NH Legislature This Week—April 2, 2012
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quote of the Week
“Bill O’Brien’s actions today are a corruption of our constitution and the legislative process… This was a tyrannical abuse of power.” Rep. Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth).
“[Art.] 11. [Small Towns; Representation by Districts.] When the population of any town or ward, according to the last federal census, is within a reasonable deviation from the ideal population for one or more representative seats, the town or ward shall have its own district of one or more representative seats. The apportionment shall not deny any other town or ward membership in one non-floterial representative district. When any town, ward, or unincorporated place has fewer than the number of inhabitants necessary to entitle it to one representative, the legislature shall form those towns, wards, or unincorporated places into representative districts which contain a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle each district so formed to one or more representatives for the entire district. In forming the districts, the boundaries of towns, wards, and unincorporated places shall be preserved and contiguous. The excess number of inhabitants of district may be added to the excess number of inhabitants of other districts to form at-large or floterial districts conforming to acceptable deviations. The legislature shall form the representative districts at the regular session following every decennial federal census.” NH Constitution as amended in 2006 by over 70% of the voters.
Next week, it’s all about the hearings
Now that crossover has been reached, neither the House nor the Senate will be meeting next week. Instead, the House and Senate committees will be holding public hearings on the bills that were passed by the other chamber. Starting here, almost all of the bills that will be discussed in future newsletters will be bills that were passed by either the House or the Senate, so these are the bills that have the best chance to become law this year.
Gambling on gambling
Casino advocates were dealt a sharp setback when the House defeated, 236-108, a bill to allow the creation of four casinos in New Hampshire. The efforts in favor of and opposed to the bill were bipartisan, with the Republicans evenly split while the Democrats mostly opposed the bill by a 2-1 ratio.
Republicans: we don’t care about the will of the people or the constitution
On Wednesday, the House and Senate both voted to override Governor Lynch’s veto of the Republican’s House redistricting plan. The vote came only two days after House Speaker William O’Brien told the press that the veto override would not take place that week. In a surprise move, he stopped the House in the middle of session on Wednesday, ordered the Democrats and the members of the public out of the chamber, and held a Republican caucus in the House chamber. Once the doors were reopened and the Democrats and public were allowed back in, he announced that they would be voting on the House Redistricting bill despite the fact that it had not been published in the calendar. The Democrats asked for a 15 minute recess so that they could caucus, but the Speaker rejected their request and the vote was taken up immediately. The veto override passed on a partisan vote of 246 to 112. Rep. Belanger, Drisko, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted to pass the Republican redistricting bill.
In his veto message, Governor Lynch points cites the fact that the Republican plan blatantly ignores the Constitutional Amendment that was just passed in 2006 with the support of over 70% of the voters. That amendment states that any town that is large enough to have it’s own House Rep should be considered it’s own district. It also says that towns that are not large enough must be grouped with other small towns until they form a district that is large enough to have their own rep.
Under the NH Constitution, large towns like Brookline must have it’s own Representative. Mason and Greeneville combined have enough population to have their own representatives. However, the legislature has now voted repeatedly to ignore the will of 70% of the voters and to ignore the explicit text of the NH Constitution.
All of the Republican plans (which are now law, although likely to be challenged in court) involve some of the most grotesque gerrymandering seen in years. They create a House district the combines New Boston (pop. 5,321) and Mont Vernon (pop. 2,409) with Milford (pop. 15,115) and Hollis (pop. 7,684). They create a Senate district that includes parts of Nashua and stretches out to Rindge, in Cheshire County. They also create an Executive Council district that literally looks like a dragon and includes Keene, Concord and Portsmouth along with a thin line of towns between the three cities.
House votes to heavily regulate pregnancy
The House has passed two major pieces of legislation to place restrictions on women’s right to terminate a pregnancy. HB1659 requires doctors to tell their patients, among other things, that terminating a pregnancy can cause breast cancer, even though there have been many conclusive studies showing that there is no link and the assertion has been largely rejected by the medical community. The House has also passed HB1660, which would make it illegal in almost all circumstances to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks. Both bills now go the Senate.
Last week, the House voted on the following bills:
HB1350 would require that future amendments to the NH Constitution capitalize certain specific words including “Christian” “God” and “Marriage”. The House passed the bill on a voice vote.
HB1274 transfers ownership of the McAuliffe-Shepard discovery center to a private company. The House passed an amended version which requires that the private company be a nonprofit on a voice vote.
HB1285 repeals the state art fund. The House sent the bill to study 210 -76 , effectively defeating the bill. Rep. Belanger, Drisko, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted to send the bill to study.
CACR8 is a constitutional amendment that gives the legislature the sole power to authorize public and private schools, removes the requirement that the state provide funding for public education. The House tabled the bill 299 – 55. The vote was not recorded. While the bill could be brought back later, this effectively defeats the bill.
HB1692 eliminates the chancellor’s office in the university system, severely cuts the central administration, and shifts costs and duties to the schools in the University System. The House passed the bill 199 – 95. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Flanagan voted in favor; Rep. Gargasz did not vote.
HB1607 would allow businesses to make “donations” to private and religious schools and homeschooled students and would be able to take 85% of the donation off of their business taxes as a tax credit. The House amended and passed the bill 173 -127. Rep. Drisko and Flanagan voted in favor; Rep. Belanger voted against; Rep. Gargasz was did not vote.
HB1476 prohibits the enforcement of out-of-state laws, rules and codes not approved by the NH legislature. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB593 allows 4 casinos to be built in New Hampshire with the revenues generated being used to reduce business taxes. The House defeated the bill 236 -108. The vote was not recorded.
HB1659 requires that women seeking to terminate a pregnancy must be given graphic and scientifically invalid information before the procedure. The House amended the bill to remove some (but not all) of the provisions making non-compliance a criminal offense and passed the bill 185 – 138. Rep. Flanagan voted in favor of the bill; Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Gargasz against the bill.
HB1560 would allow the state to take over administration of Medicare in NH and to overturn federal health care laws. The House passed the bill 221 – 131. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Flanagan voted in favor, Rep. Gargasz voted against.
HB1727 would return an additional $333,000 to the federal government. The money was given to the state to implement a health care exchange, as required by federal law. The state has already returned $667,000 of the $1M grant. The House passed the bill 218 – 79. Rep. Belanger, Drisko and Flanagan voted in favor; Rep. Gargasz did not vote.
HB1653 allows medical professionals to refuse service to people if they “conscientiously object” to provide the care. The bill was tabled on an unrecorded vote of 238 -59, effectively defeating the bill.
HB1660 prohibits pregnancy termination after 20 weeks. The House passed the bill 190 – 109. Rep. Belanger voted in favor; Rep. Drisko voted against; Rep. Flanagan and Gargasz did not vote.
HB1658 limits financial assistance to mothers who have additional children while receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The House effectively defeated the bill by removing this provision from the bill on a voice vote.
Last week, the Senate will voted on the following bill
SB409 allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The Senate passed the bill 31-11. Sen. Luther voted against the bill.
Public Hearings Scheduled for the Wednesday, April 4th
Senate Commerce Committee:
HB 1645-FN, relative to decertification of a bargaining unit (labor union). 9am, room 100.
HB 1677-FN, “right to work”. 9:30am, room 100.
Senate Internal Affairs:
CACR 13, Constitutional amendment to prohibit income taxes. 1:10pm, room 100.
Public Hearings Scheduled for the Thursday, April 5th
Senate Executive Departments and Administration (Sen. Luther is on this Committee)
HB 383, prohibiting the collection of certain agency fees from state employees who are not members of the state employees’ association. 9am, room 100.
Senate Health and Human Services
HB 228-FN, prohibiting the use of public funds for abortion services. 1pm, room 100.
HB 1440, relative to driver education. 10:30am, LOB room 306.
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 2nd and 4th 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