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March 13. 2013 10:51PM

House says no to guns in NH schools

CONCORD - House lawmakers said on Wednesday that they do not want to have more guns in public schools.

The House Wednesday rejected a bill that would have allowed school districts to ask voters if school staff should be able to carry concealed weapons in schools.

House Bill 609's prime sponsor, Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, said he decided to introduce the bill after the Newtown, Conn., murders when 20 children and six educators were killed.

If teachers and administrators were armed and trained, they would not need to hide under their desks looking for scissors and pens to defend themselves and their students when a madman attacks, supporters said, but educators and the state school boards association opposed the bill, saying more guns are not needed in schools.

Compounding guidelines

More than 500 people in New Hampshire were exposed to fungal meningitis due to contaminated medicine from a Massachusetts pharmacy compounding facility. Wednesday the House approved HB 313, which would strengthen the oversight of New Hampshire compound medication pharmacies and improve protections for consumers. The bill also changes the definition of compounding and labeling regulations, and sets strict criteria for compounding facilities.

911 immunity

Hoping to combat overdose death, which outnumber accident victims in New Hampshire, the House approved a bill allowing limited criminal immunity for those making emergency 911 calls and for the victim.

House Bill 118 would grant immunity for such crimes as possession, control or transportation of a controlled substance, but not for driving under the influence or distribution of drugs and alcohol.

If the bill passes the Senate, New Hampshire would join 11 other states with "Good Samaritan" laws.

Supporters of the bill said the issue is a question of whether the state wants to save lives or fill its jails.

Opponents say it give out "get-out-of-jail free" tickets.

Law enforcement opposes the bill.

Hemp crop

After years of trying, farmers could grow industrial hemp without fear of arrest.

The House approved House Bill 153, which would remove industrial marijuana from the state's controlled substance statute. The change would allow hemp to be gown as an agricultural crop.

In years past, the House has passed bills allowing Industrial hemp to be planted as an agricultural crop, but the Senate has always killed the measure.

Former Gov. John Lynch continually said he would veto any industrial hemp bill that lawmakers pass.

No corn

The House, as it did a year ago, banned the gasoline additive ethanol from sale in the state.

House Bill 362 would ban the corn-based additive if three other New England states join in the prohibition or if an advisory committee determines other non-corn based ethanol gasoline is readily available in New Hampshire.

The bill avoids the concern that banning ethanol outright would require a special "boutique" gasoline for the state, thus driving up the costs for motorists.

Ethanol is used to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles and is often required in states like New Hampshire which do not meet clean air standards mostly in the summer.

Bigger bet

Gamblers will be able to bet a little higher when playing games of chance. House Bill 314 raises the wager limit in games of chance from $4 to $6. The change is expected to increase the payouts to charities and increase state revenues by about $600,000.

An amendment to the bill ensures that charities receive at least 30 percent of the proceeds from charitable gaming. Currently charities are to receive 35 percent of proceeds, but some game operators charge fees for such things as rent and administration.

Under the amendment by Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, the operators would be prohibited from charging additional fees.

Also, game operators will no longer have to send the state its tax payments every five days. Under the bill, they would pay once a month.

One leader

The three-member Liquor Commission would be abolished and one commissioner and a deputy commissioner would lead the state agency under House Bill 599 which the House approved.

Having one person who would be accountable was one of the recommendations of a committee that investigated the commission last summer and fall.

The commission came under scrutiny for its management of the agency and its personnel.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

No detention

The state would not enforce the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which allows for the detention of a terrorist captured in the state without charges, the transfer of the person to a military tribunal or to a foreign authority.

The bill would prevent New Hampshire from cooperating with federal authorities under House Bill 399, sponsored by Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont.

Itse claims the federal act is unconstitutional on a number of grounds.

The bill also urges the attorney general to challenge or join other states in challenging the federal law.

"We do not believe the federal government can lock up our citizens without just cause," said House Republican Alliance co-chair, Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry. "By passing HB 399, we are asserting our duty as a state to protect our citizens."

The bill will go to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee for review before a final vote in the House.

Tinted windows

New Hampshire drivers will continue to be prohibited from owning vehicles with dark tinted windows.

By a 242-102 vote the House killed House Bill 345, which would allow tinted or darkened windows on state-registered vehicles. Bill supporters argued the current law discriminates against state residents as out-of-state drivers with tinted windows are not subject to the state prohibition.

They said 45 states allow tinted windows. But bill opponents said the state law was intended to protect the safety of law enforcement officers who have to stop and approach vehicles.

Center lives

The state agency responsible for gathering information and data to prevent a terrorist attack or to help better respond to natural disasters does not have to go out of business next year under House Bill 453, which the House approved.

The state information and analysis center was established with homeland security grants after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that brought New York City and Washington, D.C., to their knees.

Under the legislation establishing the state center at the department of safety, the center would shut down Dec. 31, 2014.

Chase Home settlement

Two years ago, the state lost a lawsuit filed by the Chase Home for Children and six other juvenile services providers claiming the state illegally failed to pay rate increases included in the state operating budget.

In 2011 the State Supreme Court upheld a ruling requiring the state to pay $3.55 million to seven residential care providers. The state Division for Children, Youth and Families cited budget constraints for not paying rate increases dating back to the 2004 fiscal year.

The money for the settlement with the Chase Home, $2.7 million, was included in the 2012 state operating budget but has not been paid to the service providers.

House Bill 486 authorizes the Attorney General's Office to pay the settlement costs.

grayno@unionleader.com

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