On last day of State House session, a split decision on drug addiction funding
CONCORD – A measure to pump $5 million into New Hampshire’s battle against drug addiction is on its way to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk.
But a bill that that would have sent $1.5 million to the state’s law enforcement efforts in the heroin and opioid epidemic didn’t make it to the Corner Office, after it was defeated Wednesday in the state House of Representatives.
The developments came on a very hectic final day of the spring session at the State House.
Hassan praised the passage of the funding bill, telling reporters that “I think we’ve made some good bipartisan progress.”
“What we’ve seen today is passage in the legislature of the expansion of our drug court program statewide, critical funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery services,” the governor added.
State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said in a statement that “we started this session by developing a number of proposals to address the heroin and opioid crisis facing our state aimed at prevention, treatment and recovery and we will end this session with the passage of this cornerstone legislation designed to address the multi-faceted drug crisis facing our communities.”
But the $1.5 million grant program, known as ‘Granite Hammer’, that would have dedicated more law enforcement officers to the state’s fight against the drug crisis (including funds for local police departments) was defeated in the GOP dominated House.
The measure was tied to a broader bill that required some state retirees to pay for new health care premiums.
Hassan criticized state lawmakers, saying that “the bill that would have expanded operation granite hammer statewide seems to have been caught up in some politics.”
“I am very concerned about that. Operation ‘Granite Hammer’ has been part of our comprehensive strategy of addressing the substance abuse and misuse crisis in our state and it’s critical that law enforcement statewide have the resources that it needs to really combat the supply of opioids into our state,” she added.
Democratic State Sen. Donna Soucy of Manchester placed the blame with House Republicans, saying in a statement that “it is unbelievable that the House would play political games with this funding by attaching such a controversial provision and it is a shame that it failed in the House today.”
But some House and Senate Republicans placed blame with the governor, saying Hassan didn’t lead on the issue.
With more than 400 people in New Hampshire dying from drug overdoses last year, a record high, the fight against substance abuse and misuse was a top issue with state lawmakers and the governor.
The state Senate, in session, on Wednesday June 1, 2016
The state House of Representatives, in session, on Wednesday June 1, 2016