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Hassan’s first veto: A true head-scratcher

On Friday, Gov. Maggie Hassan issued her first veto. Maybe you can make sense of it.

Hassan vetoed House Bill 403, a simple legislative study committee. The committee’s directive consisted entirely of this sentence: “The committee shall study end of life decisions.”

The bill’s prime sponsor was Rep. Charles Weed, D-Keene, and five of the six sponsors were Democrats. It was not some Republican stalking horse. It passed the Democrat-controlled House by a vote of 212-14 and by a voice vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Why veto it?

Rep. Weed is a vocal advocate of assisted suicide. But that is not why Hassan vetoed the bill. She said in her veto message that New Hampshire “has already produced important laws, including New Hampshire’s advance directive statute (RSA 137-J)” and that she just signed another bill “to clarify New Hampshire’s advance directive statute. Therefore, I see no need for the study committee outlined by HB 403 and have vetoed the legislation.”

How strange. Because we already have laws regarding the matter (including a law that needed clarification in this session), we needn’t study it despite the desire of most legislators to learn more?

Earlier this session the House passed a bill to ban the use of private prisons by the State of New Hampshire. The bill was passed before the completion of a state study on the benefits and drawbacks of using private prisons. The self-proclaimed party of science, knowledge and reason is for gathering facts before acting, except when it isn’t.

Maybe this blatantly political veto — Hassan wanted to veto something so she could appear to be a tough, active governor, and this study committee was the victim — will encourage legislative leaders to rely more on standing committees or appointed task forces instead of statutory study committees. Why subject legislative research to the political whims of the governor?

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