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New Hampshire session preview: Expect fights over guns, the death penalty and pot

New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan (D) (Cheryl Senter/AP)

For a small state, New Hampshire is expected to see some big fights out of this year’s legislative session.

It’s been exactly a week since New Hampshire’s legislature reconvened, but the state’s lawmakers are already weighing some controversial changes on marijuana, guns, the death penalty, Obamacare and gambling. All of it will play out in what is not only the nation’s largest legislature, with 424 members, but which is also among the 10 most polarized in the nation.

Marijuana: The state’s Democratic House votes Wednesday to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The GOP Senate and Democratic governor are unlikely to support the effort, though, with Gov. Maggie Hassan promising a veto.

Guns: A bill is wending its way through the state House that would ban gun sales to individuals deemed mentally incompetent by courts and requiring reporting those individuals’s names to a federal registry. It’s going to have a bumpy ride, if a three-hour hearing Tuesday is any indication, the Concord Monitor reports.

Opponents of the measure — a group that includes advocates for gun rights, mental health and civil liberties — outnumbered supporters at the hearing, and one state pro-gun group, the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, has taken to describing its impact simply as “see a shrink, lose your guns.”

Domestic violence: A bill that would allow domestic violence to be treated differently than other forms of violence enjoys bipartisan support though there is still some disagreement over it, reports New Hampshire public radio’s Josh Rogers.

Death penalty repeal: On the other hand, the state could well become the latest state to abolish the death penalty, according to Rogers. “Most people think repeal is a real possibility this year,” he reported.

Medicaid expansion: The House has passed a Medicaid expansion under the president’s health-care law, but it seems unlikely to gain traction in the Senate.

Gambling: The opposite is likely with a bill legalizing casino gambling, which died in the House after passing in the Senate last year. Advocates will try again this session  after a commission voted to recommend legalization, the Associated Press reports.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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