Guns, marijuana, reproductive rights among issues already on tap for NH's next legislative session

Oct. 18—The annual New Hampshire legislative session is still three months away, but lawmakers have already started drawing up new bills on issues such as marijuana, gun safety, reproductive rights and the minimum wage.

They put forward proposals in concept to the nonpartisan N.H. Office of Legislative Services, which writes the measures. Before finalization, they are called legislative service requests, or LSRs. Ultimately, many will become bills to be considered after lawmakers reconvene in January.

Last month, N.H. representatives submitted more than 200 LSRs, even though these incumbents still must win re-election on Nov. 8. For those who don't, the proposals won't necessarily die. Other lawmakers can back them.

Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland, who lost his primary election, has an LSR that would repeal a Republican-backed law enacted this year that prohibits the state from enforcing federal laws or executive orders regarding guns.

Proponents of the law say it is necessary in order to ward off expected federal attempts to bolster gun regulations. Opponents say it will harm cooperation between federal and state authorities and allow more guns to fall into the hands of criminals.

Rep. Chuck Grassie, D-Rochester, submitted an LSR to impose a three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm. There would be an exception for people who have reported to police a reasonable fear for their personal safety.

"Hopefully, this would reduce the number of people who buy a gun on impulse to harm themselves or others," he said. "This is common sense and doesn't infringe on 2nd Amendment Rights."

A Democrat-backed bill to do this failed to clear the Legislature in 2020.

Republicans in the N.H. Legislature typically oppose restrictions on guns based on their belief that this violates constitutional rights, and they back measures to ease firearm regulations.

Many Democrats say common-sense firearm regulations can save lives and that gun violence remains a top issue that must be addressed.

Grassie said the fate of his and other gun safety measures will depend on the Nov. 8 general election. Currently, the GOP controls both chambers of the N.H. Legislature and the governor's office.

Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, has an LSR that would require a background check prior to any commercial firearm sale.

She said this would close a loophole under which people can avoid background checks when they purchase weapons at a gun show.

Smith said there is good support for her proposal.

"There is very strongly expressed public opinion and polling including from responsible gun owners that background checks make a lot of sense," Smith said. "This is not a question of taking anyone's guns from them."

A similar proposal also failed to gain traction previously in the Legislature.

Lawmakers have also rejected marijuana legalization in the past, and LSRs are now pending on that issue as well, including one Rep. Daniel Eaton, D-Stoddard, that would permit retail sales of cannabis. A measure that would have set up a retail sales system, utilizing state-run cannabis stores, passed the House last session but failed in the Senate.

Other pending LSRs:

Rep. Amanda Elizabeth Toll, D-Keene, a constitutional amendment request providing that "all persons have the right to make their own reproductive decisions."

Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, restricting certain sales of firearms involving people under 21.

Rep. Kristina Schultz, D-Concord, to raise the minimum wage by an amount that remains to be specified.

Rep. Max Abramson, R-Seabrook, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require an employee to join a labor union.

Rep. Maureen Mooney, R-Merrimack, increasing per pupil funding for chartered public schools.

Rep. John Janigian, R-Salem, repealing the interest and dividends tax.

Rick Green can be reached at RGreen@KeeneSentinel.com or 603-355-8567