On Wednesday, during a Special Session, we authorized a task force to work on legislation to address the growing opiate addiction crisis in NH. We heard speeches chastising us for “feel good” legislation, and passing this just so that we can say “we did something”. We also heard that the situation is hopeless, and that what people need is hope. I get that. Nonetheless, this task force should give us hope. Will they come up with solutions? I have no idea. Nonetheless, this task force has a better chance than the normal legislative process, so let’s encourage them rather than throw stones.
Normally, bills are directed to any relevant policy committees, and then if there is fiscal impact, to Finance and/or Ways and Means. Let me give you a practical example of what that means based on what could happen in my committee (Transportation). Consider a bill to create a violation for not slowing down on a state highway when there is a disabled car in the shoulder. Here is what could happen:
Transportation – This committee decides that is good policy and should move forward, votes to pass.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety – Because a violation has been created, this committee hears the bill next. They could reject it based on the penalty, even if they like the policy. Instead, let’s assume that they amend the bill to establish a fine and also to create an education program to warn drivers about the new law.
Finance – Because of the previous committee’s action, there is now expense associated with the bill. Even if Finance likes the bill, if it isn’t clear how to pay for it, they can reject the bill.
Senate – Let’s say that all the above succeeds. the bill now goes to the Senate where it has yet another opportunity to fail.
That is a lot of opportunities for failure for a bill. Whether you’re talking about software systems development, manufacturing, or even complex military operations, it is good practice to assemble cross-functional teams to make sure that a good idea is implemented correctly. You can imagine how many areas of policy laws relating to drug abuse could touch (Health and Human Services, Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Judiciary, etc.). The task force puts all those folks in one room at the outset, so that they can draft bills that will avoid all those potential stumbling blocks throughout the process. This is the best hope for finding workable solutions. Will they succeed? I have no idea. The drug epidemic is a huge problem, and a tough nut to crack. I do know that this bipartisan task force, with the policy leaders from all those committees in both the House and Senate, is the best hope for doing something that works.
Rep. Steven Smith