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June 15 - Alcoholic Beverages with Images of Children May Soon be Legal to Sell in NH

This article appeared in the E-Ticker News June 18, 2015

NH House Happenings

By Rep. John Cloutier

Alcoholic Beverages With Images Of Children May Soon Be Legal To Sell In NH

Granite State companies may soon be allowed to advertise their beer and other alcoholic beverages with childrenʼs pictures, despite the objections of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

On June 10 New Hampshireʼs House of Representatives by a 236-95 roll call vote overrode Gov. Hassanʼs veto of House Bill 122, which would permit beverage companies, brewers, bars, and restaurants to advertise beer, wine, liquor, and other alcoholic drinks using the images of minors under age 21, which is the legal age in our state to consume such drinks. These businesses would be permitted to run this advertising, subject to specific regulations implemented by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. Among other provisions, the Liquor Commission could still restrict advertising using childrenʼs images, if the commission determined the images are “reasonably likely to induce minors to drink.”

House Bill 122 had earlier been approved by the House March 11 on a voice vote after its Commerce & Consumer Affairs Committee by a unanimous 20-0 roll call vote recommended its approval. Later the New Hampshire Senate had also passed the bill with a minor amendment with which the House quickly concurred. In fact, there was no debate on the House floor on this vetoed bill because the Commerce Committee had placed this measure on the Consent Calendar where less significant legislation receiving unanimous or nearly unanimous votes of recommendation by their assigned committees are placed.

However, Gov. Hassan in her message vetoing House Bill 122, declared that the measure, if it became law, “could undermine our efforts to prevent underage drinking.” More specifically, the Governor explained that the billʼs outright repeal of current state law prohibiting the use of minorsʼ images in alcoholic beverage advertising would provide the Liquor Commission with inadequate legal guidance in regulating the use of such images. She added that while she is supportive of New Hampshireʼs growing craft beer industry, she believes that the “appropriate balance between responsible regulation of alcohol and desired latitude for marketing creativity,” for alcoholic beverage advertising should be struck. 

House Bill 122ʼs prime and only sponsor is Bedford Rep. Keith Mur- phy, also a Manchester bar owner, who said he had introduced the legislation in order to allow his bar to sell a specific beer, Foundersʼ Breakfast Stout, a beer brewed in Michigan which features the picture of a baby on its label.

Now that the veto of House Bill 122 has been overridden by the House, the vetoed legislation must return to the Senate for its attempted veto override. If the override garners the necessary two-thirds majority of senators present and voting as mandated by the New Hampshire Constitution, the bill would become law, despite the Governorʼs objections.

For readersʼ information, I voted “No” on the override attempt of the Gov. Hassanʼs veto of House Bill 122. Yes, I had originally voted to support the bill because it had been unanimously approved by our Commerce & Consumer Affairs Committee. But later as I thought more about the measure, and read the Governorʼs veto message about it, I changed my mind and decided that her concerns that the measure could undermine our stateʼs efforts to prevent underage drinking were legitimate. Therefore, I voted “No,” in order to sustain her veto.

While Gov. Hassanʼs veto of House Bill 122 was overridden by the necessary two-thirds majority of my fellow representatives on June 10, two of her other vetoes were sustained. They included her veto of House Bill 148, which would have limited the authority of New Hampshireʼs delegates to any Article V conventions called by a majority of states to amend the United States Constitution. Also sustained was her veto of House Bill 151, which would have established a select seven member legislative committee to study end-of-life decisions.

Both of these veto override attempts actually garnered a simple majority of representatives present and voting. In the case of House Bill 148, there were 197 roll call votes favoring the override attempt, with 140 votes in opposition. As for House Bill 151, there 184 “Yes” votes for the override, with 154 “No” against it in the roll call totals. But both failed to get the constitutionally-required two-thirds majority to override the Governorʼs veto. Thus both bills will not become law, at least not for the next two years. 

For the record, I voted to override the veto of House Bill 148 because I had voted for this legislation earlier this year on March 4. Legislation which I had written about in my March 9 column. But as for the veto of House Bill 151, I voted to sustain it. I voted to sustain the veto because I was concerned that the bill was inadequately written so as not to include representatives of all the stakeholders involved in the emotional and controversial issue involved with this bill. A bill about which at least some supporters of the veto like Manchester Rep. Kathleen Souza claimed would lead to legislation promoting physician-assisted suicide of terminally-ill individuals. Like Rep. Souza, I am against physician-assisted suicide. But I agree with Gov. Hassan that a better written bill establishing a legislative commission including not only legislators, but individuals representing health care providers, senior citizensʼ organizations, and nursing homes to study recent laws passed by the New Hampshire Legislature in regard to living wills and advance directives would have been better.

Email: jocloutier@comcast.net

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