Lawmakers to Vote on Casino Bill
Legislative week: expanded gambling, abortion, art and taxes.
This sure ain’t Vegas, baby, but state lawmakers this week continue to debate a bill that would allow up to four casinos and 14,000 slot machines in New Hampshire. The House deals with it Wednesday or Thursday. To slot or not?
Games of chance: The casino bill, House Bill 593, is up for a vote even as Gov. John Lynch has promised to veto it if the bill ever reaches his desk. Opponents say it would erode the quality of life in New Hampshire. Supporters argue it’s a win-win: the state gets needed revenues to make the Granite State a more attractive place for business and it captures some of the money now leaving the state as residents and tourists go elsewhere to gamble.
What are the odds? The House Ways and Means Committee, in its majority report, calls the expanded gaming bill a bipartisan, pro-business bill that will create jobs and achieve tax relief. New Hampshire residents now spend about $80 million a year to gamble outside the state, lawmakers said. Rep. David Hess, a Hooksett Republican opposed to the bill, mocked the “expanded” gambling. “With one stroke of the pen, two casinos have morphed into four, authorizing 14,000 slot machines and 420 table games, probably the highest concentration of legalized gambling per capita anywhere in the United States outside of Nevada,” Hess write in the minority report.
FYI, IB Bill up for OTPA: A bill to allow a parent or guardian to withdraw a child from a school district which adopts the International Baccalaureate program won a favorable Education Committee recommendation. The amendment, however, finds it is not feasible for a child to removed from the district over such an objection, but holds that “school programs cannot be governed by a foreign body or organization.” The amendment would also study the IB program to see if it’s in the best interest of New Hampshire. The minority report, paraphrased in four words: Give us a break.
Medical Marijuana: The Senate on Wednesday will consider a bill to permit marijuana use for medical purposes. A committee endorsed it, along with this amendment.
Head injury policies: The full Senate will also see a bill to have school districts adopt policies to manage concusssion and head injuries in youth sports. The legislation includes language to limit liability of the district and it spells out how and when a youth athlete should be removed from play. For example, a student removed shall not return until they are evaluated by a medical provider and receives authorization to return to play.
Beaux Arts: Repeal the state art fund? A bill to do just that won some support earlier this year, but is currently slated to be referred to interim study. There are more than 600 individual works of art and historic items the state has bought and paid for, “constituting a valuable state asset in need of curating, maintenance, and as needed, repair,” according to House Finance. The committee concerns include opening up the state operating budget to unknown future art expenses. Proponents of the bill have said funding art should be a case-by-case basis as new building projects come up for review.
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center: The House will consider a bill to transfer the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to a private operator – an independent non-profit – by the end of 2012.
Abortion Bills: The House on Wednesday is set to take up House Bill 1659, the “women’s right to know act” regarding abortion information 24 hours ahead of a woman choosing to have an abortion. Also on the House calendar for Wednesday, House Bill 1653, relative to the rights of conscience for medical professionals, and House Bill 1660, relative to abortions after 20 weeks.