NH lawmakers sue governor over relief money

CONCORD, N.H. (WCAX) Lawmakers in New Hampshire have filed suit against the Sununu administration over how the state spends COVID-19 relief funds.

New Hampshire is set to receive $1.25 billion from the federal government. It will be doled out to private businesses and nonprofits around the state that have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Democrats at the Statehouse in Concord say Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is not following the state Constitution when it comes to handing out that money.

Sununu has established the Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery which is tasked with with approving the applications. Sununu says the bipartisan group has broad authority to spend the CARES Act money since it is in a time of an emergency.

But Democrats, who control both chambers in Concord, said the governor needs their permission to distribute the funds.

"The people of the state of New Hampshire elected a governor but they also elected 424 legislators. And the power to spend money is delegated to our Legislature in our Constitution and we just want to ensure that there is a process that respects the constitution," said Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Senate President. "Within the last 15 years or so, both Governor Benson and Governor Lynch, in times of emergency receiving federal funds, came before the Legislature Joint Fiscal Committee, 10-member committee, both House and Senate members and we were able to very expeditiously review those requests and approve them so we would see a process working similarly here."

A spokesperson for the governor's office released a statement that said: "Our office will continue to follow the law as was passed in 2002 granting the Governor authority to take immediate action during this statewide crisis. It is the Legislature's prerogative to check in with the courts and we will always maintain a collaborative relationship with them. Ensuring New Hampshire families receive immediate emergency relief is paramount and the Governor remains committed to that goal."