CONCORD — Children will have to remain in child restraint seats for another year or until they grow another inch under a bill signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Under House Bill 242, children must be in car seats until they are 7 years old and have reached 57 inches in height. Even at age 8, if they fall short of the height requirement, they must be in a car seat until they reach 57 inches. But at 9 years old, children would no longer be required to be in a car seat, regardless of height.
The new requirements take effect Jan. 1. Current penalties remain unchanged: a $50 fine for a first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.
The new law moves the state closer to federal guidelines and does not jeopardize the state’s share of federal highway money.Current law requires children to be in car seats until they reach age 6 or are 55 inches tall.
The House approved increasing the age to 7 and the height requirement to 56 inches, but the Senate increased the requirements to age 8 and to 57 inches.
Federal guidelines suggest children remain in car seats until they are age 8 or 57 inches.
Small children who are less than 57 inches tall by the time they reach age 7 will have to be in the car seat until they reach that height, or until they turn 9 years old.
State law requires all young people to be in seat belts until they reach age 18.
State energy policy
A new council will develop a state energy policy under a bill Gov. Maggie Hassan signed Tuesday.
Senate Bill 191 establishes a state energy council to develop a 10-year energy strategy for New Hampshire. The council will review areas such as supply and demand, access to natural gas, the state’s role in the regional electric market and energy-efficiency issues.
“To create jobs, reduce energy costs, protect our natural resources and strengthen our clean energy sector, we must pursue modern and long-term energy strategies that are in the best interests of New Hampshire and its people,” Hassan said in a statement.
Hassan also signed Senate Bill 123 which allocates $2 million annually from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative program auctions of emission allowances to municipal and other local government energy-efficiency programs.
A similar bill, House Bill 630, which Hassan signed earlier, establishes an energy-efficiency program for low-income homeowners.
Only four bills remain on Hassan’s desk from the 2013 legislative session including House Bill 595, which changes the state’s photo ID law for voting.
The bill would continue the validity of student IDs to meet the photo ID requirements to vote, something current law would have ended in September.
The bill also allows election officials to verify the identity of any prospective voter who does not present a valid ID. A voter whose identity is challenged must fill out an affidavit swearing to his or her identity.
Current law requires local election officials to photograph those without a valid ID who fill out a challenged ballot affidavit after September, but lawmakers delayed that requirement until September 2015 and are expected to introduce legislation next year to eliminate it.
Other bills retained by Hassan are:
• House Bill 183, which deals with the processing absentee ballots;
• House Bill 224, which allows the superintendent of a county jail to release a prisoner with a judge’s OK;
• House Bill 542, which deals with the state’s renewable energy fund, the regulation of telephone and Voice Over Internet Protocol services and the state’s electric renewable portfolio standards.
Hassan has until today to act on the four bills, or they become law without her signature.