NH Legislature This Week—January 17, 2011

NH Legislature This Week—January 17, 2011


Hearings that had been scheduled for last Wednesday have been rescheduled due to the snow storm.


Last week’s hearing on a bill to deal with bedbugs have been rescheduled for Tuesday.  A firestorm erupted when the chairman of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee declared the hearing to be over immediately after the sponsor opened the hearing.  None of the people attending the hearing was allowed to testify and the chairman expressed his opposition to the bill.  There were no other bills scheduled to be heard that day, they just ended the hearing to have lunch.  The chairman was reprimanded by the House leadership for this unheard of breach of protocol.


Speaker O’Brien has created 3 special committees to work on specific issues:  the Special Committee on Education Funding Reform, the Special Committee on Public Employee Pensions Reform, and the Special Committee on Redistricting.


The Statehouse will be closed Monday for observance of Martin Luther King Civil Rights Day.


Hot Topics This Week:

*We can ignore federal laws and arrest anyone who tries to enforce them*, reducing education funding, allowing certain candidates for office can handle the ballots before they have been certified, creating laws by initiative petition, electing the legislature on odd numbered years,  recalling US Senators, industrial hemp,  unemployment compensation, minimum wage, warrant articles, public television funding


Corrections from Last Week:

SB6 “relative to amendments to warrant articles” is actually SB16.


Also, we stated that SB16 “relative to amendments to warrant articles”  was being cosponsored by all but one Republican Senator.  That is not correct, it is SB-1 the repeal of evergreen that is sponsored by all Senate Republicans except for Sen. Prescott.


Finally, we somehow managed to overlook one of the most important hearings that took place last week—SB1, which would repeal the “evergreen” law in which teachers, police, etc., if a new contract is not negotiated, will continue to receive raises based on their experience and seniority.  Previously, when contracts were not negotiated, salaries would remain the same, which would provide the town with no incentive to negotiate a new contract.  It was common practice for teachers, police and other public employees to go for 4 or 5 years without a contract in many towns.  Public employees are forbidden by state law from going on strike.  Given that 18 of the 24 Senators are cosponsoring SB1, passage in the Senate is certain.


Votes Cast Last Week:


SB1 (repeal of evergreen) was passed by the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs committee 4-1 (Sen. Jim Luther is a cosponsor)


SB16 (warrant articles) was passed by the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs committee with an amendment 5-0.  The amendment states that changing the dollar amount of a warrant article is not a change to the subject matter.   Thus, this bill will now make it illegal to change the subject matter of a warrant article, but if a warrant article wants to fund something, then zeroing out the dollar amount, which would make the warrant article meaningless, is OK.


Hearings—Tuesday Jan 18th

House Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee

  • HB125 “relative to lawful commerce in firearms, including manufacture and sale, in New Hampshire”.  This bill states that any firearms or ammunition manufactured or sold in New Hampshire is not subject to any federal laws.  If further states that any state employee who attempts to enforce federal laws is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and that any federal employee that attempts to enforce federal laws is guilty of a Class B Felony.  The primary sponsor of HB125 is Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont), who is the chair of the committee and a member of the Republican leadership.  The other cosponsors are Rep. Timothy Comerford (R-Fremont, vice chair of the Legislative Administration Committee), Rep. J.R.Hoell (R-Dunbarton), and Rep. William O’Connor (R-Barrington).  10:30am LOB room 206.


House Education Committee

  • HB34 “relative to the distribution of total education grants to municipalities in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years ”.  This bill reduce the amount of funding provided to local school districts by pushing back the date for full implementation of the current funding formula.  10:30 LOB room 207.


House Election Law Committee (Rep. Dick Drisko is on this committee)

  • HB87 “relative to disqualification of moderators ”.  This bill would allow town moderators who are also candidates for public office to handle the ballots after they have been counted by the voting machines, but before the results of the machines have been validated.  Town moderators run the elections on election day.  Note that Rep. Belanger is the town moderator of Hollis.  (Rep. Jim Belanger is the primary sponsor and Rep. Dick Drisko is a cosponsor).  10:45am LOB room 308.
  • CACR3 “relating to initiative petitions. Providing that referenda to enact laws may be initiated by petition ”.  A constitutional amendment that would allow citizens to gather signatures which would force questions on the ballot during elections in which people could vote on legislation that would otherwise be made by the legislature.  If you think that this is a good idea, then imagine what the elections will look like when outside groups are spending millions of dollars to call you night and day and are putting up even more signs along the road and running even more negative TV ads to get their legislation passed.  11:00am LOB room 308.
  • CACR1 “relating to the election of state and county officers.  Providing that state and county officers shall be elected in odd-numbered years. ”  As it says, this constitutional amendment proposed that we have an election every year with the state legislature being elected on odd numbered years and the federal offices being elected on even numbered years.  Apparently some people like the signs along the road and getting barraged with calls and mail so much that they would like to experience it every year.  2:00pm LOB room 308.
  • HB73 “establishing a process for recall of United States Senators from New Hampshire ”  This would allow a US Senator to be recalled if both houses of the legislature vote to put a recall question on the ballot.  A majority vote of the voters would recall the Senator.  2:30pm LOB room 308


House Environment and Agriculture Committee

  • HB 101 “relative to industrial hemp and establishing an industrial hemp special program fund ”  Authorizes the production of industrial hemp in NH.  2:00pm LOB room 303.


House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee (Rep. Jack Flanagan sits on this committee)

  • * HB26 “clarifying the definition of gross misconduct for purposes of unemployment compensation. ”  People who lose their employment may not receive unemployment benefits if they were guilty of certain offenses such as arson, sabotage, assault, etc.  This bill will remove the provision that says that benefits can be denied if the person steals more than $500 and adds a provision that benefits can be denied for “dishonesty”.  No further explanation or definition is provided as to what would constitute “dishonesty”.  1:45PM LOB room 307 (rescheduled from last Wednesday)
  • HB133 “relative to the minimum wage” Repeal’s NH’s minimum wage.  Currently, the NH minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage, $7.25/hr. 2:15pm LOB room 037


House Municipal and County Government Committee (Rep. Jim Belanger sits on this committee)

  • HB77 “relative to amendments to warrant articles. ”  In SB2 towns, there is a deliberative session which can change the text of the warrant articles before the articles are voted on.  The text can not be changed during the actual vote itself.  What has typically happened is that a warrant article was added to spend some money on a project, then at the deliberative session a tiny number of people changed the wording to allocate zero dollars for the project.  Thus, when it gets voted on, it doesn’t matter if it passes or not, the project won’t be funded.  Last year when there were town warrant articles calling for a constitutional amendment on marriage equality, a few were reworded at deliberative sessions.  There is another bill, SB16 which is identical and is cosponsored by all but one of the Senate Republicans.  2:00PM LOB room 301 (rescheduled from last Wednesday).  The committee with hold an executive meeting on this bill at 1:30pm and may vote on it.


Hearings—Wednesday Jan 19th

House Finance Committee

  • HB113 ”prohibiting the university system of New Hampshire from using state appropriations to fund public television. ”  2:00PM LOB room 210 (rescheduled from last Wednesday)


Note: “LOB” refers to the Legislative Office Building, which is immediately behind the statehouse.  Most committee hearings are held in this building.


Hollis, Brookline, Mason Reps:


Sen. Jim Luther   P: (603)271-2246   Jim.luther@leg.state.nh.us

Rep. Jim Belanger   P: (603)465-2301   Jim.belanger@leg.state.nh.us

Rep. Dick Drisko   P: (603)465-2517   driskorb@aol.com

Rep. Jack Flanagan   P: (603)672-7175   Jack.flanagan@leg.state.nh.us

Rep. Carolyn Gargasz   P: (603)465-7463   cgargasz@cs.com