FILE - New Hampshire Chris Sununu

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire lawmakers have upheld Gov. Chris Sununu vetoes of several controversial bills, including proposals to weaken COVID-19 precautions, reduce the amount of trash going into landfills and blunt the authority of the governor's office.

Meeting in Concord last Thursday, the Republican-controlled Legislature reconvened for a day to reconsider bills left over from the previous legislative session that didn't survive Sununu's veto pen. A two-thirds majority was required to override the GOP governor's objections, but lawmakers were unable to muster the necessary votes.

One proposal, House Bill 1454, called for establishing a buffer zone for any new landfill operations to help prevent toxic pollutants from leaching into nearby waterways.

The House voted to override Sununu’s veto, 256-65, but the Senate failed to override it on a 12-11 vote, falling short of the required two-thirds margin.

Nearly half of the trash going into New Hampshire landfills comes from Massachusetts and other states, and lawmakers who approved the changes have been exploring ways to tighten the laws to restrict out-of-state trash amid warnings that the state will run out of capacity.

The legislation, which was approved by the Legislature with bipartisan support, would have replaced the state's current 200-required buffer zone around lakes and rivers with a project-specific review that takes into account the flow of groundwater and other environmental factors.

In issuing a veto, Sununu said the changes would prevent new regional landfills from being constructed, which he argued would drive up costs for local governments, waste haulers and consumers.

Environmental groups pushing for the changes accused Sununu of being "in the pocket of the private waste industry" for rejecting the proposal.

Lawmakers also maintained Sununu's veto of a proposal seeking to curtail the governor's unilateral powers under public health emergencies.

House Bill 275, which was pushed through by Republican lawmakers, would have required a renewal of emergency orders every 30 days by the Legislature after the initial declaration. It also would have required the governor to obtain legislative approval to spend federal relief money exceeding $100,000 related to the declared emergency.

Sununu rejected the plan, saying it would be "irresponsible to further bind a future governor’s ability to address and respond in a crisis" and pointed out that the Legislature already has the power to suspend a state of emergency.

Another plan rejected by Sununu in the recent session, House Bill 1625, would have repealed a state law setting buffer zones around clinics where abortions are performed. Sununu said the law was working as intended and shouldn't be eliminated. Lawmakers sought to override him, but the bill was upheld by the House on a 175-145 vote.

Another bill, House Bill 1131, sought to block cities and towns from requiring students to wear a facial covering "for any purpose" unless masks are needed for an extracurricular activity.

Sununu vetoed the proposal on Friday, calling it a "big government" approach and suggesting that decisions about masking requirements were "best left to authorities closest to parents and families" through local elected governing boards.

The proposal was one of dozens of bills considered by the Republican-controlled Legislature in recent session seeking to restrict state and local government public health mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most didn't win approval.

Lawmakers also upheld Sununu's veto of a proposal, House Bill 1022, authorizing pharmacists to dispense the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 without a prescription.

Ivermectin was touted by some as a home remedy for COVID-19 during the pandemic. But it has also become a political flashpoint in the nationwide debate over treatment for the virus.

Sununu vetoed the bill when it reached his desk, saying the medicine hasn't been evaluated by the FDA to ensure that it is safe to treat the coronavirus.

Another bill that failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to override Sununu's veto sought to change the state's congressional districts, an issue that was resolved by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which appointed a special master to redraw the boundaries.