NH Legislature This Week—February 28, 2011
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quote of the Day:
“STOP SENDING FREE CARROTS!” Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) testifying in support of HB590, which declares most federal grants to be unconstitutional.
Some days it seems like the NH House is determined to drive the state economy into the ground. Aside from the completely unnecessary War against the Federal Government (suggestion: if you don’t like the way the federal government works, change the US Constitution), the House this week expressed their displeasure at NH receiving federal grants for a wide swath of projects. While the House has stopped short of demanding that all such projects stop and the money be returned, they have nevertheless voted to set up a committee to study the issue further.
The House Leadership is also pushing a bill to repeal the NH Rail Transit Authority. The RTA is a volunteer organization that has no funding whatsoever from the state, but has managed to get a $4.1 million federal grant to do a detailed study of extending Massachusetts rail up through Nashua and Manchester to Concord. Repealing the RTA would mean cancelling the federal grant.
The House also voted to withdraw NH from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Governor Lynch said that withdrawing from RGGI will cost the state $12 million in lost revenues, but the Chairman of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, Rep. James Garrity (R-Atkinson) says that RGGI relies on “shaky climate science.”
By a margin of 223-108, the House passed a resolution declaring that New Hampshire is a sovereign nation that is part of a loose confederation known as the United States of America. The resolution states that all laws passed by Congress, all Executive Orders issued by the President of the United States and all decisions made by the United States Supreme Court are null and void if the NH House of Representatives disagrees with them. Rep. Jim Belanger and Rep. Jack Flanagan voted in favor of this resolution. Rep. Dick Drisko and Rep. Carolyn Gargasz did not cast a vote. Sadly, this really tells you everything that you need to know about our current legislature.
Continuing with our legislative education efforts, this week we discuss Executive Sessions and subcommittees. After a public hearing, a Committee will have an Executive Session to discuss the bill and to decide what to do with it. Executive Sessions are meetings in which the public is invited to witness, but are generally not allowed to participate in. The committee may decide to send the bill to the full House or Senate with a recommendation, or it may vote to retain the bill until next year (only in the House), or it may decide that the bill needs further study. If a bill before the House needs further study, then a subcommittee will be formed with typically 5 members, who are all members of the Committee. They will do any necessary research and consult with experts, and then finally make a recommendation. Subcommittee meetings are also open to the public. The full Committee will then vote on the recommendation made by the subcommittee. The Senate does not normally form subcommittees because the Senate Committees typically only have 5 members to begin with.
Earlier, we had been including dates when committees would go into Executive Session to discuss the bills that we are tracking, however, we have temporarily discontinued this because of the volume of bills that are being voted on. If there is a particular bill that you wish to follow more closely, go to http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/quick_search.html and type in the name of the bill (such as “hb590” or “hcr19”) or enter a keyword. Next, select “Bill Text” to see the full text of the bill and the list of sponsors, or select “Bill Docket” to see the status of the bill. We’ve written a section at the end of this report to help you decipher the Bill Docket information.
We have expanded our Letters to the Editor section to include The Brookliner.
Hot Topics This Week:
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), we don’t want federal grants, federal laws don’t apply to us, Citizens United, kindergarten, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, earmarks, NH Rail Transit Authority, guns, immigration, homeschooling, abortion, schools, health care reform, education funding, toll plaza, sending jobs overseas, more guns, parental notification, physician-assisted suicide, signs in foreign languages, operating businesses on Sunday, electronic tracking devices, airport scanners, early release and monitoring of prisoners, vaccinations, dropout age, electing a US Senator, medical marijuana, divorce, yet more guns, affirmative action, and Rep. Brunelle.
The following bills were passed in the House and sent to the Senate:
The following bills were passed in the House, but then sent to a second House Committee:
HB519—Repeal of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The vote was 246-104, but then the bill was sent to the House Finance Committee. Rep. Flanagan voted to pass, Rep. Belanger, Drisko, and Gargasz voted to defeat.
HB590—Declaring most federal grants to states to be unconstitutional and establishing a committee to review grants received by the state. The House stripped out a statement that “acceptance by the state of New Hampshire [is] an unconstitutional surrender of its sovereignty contrary to Part First, Article 7 of the New Hampshire constitution.” The vote was 228-111, but then the bill was to the House Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to pass, Rep. Gargasz voted to defeat, Rep. Drisko did not vote.
HCR19—Resolution declaring most federal laws to be “unconstitutional and unenforceable” (see last issue for excerpts). The vote was 223-108, but the bill was then sent to the House Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to pass, Rep. Gargasz and Drisko did not vote.
The following bills were defeated in the House:
HCR1—Concurrent resolution urging Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment overturning the Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to make unlimited donations on election campaigns. The vote was 280-93. Rep. Belanger, Drisko, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted to defeat.
HB631—Repealing the requirement that all school districts offer public kindergarten. The vote was 213-134. Rep. Belanger voted to pass, Rep. Drisko, Flanagan and Gargasz voted to defeat.
HCR23—Resolution supporting federal earmarks to support the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The vote was 241-89. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz voted to defeat, Rep. Drisko did not vote.
HR9—Resolution supporting federal earmarks to support programs involving public safety. The vote was 238-71. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz voted to defeat, Rep. Drisko did not vote.
HR8—Urging Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment overturning the Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to make unlimited donations on election campaigns. Defeated on a voice vote. (but see HCR1 above)
The following bills were voted to recommend Ought to Pass in a House Committee:
HB218—Repeals the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. The vote was 11-5.
The following bills were voted to recommend Inexpedient to Legislate in a House Committee:
HB194—Allows loaded guns & cocked crossbows in cars, boats, snowmobiles, etc. The vote was 12-4.
HB644—authorizes state police to enforce federal immigration laws, similar to Arizona. The vote was 13-0. The bill will be placed on the consent calendar.
The following bills were retained in a House Committee until next year:
HB545—Removing the Department of Educations ability to make rules governing homeschooling.
HB301—A complete rewrite of the laws governing homeschooling.
HB595—Another complete rewrite of the laws governing homeschooling. (Sen. Luther is a cosponsor)
HB217—Adding “unborn child” to the definition of “other” for purposes of murder and manslaughter.
CACR8—Constitutional Amendment to give the legislature the sole power to authorize the operation of a school.
The following bills were voted to recommend Ought to Pass in a Senate Committee:
SB148—Ordering the Attorney General to join the lawsuit against federal Health Care Reform.
SB183—Establishing a new education funding formula. (Sen. Luther is a cosponsor)
The following bills are to be retained in a Senate Committee until next year:
Note: this process is different from the House, the full Senate must vote to retain bills while House Committees are empowered to retain bills on their own.
SB181—Relative to distribution of funding for education.
SB150—Authorizing individuals and companies to purchase health insurance from out of state.
The Next House Session—Wednesday Mar 2nd
The following bills will be voted on by the full House. OTP means to “pass” and ITL means to “defeat”. See Terms and Abbreviations below.
HB644—authorizes state police to enforce federal immigration laws, similar to Arizona. ITL
HB471—adds a toll plaza at Nashua Exit 1. ITL
HR10—Urging Congress to remove tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas. ITL
HB194—Allows loaded guns & cocked crossbows in cars, boats, snowmobiles, etc. Committee recommendation is ITL 12-4.
Hearings—Monday Feb 28th
House Judiciary Committee
- HB329—requiring parental notification before a minor may have an abortion. LOB room 206 10:00am
- HB513—”Death with Dignity” allows physician-assisted suicide. LOB room 206 1:00pm
Hearings —Tuesday Mar 1st
House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee
- HB577—Requires that any business that posts a sign in a language other than English must post the sign in English, Russian, Chinese, French, Persian and Arabic. LOB room 302 11:30am
- HB617—Repealing the prohibitions on Sunday business activities. Under current law, as it exists on the books, almost all business activities and sporting events are prohibited on Sundays. This law was originally created in 1860, but has been amended numerous times in recent years. It was most recently amended in 2007 to remove the restriction that public dancing could only occur after 2pm and only in licensed ballrooms, hotels and restaurants. LOB room 302 1:15pm
- HB445—Prohibits the use of electronic tracking devices to track an individual without the consent of that person or a court order. LOB room 302 2:30pm
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee
- HB628—Declares that use of airport scanners by TSA agents is sexual assault. LOB room 204 11:15am
- HB524—Excluding persons convicted of violent crimes from the early release and monitoring program established last year by SB500. LOB room 204 2:30pm
House Education Committee
- HB422—Prohibits public schools from administering vaccinations of any kind. LOB room 205 11:30am
- HB429—Lowering the dropout age from 18 back to 16. LOB room 205 2:00pm
House Election Law Committee (Rep. Dick Drisko is a member of this Committee)
- HB421—Provides that the NH House and the NH Senate will each nominate 1 candidate for US Senate from each party and that no other names shall appear on the primary ballot. A candidate not selected by the House or Senate may only win their party’s primary nomination as a write-in candidate. LOB room 308 2:15pm
House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee
- HB442—Allowing use of medical marijuana. Reps Hall 10:00am.
Hearings —Thursday Mar 3rd
House Children and Family Law Committee (Rep. Carolyn Gargasz is a member of this committee)
- HB587—Severely restricts the grounds for divorce when the couple has minor children. The “no fault divorce” option would be removed, thus a couple with a child under the age of 18 would only be allowed to divorce in cases of abuse or neglect. LOB room 206 9:30am
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee
- HB207—Would allow the use of deadly force in any situation in which a felony was committed against the victim. Current law allows the use of deadly force to defend against the use of deadly force, burglary, rape, kidnapping, or the commission of any felony while in the victim’s house. Note that “a felony” constitutes a very large array of non-violent crimes, which could include (under other bills being considered) federal agents enforcing federal gun laws. LOB room 204 10:00am
- HB210—Allows the use of deadly force to defend yourself or a 3rd party from the use of deadly force. Current law allows the use of deadly force to defend yourself if there is not an option for retreating in complete safety. This bill says that, even if you could retreat from a situation in complete safety, you still have the option of using deadly force if you want to. LOB room 204 10:00am
- HB536—Allows anyone to carry a firearm, concealed or not, without a license. LOB room 204 1:30pm
House Executive Departments and Administration Committee
- HB623 Prohibits Affirmative Action programs in state government and in the college and university system. LOB room 306 11:00am
House Legislative Administration Committee
- Work session on effort to remove Rep. Michael Brunelle (D-Manchester) because he introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage. LOB room 104 2:00pm
Hearings —Friday Mar 4th
House Special Committee on Education Funding Reform
- HCR26—Resolution declaring the Claremont decision to be “no binding on the legislative and executive branches”. LOB room 207 9:00am
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.
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.
How to Read a Bill Docket
A bill docket contains detailed information at the status of a bill. To see the docket for a given bill, first go to http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/quick_search.html and enter the bill number, then select “Submit”. Selecting the “Bill Docket” button will present you with the docket.
Here is an actual Bill docket taken from the state web site:
1. 01/24/2011 H Introduced 1/6/2011 and Referred to State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs; HJ 11, PG. 192
2. 02/01/2011 H ==CANCELLED== Public Hearing: 2/17/2011 2:00 PM LOB 203
3. 02/03/2011 H ==RESCHEDULED== Public Hearing: 2/10/2011 2:00 PM LOB 203 ==Executive Session to Follow==
4. 02/15/2011 H Majority Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment #0293h(NT) for Feb 23 (Vote 8-2; RC); HC 15, PG.279
6. 02/15/2011 H Minority Committee Report: Inexpedient to Legislate; HC 15, PG.279-280
7. 02/23/2011 H Amendment #0293h (New Title) Adopted, VV
8. 02/23/2011 H Ought to Pass with Amendment #0293h(NT): MA RC 228-111
9. 02/23/2011 H Referred to Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification
The formatting on the state web site looks better. We have numbered the entries in the docket to make them easy to refer to. The docket uses many abbreviations and can be difficult to parse. Each entry starts with a date that the entry was made followed by “H” for an action taken in the House or “S” for an action taken in the Senate.
Line 1 indicates that the bill was introduced and sent to the House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee. This is reflected in House Journal 11 on page 192.
Line 2 indicates that a public hearing had been scheduled for Feb 17th, but the hearing was rescheduled.
Line 3 indicates that the public hearing was rescheduled for Feb 10th and that the Committee may go into Executive Session to make decisions on the bill immediately after the hearing.
Line 4 indicates that, on Feb 15th the majority of the committee voted to recommend “ought to pass with amendment”. The bill was to be taken up by the entire House on Feb 23rd. The Committee vote was 8-2 in favor of passing a roll call was made (meaning that each member of the committee went on record with their vote). Unfortunately, committee roll call votes are not available on the web, so you would need to contact the committee to get that information. The bill was included in House Calendar #15 on page 279 to publicly announce that the House would be voting on the bill.
Line 5 provides a link to the text of the proposed amendment and states that the amendment text was also published in House Calendar #15.
Line 6 indicates that some members of the committee disagreed with the majority and is urging the House to vote Inexpedient to Legislate (i.e., to defeat the bill). Their recommendation will also appear in House Calendar #15.
Line 7 indicates that the full House voted to amend the bill with the recommended amendment. “VV” indicates that this was a voice vote and not a recorded vote. Adopting an amendment means only that the text of the bill was changed, it does not mean that the was passed.
Line 8 indicates that the House passed the bill as amended. There was a roll call vote (i.e., the vote was recorded). The final vote was 228-111. You can click on the “RC” hyperlink to find out how each legislator voted.
Line 9 indicates that, after the bill was “passed” by the House, it was sent to a second house committee rather than being sent to the Senate. This means that the bill will have to come back to the full House for a second vote, after the second committee has made a recommendation. It will only move on the Senate if it is passed a second time. If this line were missing, that that would indicate that the bill was sent to the Senate.
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