The Bulletin Board

Legislature fails to override Sununu’s vetoes on state primary, background checks

By: - January 5, 2022 1:19 pm
Gov. Chris Sununu, wearing a white shirt and tie, sits at a desk to sign a document.

Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed seven bills last session. (Courtesy)

This story was updated Jan. 5 at 1:49 p.m. to correct the number of vetoes taken up by lawmakers on Wednesday.

State lawmakers upheld all six of Gov. Chris Sununu’s remaining 2021 vetoes Wednesday, failing to override Sununu’s rejections of bills to move the state’s primary date and overhaul the gun background check system. 

But one vetoed bill nearly made it across the finish line. Senate Bill 38, which would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to register as for-profit companies and not nonprofits, received an override vote in the Senate, 19-5. It narrowly failed to clear the two-thirds vote threshold in the House, with 66.57 percent of House representatives voting to override (229-115) – just short of the required 66.66 percent. 

Under current law, the medical marijuana dispensaries in New Hampshire, known as “alternative treatment centers,” must be registered as nonprofits. Supporters of SB 38 say that limitation has caused financial hardship for the dispensaries. 

The override gathered overwhelming support in the Senate – a rarity for cannabis-related decisions. But it split Republican House members. 

Other veto override attempts Wednesday were not as close. House lawmakers voted in large numbers against overriding a vetoed bill to move the state primary up from September to August, 38-313.

And both chambers upheld Sununu’s vetoes on two bills, Senate Bill 141 and House Bill 334, that would have eliminated the state’s “Gun Line” – the background check system for all buyers of handguns in New Hampshire run by the State Police. The bills would have instead sent the handgun background checks to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which firearms rights groups argue is more efficient and less susceptible to backlogs.

Sen. Bob Giuda argued the bill should pass because the federal system was already sufficient. 

“Anything that our state government does with respect to the sale and purchase of firearms is subject to federal registries,” Giuda, a Warren Republican, said. “Unfortunately, it’s also subjected to a review in-state in which 170,000 of our citizens have records that are unresolved.”

To Democrats, though, scrapping the state checklist would remove a critical oversight mechanism, an action they said could lead to prohibited residents being allowed to acquire firearms. 

The Senate failed to override by the two-thirds threshold, with 13 votes in favor of an override and 11 against. The House also failed to override, 212-138.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel. Email: [email protected]