Recent Developments in New Hampshire Law
Developments include Full-Day Public Kindergarten; Decriminalization of Marijuana; and More
There have been some recent developments in New Hampshire laws. As you may have read in the news recently, Governor Chris Sununu signed 38 bills into laws. We have taken a look at some of them and below is an example of some of the changes coming New Hampshire’s way!
Funding Full-Day Public Kindergarten
On July 12, 2017, Governor Chris Sununu signed into law Senate Bill 191 to fund full-day public kindergarten throughout the state by taxing Keno lottery games in New Hampshire. Governor Sununu has made expanding public kindergarten programs a signature policy focus in his first term. The governor was given a political boost when the bill cleared both the House and Senate with wide margins in a bi-partisan vote in June.
Governor Sununu previously praised the legislation. “The investments made today will give New Hampshire children a strong foundation for tomorrow’s future. Full-day kindergarten is good for children and families, and a critical tool in retaining our future workforce.” However, this law is not a requirement for any town to adopt full-day public kindergarten programs.
About 70% of the school districts in the state have already instituted a full-day program, paying for the second half of the day with local property taxes. The state had been offering districts a grant of $1,800 per student for kindergarten enrollment, which assumed a half-day program. The new law will now provide for another $1,100 per kindergarten student each year from state Keno lottery game revenue.
As Keno revenue rises, the state grant would increase up to $1,800 per kindergarten student for a total from all grant sources of $3,600 which is the ‘adequacy grant’ currently received by districts for students from first-grade through high school.
Decriminalizing Small Amounts of Marijuana
On July 18, 2017, Governor Sununu signed House Bill 640 downgrading possession of up to 3/4th of an ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish to a civil violation instead of a criminal misdemeanor as it would previously have been charged. This law is set to take effect on September 18, 2017, making New Hampshire the 22nd state to eliminate the possibility of jail for individuals convicted of simple possession. The legislative measure, referred to as “common sense marijuana reform” by Governor Sununu, passed both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.
New Hampshire is the last New England state to reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense. Although decriminalization has been considered in the past, this was the first time the Senate took up a bill passed by the House. Matt Simon, New England policy director with the Marijuana Policy Project, stated “there is no good reason to continue arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession.”
When the law takes effect, any person 18 years or older found to be in possession of 3/4th of an ounce or less of marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish would be subject to liability for a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine for the 1st or 2nd offense, instead of a criminal misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,000. Any subsequent infraction within a 3-year period would be punishable by a fine of up to $300. A 4th offense would result in a Class B misdemeanor charge.
Any person less than 18 years old found to be in possession of the threshold amounts or less would be subject to a delinquency petition.
All money collected from the law’s fines will be deposited in the state’s fund for services to combat alcohol and substance abuse.
Establishing a State-Wide Needle Exchange Program
On June 16, 2017, Governor Sununu signed into law Senate Bill 234 creating a needle exchange program throughout the state and decriminalizing trace amounts of drugs left in dirty needles. The passage of this law brings New Hampshire in line with the rest of the New England states which have already implemented exchange programs.
Allowing users to safely dispose of needles without the fear of prosecution is the best way to make sure needles aren’t discarded in public places.
Without a readily available supply of clean syringes, drug users will become desperate, resorting to using needles found on the side of the road, trying to fish dirty needles out of medical disposal boxes, or using the same needle again and again until the metal tip breaks off. Needles, clean and used, are often sold on the street for anywhere from $1 to $20 a piece.
Governor Sununu commended the legislative measure. “The drug crisis is the most serious public health and safety issue facing New Hampshire and it remains critical that we continue supporting investments and resources in law enforcement, but also in prevention, treatment, and recovery programs … There is no doubt that this bill will save lives.”
Expanding Conditions Qualifying for Therapeutic Use of Cannabis
On June 16, 2017, Governor Sununu signed two bills expanding the list of qualified medical conditions eligible for the therapeutic use of cannabis, otherwise known as medical marijuana. House Bill 157 adds chronic pain as one of the qualifying conditions, while Senate Bill 17 removes the requirement that individuals with Hepatitis C be receiving anti-viral treatments in order to qualify for medical marijuana.
Other qualifying medical conditions include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pancreatitis, spinal cord injury/disease, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Heightened Requirements for Background Checks in Adoptions and Foster Family Licensing
On June 16, 2017, Governor Sununu signed into law House Bill 355 expanding the background check requirements associated with adoptions as well as the initial home licensing process for foster family applicants.
Previously, only prospective adoptive parents or prospective foster parents were subject to a finger-print based criminal record check of national crime information databases in addition to the central registry check of all adults living in the home. Developments now provide all adults living in the home will be subject to a finger-print based criminal record check and a central registry check as part of the adoption or foster family licensing process.
The criminal record check consists of submitting finger prints to the State Police for forwarding to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The central registry check consists of checking the state’s central registry of founded reports of child abuse and neglect as well as checking the child abuse and neglect registries in any other state in which an adult living in the home has resided in the past 5 years.
The seasoned attorneys at the McGrath Law Firm, founded by former federal prosecutor, Peter McGrath, will walk you through every step of the challenging process to address your concerns and achieve your goals as efficiently as possible. From personal injury, criminal law and estate planning, family law, including, but not limited to, spousal support, child support, fault, and equitable division of property and debt to valuations, prenuptial agreements, annulments, and restraining orders, the experienced attorneys at McGrath Law Firm have a successful track record in all aspects of law. Call us to schedule your consultation at (603) 224-7111.
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