NH House votes to limit governor's powers, legalize marijuana

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Chris Sununu
    82nd Governor of New Hampshire

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House voted Thursday to further limit the governor's authority in future public health emergencies.

Previous state law allowed the governor to declare a state of emergency and renew it every 21 days as long as he or she found it necessary to protect public safety and welfare, with a provision that the Legislature could vote to terminate it. That's what Republican Gov. Chris Sununu did from March 2020 to June 2021.

But as part of the state budget signed in June, lawmakers added a provision requiring the governor to convene a session of the Legislature 90 days into a state of emergency, and lawmakers would vote on whether to continue it.

More: New Hampshire COVID death toll surpasses 2,000 as daily cases double worst of late 2020

State capital building in Concord, NH
State capital building in Concord, NH

Under the bill sent to the Senate on Thursday, the governor would be allowed to maintain his emergency declaration powers for only 84 days without the Legislature's involvement. And it would grant the Legislature new authority to end specific executive orders issued during the emergency, not just the overall declaration.

"Emergencies have more than one phase. There is the initial phase which requires quick and decisive action, which the governor is better suited to than the Legislature," said Rep. Tony Lekas. "After the initial phase, the people of New Hampshire need to be involved in the process through their legislators."

The 400-member House was meeting for a second day at a Manchester hotel expo center. Members were provided with free COVID-19 test kits but were not required to use them or to report results. After one lawmaker said she overheard a colleague say she had tested positive, House Speaker Sherm Packard said he had no evidence of that.

More: Eliot woman stole $200K from Portsmouth employer to pay bills. Now she's going to prison.

"If anybody knows they tested positive, get out," said Packard, who became speaker after his predecessor died of COVID-19 in December 2020. "I mean that. Seriously, get out now. You shouldn't be here."

Sununu, meanwhile, said Thursday that the National Guard is deploying another 100 members to help health care facilities struggling with a surge in COVID-19 patients. About 30 will be sent to long-term care facilities, with the rest going to hospitals, he said.

NH House tries again to legalize small amounts of marijuana

The New Hampshire House has again voted to legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill sent to the Senate on Thursday would allow adults to possess up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. It could be traded or given away or not sold.

More: Seacoast restaurants that closed and opened in 2021: Here's our list.

“It is not and never has been the job of government to try to protect you from hurting yourself, and outside of 1950s B horror movies, it has never been the job of government to protect you from a plant,” said Rep. Max Abramson, R-Seabrook.

A similar bill passed the House in 2020 but died in the Senate, as did a broader bill in 2019 that would have created a regulated and taxed retail market.

The bill approved Thursday had been retained for further work over the summer. Lawmakers also will be considering several new marijuana legalization bills in the coming months.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu opposes such measures. The latest bill passed the House with five votes more than needed to achieve a veto-proof majority.

Associated Press writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: NH House votes to limit governor's powers, legalize marijuana

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting