the most fiscally responsible and effective approach);
- restoring funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, which has already protected hundreds of thousands of acres and hundreds of historic and cultural properties in the state -- all of which contribute to both our quality of life and tourism-based business; and
- passing new ways to encourage New Hampshire companies to invest in innovation and growth, while at the same time raising the minimum wage for the first time in nine years.
In late June, the House and Senate passed a balanced and fiscally responsible two-year state operating budget that prioritizes important investments in health care, education, and economic development (without the need for a sales or income tax).
The budget makes affordable health insurance available to thousands more children through the Healthy Kids program; increases access to home care for seniors; supports alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs; eliminates the waiting list for services for people with development disabilities; increases our investment in school and higher education; and creates a research and development tax credit for innovative businesses.
The budget was crafted under an open and transparent process that included listening sessions around the state. As a member of the House Finance Committee, I attended these sessions to hear firsthand about your priorities, and I was proud that our North Country session in Lancaster drew one of the largest crowds on the tour.
In addition to working on the budget as vice-chair of the Health and Human Services subcommittee, I sponsored several bills that focused on expanding health insurance coverage. These bills looked at lowering the cost of health coverage for small businesses; established a task force to develop a health coverage expansion initiative; and established a prescription drug program to lower the costs of medicine.
In addition, we passed a health care bill that allows any young adult up to age 26 to enroll under their parents’ health insurance. This legislation allows every young adult in New Hampshire, regardless of whether they are married or unmarried, in college or in the workforce, to obtain affordable health insurance. A second bill also allows divorced spouses to continue their health insurance for up to three years after a divorce. Finally, we passed a smoking ban in public restaurants and bars to protect the health of employees and patrons.
The budget passed this year also focused on preserving and protecting our natural resources and environment, including funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). We passed bills banning burning of construction and demolition debris and requiring that 25% of our state’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025. Finally, I co-sponsored legislation to add the Ammonoosuc River to the River Management Program; thank you to all the North Country residents who worked hard for this bill.
Economic Development and Education: Expanding Opportunity
In addition to increasing state aid to schools, the community technical colleges, and the University System in the budget, we also passed a dropout prevention plan that will help more young people graduate from high school through increased tutoring, career and technical centers, and apprenticeship programs. The budget rewards innovative companies with a research and development tax credit, and we also passed the first increase to the minimum wage in nine years. Finally, the legislature met the court-imposed deadline for defining an adequate education.
Thank you to everyone who contacted me throughout the year. Your input is critical to the legislative process and allows me to bring a personal, rural perspective to Concord. Last year, you asked for elected officials who would listen to your priorities and take action. I am proud of the work we did this year in Concord and encourage you to continue to contact me with your opinions and your concerns. I can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Martha McLeod is a resident of Franconia and serves the towns of Bethlehem and Franconia in the New Hampshire House of Representatives