Mario Ratzki Reports from Concord: February 2014

Medicaid expansion is once again a topic

By Mario Ratzki, NH representative

The 2014 session of the New Hampshire state legislature was off to a rousing start.

First, the rumors of the death of Medicaid Expansion turned out to be greatly exaggerated. In a transparent attempt to establish a bargaining position with the Senate, the House voted in a partisan vote to reopen the conversation on Medicaid Expansion.

The expansion is necessary to close a gap in coverage for people who make too much for Medicaid and not enough (approximately $16,000 a year) to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

About the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, I would urge everyone to keep an open mind and not let assumptions keep people from applying for health insurance. I know of people who were able to sign up, get a better plan, and lower their premiums and their deductibles by as much as 50%. (Note that these results may not apply to everyone). Donna Toomey, a navigator for the ACA, can answer your questions and help you sign up for a plan at 934-1464, extension 119. This service is completely free.

In other news:

By a vote of 170 to 162 across party lines, HB 492, a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana, passed the House. The first vote to uphold the “Inexpedient to Legislate” (ITL) recommendation of the committee was 170 to 168. A motion to reconsider sailed through, and the vote was then overturned by the same number. A motion for tabling was defeated, and a motion of “Ought to Pass” (OTP) was then passed. The governor has already indicated she will veto the bill.

HB 435, which would increase funding for public charter schools, came in with a recommendation to ITL. This was overturned, and the bill passed 177 to 124.

SB 190 would have terminated the age-old tradition of letting seniors over the age of 65 ski for free at state parks. While the part of the bill which would have stopped free admission for government officials was agreeable to the majority in the House, the bill as written confused the issue and was tabled.

HB 525 raises the age from 17 to 18 years for a juvenile to be considered an adult in the criminal system. This easily passed on a vote of 327 to 17.

HB 675, authorizing the use of license plate scanning devices by law enforcement officials, was roundly defeated on a vote of 250 to 97. The bill was seen by supporters as another tool in law enforcement and was endorsed by police chiefs, but raised concerns among opponents about privacy rights.

Still to come in the coming weeks: GMO labeling, HB 660. This a bill I support on a right to know what is in our foods. We are then free to make our choice. It is coming out of committee on an ITL basis. This would have to be overturned, then voted on as OTP. While I have received phone calls from lobbyists to kill it, an overwhelming majority of e-mails (close to 100%) want labeling. Many other bills to come: Keno, casino, etc.

Danbury voted recently on the issue of the Wild Meadow wind farm project. Danbury selectmen sent out approximately 800 ballots, approximately 400 came back, and by a two-thirds majority the voters decided against the wind farm.

As a resident of Andover, my position has always been that Danbury and Danbury alone should decide. I will support the town's decision. I will therefore vote for HB 580, which would impose a moratorium on wind farms until the state has developed an energy plan.

I am always available at MarioRatzki@nullgmail.com or 735-5440.