NHPHA Legislative Policy Update

by: Joan Ascheim, Former NHPHA Executive Director with contributions from JJ Smith and Tiffany Dodier

Members of the NHPHA policy committee have been active meeting with members of the legislature, the governor’s office and with partners in support of our policy agenda.  We have provided testimony on our priority bills and others bills of importance to public health.   A summary of actions and bill status follows. 

Prevention and Access

  • Advocate for community health workers infrastructure funding
    • SB 104 – establishing a position of community health worker in each the state’s public health networks.  NHPHA testified in support of the bill along with several others.    The bill was voted ought to pass in the committee and by the senate and will proceed to the Senate Finance Committee.  There is some talk that the requested $600,000 per year may be put into the budget.   NHPHA and New Futures also met with members of the Governor’s policy and legislative team to discuss the importance of this bill and SB 140 (see below).
    • HB 604 – expanding the NH vaccine association to include adult vaccines.  NHPHA submitted written testimony in support of this key bill.  This bill was retained by the committee due to some concerns voiced by the pharmacy community.  This means that there will be no further action until 2022.
  • Advocate for funding and infrastructure for equitable distributions of vaccines
    •  HB 221 – making the state vaccine registry an opt in program – NHPHA signed in against this bill and sent an email to representatives.  The bill would have made it difficult to have a complete and therefore effective vaccine registry.  No vote has been recorded to date.
    • HB 220 – establishing medical freedom in immunizations- While not one of our priority bills, we signed in against this bill which would compromise employers’ ability to protect clients from those who refuse to receive vaccines.

Public Health Infrastructure

  • Advocate for funding to support foundational public health services at the state and local levels
    • SB 140 – making an appropriation to the department of HHS for primary prevention services for families – NHPHA testified in support of this bill which would provide funding for several key prevention programs such as community support and home visiting programs for families that are currently not in the Governor’s budget.  Advocates are calling for approximately $1.3 million per year for these services rather than the $500,000 requested in the bill.  There has been no vote on this bill to date.  NHPHA and New Futures met with the Governor’s office on this bill to highlight the importance of these essential prevention programs.
  • Advocate for support to implement the State Health Improvement Plan and assure it addresses the need of marginalized and vulnerable populations
    • HB 157 – repealing the state health assessment and state health improvement plan council.  This hearing was held 1/26/21.  The only testimony in support of the bill was from the sponsor Representative Jess Edwards who saw it as duplicative of other state planning processes.   In addition to NHPHA’s testimony, there were many partners present to testify in opposition to the bill.   The bill is due out of committee 3/11/21

Financial Security

  • Support efforts to provide for a living/minimum wage
    • HB 137 – relative to the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees- NHPHA is monitoring this bill which does not have a hearing date yet.
    • HB 590 – relative to paid sick leave – This bill assures that there is sick leave for all full and part-time employees.   NHPHA submitted testimony in support.
    • HB 517 – relative to the state minimum hourly rate- NHPHA submitted testimony in favor of the bill.  There will be an executive session on the bill on March 4th at 9:30 AM.
  • Support efforts for job training for skill-based careers, particularly for marginalized populations
  • Support a step-down approach to public benefits reductions

Food Security (see article on the Food Access Coalition for more details on work in this area)

  • Advocate to expand use of the WIC program (farmer’s market, online purchasing)
  • Support expansion of SNAP, Granite State Market Match, and farm-to-school initiatives
    • SB 98– Relative to the SNAP program – requests funds to access federal funds.  NHPHA and partners from the Food Access Coalition testified in support of this bill which was voted ought to pass by the committee and the full senate. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance committee and being tabled until budget negotiations at which time they will work it into the budget and have to reconcile with the House.
       

Updates on Other Bills Not on our Priority List

NHPHA signed in in support of SB 71 – establishing a commission to develop science-based emissions reductions goals for the state of New Hampshire. Additionally we submitted testimony on HB 172 –establishing greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for the state and establishing a climate action plan.  While these are not priority bills for NHPHA this year, NHPHA did serve on the Ad Hoc Emissions Commission that examined the public health effects of emissions and sought to have a plan for emission reduction goals.   No vote has been reported to date on these bills. We will continue to support and monitor these them.  

NHPHA sent an email to legislators on to HB 187- relative to the emergency powers of the commissioner of health and human services expressing concern that the bill could create a political process to overturn health based emergency orders.  The committee amended the bill substantially to reanimate and add members to an Ethics Oversight Advisory Committee to investigate and make recommendations to the HHS Oversight committee. The latter can, via a 2/3 vote of its members, overturn an order. The bill then passed committee 19-2

NHPHA submitted testimony in support of HB 103, establishing a dental benefit under the state Medicaid program. We have heard that the bill may be retained and added to the budget.  We also submitted our support to SB 150 that similarly seeks to establish a dental benefit program under the state Medicaid Program.

We also submitted opposing testimony on HB 611, abolishing fluoridation in water.

The NHPHA Policy Committee welcomes support on all the bills we have prioritized.  Should you want to do so and/or join the policy committee, please contact Joan Ascheim at [email protected] or Annika Stanley-Smith at [email protected]

 

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