Today, the House approved the Senate version to HB 629 by a vote of 283-32. The underlying bill is a bipartisan act establishing a preference for the appointment of a child’s grandparent as guardian of the minor in certain cases, whose prime sponsor is Representative Mariellen MacKay (R-Nashua).

The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to make benefit eligibility information available on the department’s website as well as to grandparents seeking guardianship over their grandchild. HB 629 also places the burden of proof on the petitioner to demonstrate that guardianship is in the best interest of the child in situations where guardianship was brought on due to the parents substance abuse. This bill also establishes a preference for grandparents to be appointed as guardians in cases where it is sought as a result of a parent’s substance abuse.

Representative Mariellen MacKay (R-Nashua) issued the following statement:

“I am pleased that the House today overwhelming approved HB 629. With this legislation New Hampshire is leading the way in giving grandparents a voice when it comes to the guardianship process in cases dealing with substance abuse. This important legislation will keep children out of the foster care system and allow them to stay with their families. HB 629 is about love, passion, family, and just doing the right thing, and I couldn’t be more proud to see this bill overwhelmingly pass the legislature.”

Background: An amendment approved by the Senate last week used this bill as the vehicle to provide emergency funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. The amendment did not modify the underlying bill which previously passed both chambers by a voice vote.