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January 30, 2014

N.H. House tackles liquor issues

First-time DWI offenders would have some driving privileges

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House yesterday rejected extended hours for store alcohol sales, while approving the use of interlock devices to allow first-time DWI offenders back on the road for work, counseling and medical care.

House Bill 120 would have enabled towns to permit grocery and convenience stores to extend alcohol sales past 11:45 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Proponents said it would be good for businesses, while benefitting tourists and second-shift workers.

The bill would “bring us up to modern times,” Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, said.

But the bill was opposed by state health officials and police, who characterized the proposal as bad public health and safety policy.

Hunt described the bill as companion legislation to one last year that allowed towns to approve later hours for bars and restaurants.

But Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, said businesses had not requested the bill and she dismissed it as “nanny legislation.”

People should know when they are out of alcohol and need to go to the store, she argued.

“This is not milk your children consumed while you were at work,” she said.

The House killed the bill on a 170-156 vote.

Meanwhile, House Bill 496, providing limited driving privileges for first-time DWI offenders, passed on a voice vote.

Offenders would have to prove they need to drive for work, counseling or medical treatment. All would have at least a minimum 14-day loss of license. They would have to use an interlock sobriety device in vehicles.

“The committee believes that this limited driving privilege will allow first-time offenders to maintain their employment, while still abiding by the strict requirements of the law,” Rep. Robert Cushing, D-Hampton, wrote to the House in a report for the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

In other action yesterday, the House on a voice vote killed House Bill 336 that would have banned the sale of some fireworks.

The bill was a response to an accident in Pelham two years ago that injured about a dozen people.

Also on a voice vote, the House approved a study of pawnbroker regulation. A commission would include representatives from business and law enforcement.

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