2023 Legislative Wrap-Up
July 6, 2023
Each year from January to June, the New Futures staff works diligently to solve problems through policy change during the New Hampshire legislative session. Our policy team provides lawmakers with evidence-based data and resources, our community engagement team encourages Granite Staters to get involved in the legislative process, and our communications team spreads the word about important issues and ways to act through email, social media, texting, and more.
The 2023 legislative session wrapped up on June 29. In total, our staff worked on more than 200 bills at the State House. Many of the priority bills we worked on have passed the Legislature and are on their way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Others we opposed were defeated earlier in the session. Still, others were funded in the State Budget.
Keep scrolling for a rundown of what happened this session with our priority bills, or jump to a policy section that is important to you:
Early Childhood Policy
Children's Behavioral Health Policy
Alcohol & Other Drug/Access to Treatment Policy
When state policy supports young children, we build a strong foundation for children to live healthy and happy lives. New Futures supports policies that give children what they need to thrive now and in the future.
2023 Early Childhood Priority Legislation:
New Futures worked diligently this session to educate lawmakers about the child care crisis in the Granite State that is affecting families, early childhood professionals, and the economy. New Futures and partner organizations backed the Child Care for New Hampshire Working Families Act (SB 237), which takes a two-pronged approach to addressing the crisis: first, it invests $15 million into child care recruitment and retention to address staffing shortages. Second, it expands access to the New Hampshire Child Care Scholarship Program so more families receive direct support. SB 237 received unanimous support in the Senate. The Senate included all funding and legislation of the Child Care for NH Working Families Act in the FY 2024-25 State Budget.
SB 175 looked to extend current Medicaid coverage for new moms (60 days) to one year postpartum, which would allow for new mothers to receive postnatal mental health treatment, as well as access to services at family resource centers. In addition to Medicaid provisions, SB 175 includes workplace protections for nursing mothers, creates advisory boards and certification processes for doulas and lactation service providers, and establishes a commission to study universal home visits for newborns and young children, and funds children’s behavioral health services and family resource centers. SB 175 received bipartisan support in the Senate, and the funding and policy for all these issues were included in the FY 2024-25 State Budget.
The period from birth to age eight is critical for a child’s health, development, and learning, yet New Hampshire remains one of the few states that does not have publicly funded pre-kindergarten. A 2023 Senate Bill, SB 214, aimed to leverage existing federal dollars to create a community based, mixed delivery pre-kindergarten pilot program. The bill was retained in committee and will be brought back at the start of 2024 for review.
During a state budget year, ensuring the state remains committed to previously supported programs is essential. During the budget process, the House Finance Committee did not include funding for the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which is a federally matched program that provides supports to families in their homes and provides information about children’s health, development, safety, and, when appropriate, referrals to support services.
Ultimately, the funding for the MIECHV program was added back during the Senate’s budget review process.
Children's Behavioral Health Policy
The social and emotional health of children in New Hampshire is fundamental to their overall health. New Futures believes that efforts to improve care must be done together, across the public and private sectors.
2023 Children's Behavioral Health Policy Priority Legislation:
SB 85 creates a study commission to determine the best source of sustainable funding for behavioral health crisis services in New Hampshire. New Futures supports SB 85 because it takes a step toward establishing sustainable funding for New Hampshire’s behavioral crisis system. It also limits preauthorization requirements, which is an evidence-based, best-practice intervention that has been demonstrated in national studies to be ultimately cost-saving and achieve better outcomes for children, adults, and families.
SB 85 was signed into law by Governor Sununu in early August.
New Hampshire has made continued and meaningful investments into New Hampshire’s Children's System of Care since its establishment in 2016. The System of Care provides a comprehensive spectrum of services to Granite State children and families to give children the best chance of success as they grow into the future of our state.
The House Finance Division III Committee voted to restore only 60% of the funding requested by the Department of Health and Human Services for New Hampshire's Children's System of Care. However, thanks to efforts by advocates, nearly all the funding for the Children's System of Care was restored in final version of the budget, which was signed into law by Governor Sununu in June.
In 2021, the Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education was signed into law in New Hampshire as part of the budget package. The law prevents important discussions in our classrooms about racism, sexism, and inclusion, among other so-called ‘divisive concepts.’ Teachers who violate this law face the loss of their teaching licensing and jobs, however, the current law is vague on what specifically what teachers can and cannot teach. HB 61 aimed to provide much-needed clarity around the law, proposing that teachers cannot suffer loss of licensing or their jobs for teaching about the historical or current experiences of any group that is protected from discrimination.
Over 50 people, including New Futures staff, provided public testimony in support at the House Education committee hearing. However, the bill came out of committee without a recommendation and died on the House floor.
Two bills were proposed this session that would have negatively impacted New Hampshire’s transgender youth. HB 619 would ban gender-affirming care for minors and any gender-affirmation or education in public schools. It would also change the definition of conversion therapy, making it virtually impossible for minors to refuse participation. HB 619 was retained in Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, meaning it will not progress this legislative session. The committee may work on the bill over the summer and bring it to the House for a vote next year.
HB 417 would have added some forms of gender-affirming health care to the definition of child abuse. HB 417 received an "Inexpedient to Legislate" recommendation from the House Children & Family Law Committee and was killed by voice vote on the House floor.
Alternately, HB 368 aimed to protect people who come to New Hampshire from other states to receive gender-affirming health care by prohibiting New Hampshire providers from releasing medical information related to a person receiving gender-affirming health care to other states. The bill was retained in committee, meaning the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee can work on the bill over the summer and bring it to the House floor for a vote next year.
Two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, looked to elevate parents’ rights to the detriment of the safety and welfare of children. Both bills, SB 272 and HB 10 limit a child’s ability to explore their identities in safe settings, which can increase anxiety, depression and risk for suicidality. These bills removed the ability for adolescents to have privacy in school, extracurricular activities, and medical settings. HB 10 came out of the House Education Committee without a recommendation and was killed on the House floor by a narrow 193-192 vote.
SB 272 passed the Senate by a 14-10 margin. It came out of the House Education Committee without a recommendation before it was narrowly defeated on the House floor.
Granite Staters deserve quality, affordable health care, access to effective, evidence-based health programs, a health insurance market that focuses on consumer health, and an overall health system that has the main goal of keeping New Hampshire residents healthy. At New Futures, our health policy work is guided by experts with an in-depth health policy understanding.
2023 Health Policy Priority Legislation:
Throughout the session, New Futures, in collaboration with 80 other partner organizations, tracked SB 263, which called for the permanent reauthorization of Medicaid expansion. SB 263 unanimously passed through the Senate and passed on the House floor, but the bill was re-referred to the House Finance Committee, where they voted to retain the bill. To ensure that low-wage Granite Staters did not lose access to critical health care, including mental health and substance use treatment services, a seven-year reauthorization of the Granite Advantage Program was included by the Senate in the FY 2024-25 State Budget. This long-term reauthorization will provide the stability and security that families and health care providers need to ensure the health of all Granite Staters.
The System of Care for Healthy Aging (SB 36) was a collaborative undertaking by the Alliance of Healthy Aging to build a new system of supports and services so older adults can receive assistance in their homes, reducing the burden on nursing home staffs and saving the state money in Medicaid reimbursement costs. The necessary funding and legislation required to build the System of Care for Healthy Aging was included in the FY 2024-25 State Budget.
Two bills were introduced in the House this year that proposed to eliminate or suspend the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The Prescription Drug Affordability Board was launched in 2020 to help set spending targets and develop strategies to limit rising prescription drug costs in New Hampshire. In the years since, the Board has worked to put rules and structures in place. The Board is primed to take steps in the months ahead to better address access to life-saving medications. Both bills were retained in committee, meaning the Health and Human Services can continue to work on the bills over the summer and can bring them to the House for a vote in 2024. No changes will be made to the Prescription Drug Affordability Board in the interim.
When introduced, SB 86 aimed to boost New Hampshire’s health care workforce by:
- Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to help health care providers recruit and retain more workers and treat more patients in need.
- Establishing a certification program for Community Health Workers to help these critical health care professionals enter the workforce.
- Directing the state’s health department to expand health services in rural and underserved parts of the state.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee pared down the bill, keeping only the Medicaid rate reimbursement increases. $134 million was earmarked for these critical increases in the FY 2024-25 State Budget.
Two bills were introduced in the House this session that aimed to undermine our public health infrastructure, but both were ultimately defeated on the House floor. HB 539 would have prohibited schools from conducting a vaccination clinic at any time during school hours or within two hours at the beginning or end of the school day. HB 557 would have transferred oversight and rule-making power from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Humans Services to the New Hampshire Legislature, meaning politicians - not the doctors and epidemiologists that makeup NH DHHS's Vaccine Selection Committee - would have determined the vaccine schedule and controlled when changes are made to the recommended schedule.
Alcohol & Other Drug / Access to Treatment Policy
Policies that support evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery programs are crucial to ensure that every New Hampshire resident is a healthy member of our society.
2023 Alcohol & Other Drug/Access to Treatment Priority Legislation:
New Futures tracked and advocated for alignment with our Principles for Cannibis Policy & Regulation on two house bills, HB 639 and HB 544, which both looked to commercialize cannabis in New Hampshire. HB 544 was retained in committee by the House, while HB 639 passed the House but died on the Senate floor.
New Hampshire’s Alcohol Abuse, Prevention & Treatment Fund (‘Alcohol Fund’) is an innovative, fiscally responsible, common-sense approach to addressing substance use disorders in our state. Since its inception as a state law, the program has been historically underfunded. During this session, New Futures advocated for the fund to be fully funded at five percent of gross profits from the state liquor stores.
Two house bills aimed to legalize testing strips, which are a proven harm-reduction tool. HB 470 was retained in committee, but HB 287 was passed by both chambers and signed into law by Governor Sununu in early August, decriminalizing both fentanyl and xylazine testing strips.
Prohibition on Hemp-Derived Products containing THC
New Futures worked in support of HB 611, which prohibits the retail sale of gummies, vape canisters and other products containing hemp-derived products containing THC, such as Delta-8 products. These products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and pose serious health risks, yet due to a legal loophole, they are currently sold throughout the state. This bill, which has a one-year sunset, passed the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk.