NH Legislature This Week—April 4, 2011
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the week
“The doors of the galleries, of each house of the legislature, shall be kept open to all persons who behave decently, except when the welfare of the state, in the opinion of either branch, shall require secrecy.” NH Constitution, Part Second, Article 8. See discussion below.
“We have tried to hurt everyone equally”. Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) speaking on the House floor during the budget debate.
“Remember government doesn’t create jobs”. Rep. Jack Flanagan (R-Brookline) referring to a budget in which 1,500 state jobs would be eliminated—15% of the state workforce. The state government is the largest employer in NH.
By now, all bills that have introduced in the House have either been passed and sent to the Senate, defeated, or retained in committee until next year. All bills that have introduced in the Senate have either been passed and sent to the House, defeated, or retained in committee until next year.
The full House and full Senate will not be session this week, but the committees will continue to meet and hold hearings on bills that have passed the other chamber.
Closed to the Public
During the floor debate on the budget, some of the members of the public in the gallery overlooking the House chamber began shouting and were removed, as is common practice. However, the Speaker then ordered that ALL members of the public be removed from the gallery and that the gallery should be completely closed to the public. Democratic leader Terie Norelli reminded the speaker that the NH constitution specifically states that the gallery must remain open to members of the public who do not cause a disturbance (see quote above). The full House then took a vote and decided 217-146 to uphold the Speaker’s ruling and the gallery was completely closed to the public. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Flanagan voted to close the house gallery. Rep. Gargasz voted to keep the gallery open.
The budget was obviously the big topic this week as several thousand demonstrators filled the lawn in front of the statehouse in the largest rally that the state has seen in decades. Many state employees as well as advocates for hospitals, children, the elderly, the disabled, people with autism and many others urged the legislature to restore cuts to those parts of the budget.
Democrats introduced 14 amendments that attempted to restore funding for certain programs, but all were rejected along mostly part line votes. The amendments were to restore funding for road repair, the Innovative Research Center, the Department of Education for the tuition and transportation program, the Department of Agriculture, the state police, domestic violence programs, employment related child care programs, developmental services and acquired brain disorder services, community mental health services, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment, and the UNH System and colleges (whose funding was cut by 45%), and headstart. There is also an amendment to restore $641,000 to the ServiceLink program which directs the elderly to the various programs and services available to them. The $641,000 is required to receive a $2,247,000 federal match.
Rep. Jim Belanger voted against all of the amendments.
Rep. Dick Drisko voted in favor of the UNH System and college funding, headstart, and the ServiceLink program, but against all of the other amendments.
Rep. Jack Flanagan voted against all of them except for the domestic violence funding and headstart.
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz voted in favor of the Innovative Research Center, domestic violence programs, employment related child care, developmental services and brain disorder services, community mental health services, drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, and headstart, but voted against the other amendments.
The final budget bill was passed 243-124. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Flanagan voted to pass the budget. Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat the budget.
HB2, the “budget trailer” bill makes many changes that are associated with the budget. Among the many provisions of this bill, it repeals the catastrophic illness program, suspends payments for catastrophic aid to hospitals, repeals the tax on gambling winnings, eliminates the Director of Economic Development position in the Department of Resources and Economic Development, abolishes the Department of Cultural Resources, limits the total amount spent on medical benefits for current retirees, their spouses, and their dependents, repeals the drug free school zone sign program, reduces the fees for taking and transporting finfish, repeals the laws on discretionary adoption subsidies for hard to place children, suspends the position of Medical Director in the Department of Health and Human Services, suspends funding for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, reduces fees for licenses to sell animals as household pets, reduces fees related to condominiums and land sales, and reduces the marriage license fee.
Democrats offered amendments to prevent the repeal of the Children in Need of Services (CHINS). Another amendment would have removed a provision in which towns would no longer be required to care for the poor. There was an amendment to remove the provision that all public employees will become at-will employees at the expiration of the current contracts, giving employers full power to set wages, benefits and firing procedures, effectively eliminating any incentive for an employer to negotiate a new contract. Another amendment would have retained some of the cuts to the public employee retirement system.
Rep. Jim Belanger, Rep. Dick Drisko and Rep. Jack Flanagan voted against all of the amendments.
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz voted in favor of the CHINS program and removing the provision to make all public employees at-will, but opposed these other amendments.
HB2 was passed 222-119. Rep. Belanger, Drisko, and Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat.
Hot Topics This Week:
Budget, education funding, early prisoner release, deadly force, photo id to vote, state employee contracts, federal constitutional convention, raising taxes, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), public employee retirement system, rejecting federal grants, NH legislature more powerful than federal government, right to work, school attendance, raising interest rate for payday loans, medical marijuana, and Lyme disease.
The following bills were passed by the Senate and sent to the House:
These bills will now to the house for a hearing and a vote.
CACR14—Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Claremont decision and allow the legislature to determine the amount of funding that is “adequate” for education funding. This amendment is similar to but not identical to CACR12, which was passed by the House. The vote as 16-8. Sen. Luther voted to pass.
SB52—Exempting prisoners who were convicted of violent and sexual offenses from the early release program (known as SB500). Similar to HB524, which has passed the House.
SB88—Current law states that when someone is threatened, they must retreat if they may safely do so, as opposed to using deadly force to defend themselves (which is allowed if retreating is not completely safe). This bill would remove that requirement, thus allowing people to use deadly force to defend themselves against perceived threats even if they have they option of retreating from the situation in complete safety. Similar to HB210, which was passed by the House. Sen. Luther is a cosponsor. The vote was 17-7. Sen. Luther voted to pass.
SB129—Requires a photo ID issued within the state with an expiration date in order to vote. The vote was 18-6. Sen. Luther voted to pass.
The following bills were sent back to Committee in the Senate:
These bills were reported out of committee as required by deadlines, but are being sent back to committee for further work.
SB4—Requires all cost items in negotiated contracts with state employees to be approved by the full legislature. The Senate voted to “pass” this bill on a voice vote, but then sent it back to committee rather than sending it to the House.
SCR1—Senate resolution urging Congress to call a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of changing the process for amending the Constitution.
The following bills were passed by the House and sent to the Senate:
CACR6—Constitutional Amendment that would require a 3/5 vote of the legislature to create new taxes, raise existing tax rates, or to take out bonds. A new provision just added to the bill would also require that all bond installment and interest payments must be paid before any other expenses. A constitutional amendment requires 249 votes to pass. A previous vote on this bill failed with 234 votes in favor and 118 opposed. The bill was then “tabled”. This week the bill was brought back for a second vote. This time it passed 256-117. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Drisko and Gargasz voted to defeat.
HB1—The Budget. Discussed in detail above. The final vote was 243-124. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat.
HB2—The budget “trailer” bill. This makes many changes to laws that are required in order to implement the budget. There are many controversial provision, such as allowing public employers to set salaries and benefits and fire employees “at will” once contracts expire—effectively eliminating any reason that an employer would have to negotiate a contract. The vote was 222-119. Rep. Belanger, Drisko, and Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat.
HB519—Repealing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The vote was 251-108. Rep. Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Gargasz voted to defeat.
HB580—Makes many changes to the public employee retirement system. Sets fewer benefits and requires higher contribution rates and higher retirement ages. The vote was 228-139. Rep. Belanger, Drisko, Flanagan and Gargasz voted to pass.
HB590—Declares that most federal grants are unconstitutional and establishes a committee to look at federal grants which are currently being received by the state and to make recommendations on which can be replaced with state and local taxes and which should just be cancelled. Passed on a voice vote. This bill had previously been voted on in House with a roll call. In the earlier vote, Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat. Rep. Drisko did not vote.
HCR19—Declares that the NH legislature has the legal power to declare federal laws, court decisions and Presidential Executive Orders to be unconstitutional. The vote was 242-109. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to pass. Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat. Rep. Drisko did not vote.
Hearings for Tuesday, April 5th
Senate Commerce Committee
HB474—”Right to work” Prohibits collective bargaining agreements in which employees are required to join a union. Reps Hall 9:00am.
Senate Education Committee
HB542—States that parents can not be required to send their children to schools which they are “conscientiously opposed” to. Effectively eliminates the requirement that parents provide an education for their children. This bill passed the House 197-148. LOB room 103 1:30pm.
Hearings for Thursday, April 7th
Senate Judiciary Committee (Sen. Luther is a member of this Committee)
HB210—Current law states that when someone is threatened, they must retreat if they may safely do so, as opposed to using deadly force to defend themselves (which is allowed if retreating is not completely safe). This bill would remove that requirement, thus allowing people to use deadly force to defend themselves against perceived threats even if they have they option of retreating from the situation in complete safety. This bill was passed by the House 270-92. LOB room 101 1:15pm.
HB524—Exempting prisoners who were convicted of violent and sexual offenses from the early release program (known as SB500). Similar to SB52 which passed the Senate. This bill passed the House 264-97. LOB room 101 1:45pm.
Hearings for Tuesday, April 12th
House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee
SB57—Increasing the maximum interest rate on payday loans from 36% to 300%. This bill passed the Senate 17-6. LOB room 302 10:30am.
Hearings for Thursday, April 14th
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
HB442—Legalizing the use of medical marijuana. This bill passed the House 221-91. Statehouse room 100 1:00pm.
HB295—Allowing the use of long-term antibiotics for the treatment of Lyme disease. This bill passed the House on a voice vote. Statehouse room 100 2:00pm.
Where to find more information
The New Hampshire legislature web site is www.gencourt.state.nh.us. Here, you can find the full text of all bills, find the full list of sponsors of bills and see more detailed status. If you have questions about how to use the state website, we would be glad to help. Just email us at email@example.com.
Terms and Abbreviations
ITL means “Inexpedient To Legislate”. If the full House or full Senate votes to ITL a bill, then the bill is defeated.
OTP means “Ought to Pass” meaning that a committee is recommending that a bill be passed.
Consent Calendar: If a bill receives a unanimous recommendation from a committee, the committee may place the bill on the Consent Calendar. When full House meets, the first vote taken is to approve all recommendations on all bills in the consent calendar. This allows the House to quickly dispense with non-controversial bills and move on to topics that need discussion. If any legislator requests that a bill be removed from the consent calendar, then it will be removed and it will be brought up for discussion and a vote along with the other non-consent calendar bills.
Resolutions: Sometimes the House, the Senate or both will pass resolutions. These are just public statements of opinion or interest, but they have no legal standing. It is similar to issuing a press release. HCR is a House resolution. HJR is a joint resolution (both House and Senate) that originates in the House.
LOB refers to the Legislative Office Building, which is immediately behind the statehouse. Most committee hearings are held in this building.
Reps Hall refers to Representatives Hall in the Statehouse where the House of Representatives meetings. This room is used for hearings that are expected to be very large.
“Retained” means that a Committee has voted to keep a bill until next year. Next year, any bills that have been retained must be sent to the full House/Senate for a vote. Any bill that does not get retained must be sent to the full House/Senate for vote by Crossover or the end of the session.
“Crossover” is March 31st. The House will vote on all bills introduced in the House by this date except for bills that have been retained until next year. Similarly, the Senate will vote on all bills introduced into the Senate by this date except for bills that are being retained until next year.
“Tabled”: The full House or full Senate can “table” a bill which means that the bill is kept in “limbo” without being passed or defeated. For tabled bill to be brought back up for a vote again (to pass it) requires a 2/3 majority. If the bill has not been passed when the legislature adjourns at the end of the year, it is defeated. Tabling a bill usually happens when the legislature wants to defeat a bill but doesn’t want to directly oppose it. It can also sometimes happen if there are not enough votes to pass, but leadership hopes to be able to come up with enough votes later—but this then requires a 2/3 majority.
A brief guide to how legislation becomes law
Bills introduced in the House:
1. The bill is assigned to a committee and the committee holds a public hearing.
2. The committee either retains the bill or votes to recommend that the bill be passed (OTP), changed (OTPA), or defeated (ITL).
3. Except for retained bills, all other bills go to the full House which can pass, defeat, change a bill or send it to a second committee.
4. If sent to a second committee, the committee must then retain or recommend to pass, change or defeat the bill. It then goes back to the full House for a second vote.
5. If passed by the House, the bill goes to the Senate
6. The bill is assigned to a Senate committee which then holds a public hearing
7. The Senate committee either retains the bill or votes to recommend that the bill be passed (OTP), changed (OTPA), or defeated (ITL).
8. Except for retained bills, all other bills go to the full Senate which can pass, defeat, change a bill or send it to a second committee.
9. If sent to a second committee, the committee must then retain or recommend to pass, change or defeat the bill. It then goes back to the full Senate for a second vote.
10. If passed by the Senate, the bill goes to the Governor who may sign the bill into law or veto it.
11. If the Governor vetoes the bill, it goes back to the House
12. If 2/3 of the House votes to override the veto then the bill goes back to the Senate
13. If 2/3 of the Senate votes to override the veto then the bill becomes law.
For Senate bills, the process is the same except that it goes through the Senate before it goes to the House.
For Constitutional Amendments (CACRs) the process is slightly different.
CACRs introduced in the House:
1. Assigned to a committee and the committee holds a public hearing.
2. The committee votes to recommend that the CACR be passed, changed, killed or sent to study
3. Regardless of the committee recommendation, all CACRs go to the full House which can pass, kill or change a bill or send it to study. Passing a CACR requires 60% of the House members present to vote in favor.
4. If passed by the House, the bill goes to the Senate
5. Assigned to a Senate committee which then holds a public hearing
6. The Senate committee votes to recommend that the bill be passed, changed, killed or sent to study
7. Regardless of the committee recommendation, all bills go to the full Senate which can pass, kill or change a bill or send it to study. Passing a CACR requires 60% of the Senate members present to vote in favor.
8. If passed by the Senate, the CACR will put on the ballot at the next election (November 2012). If 2/3 of the voters vote in favor of it, then it becomes part of the NH Constitution.
Where to Send Letters to the Editor:
Hollis Brookline Journal
The Cabinet welcomes letters from its readers that are exclusive to this newspaper. Letters must be 400 words or fewer and are subject to editing either for content or for length. Letters must be received no later than noon on Monday. The Cabinet does not publish anonymous letters, those written under an assumed name or containing only the writer’s initials. Nor does it publish form letters, or those written as part of an orchestrated campaign. Letters must be in good taste and free of libel or personal attacks. Important: Letters must contain the writer’s name, home address and day/night telephone numbers and e-mail for confirmation purposes. Only the writer’s name and hometown will be published. The deadline for submitting letters is noon on Monday. The Journal is published every Friday.
Submission deadline is noon on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month.
The Hollis Times
The Mason Grapevine
Residents of Mason can submit letters to the Mason Grapevine at TheMasonGrapevine@yahoo.com
Hollis, Brookline, Mason Reps:
Sen. Jim Luther P: (603)271-2246 Jim.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Jim Belanger P: (603)465-2301 Jim.email@example.com
Rep. Dick Drisko P: (603)465-2517 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Jack Flanagan P: (603)672-7175 Jack.email@example.com
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz P: (603)465-7463 firstname.lastname@example.org