NH Legislature This Week—January 30, 2012
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“In the 20 years I’ve been running campaigns at every level, I can tell you that this year, more than any other, will hinge on the party who best motivates their base and gets them to the polls on Election Day. We have one issue this year that will motivate social and cultural conservatives to go to the polls for Republican candidates—traditional marriage.” Mike Dennehy, senior Republican strategist and paid lobbyist for the National Organization for Marriage.
“The general court finds that New Hampshire Republicans are united by our belief in God, individual liberty, personal responsibility, places of worship, communities, and volunteerism. The general court also finds and recognizes the history of our country, from the Mayflower Compact, Revolutionary War, the Federalist Papers, and other speeches and writings of our Founding Fathers, is rooted in the belief in God and the teachings of the Bible.” Intent and Justification section of HB1712, which would require the State Department of Education to create elective Bible classes for grades 9-12.
The House and Senate did not convene last week. They will be meeting in joint session on Tuesday to hear Governor Lynch’s State of the State address. They will be meeting on Wednesday of this week.
The House has been doing things differently
Long time Statehouse observers will notice many differences in the way that things are done in the House compared to what has been done by long standing tradition. One of those is the Speaker regularly replacing members of Committee temporarily just for the purpose of casting a vote on a particular bill, to change the committee’s recommendation.
Another difference is that it has long been not allowed by House rules for members to introduce the same or similar bills twice in one session. If you introduce a bill and it’s defeated, it’s very unlikely that the exact same people are going to vote differently the next year. However, there is no such rule in place now and we are seeing a barrage of bills that are exactly the same as the bills that didn’t make it last year. This new practice significantly increases the work load of the legislature and also increases costs significantly. Each bill that is introduced typically costs around $2,000 when considering all of the legal and support costs that go into the legislative process.
Constitutional Rights and Wrongs
All too often, we see a bill that really makes us wonder, but we came across a gem while putting together this weeks newsletter. HB1542 would create a law that states “A citizen may seek injunctive relief or maintain a civil action, or both, to recover damages for intentional violations of the state constitution’s bill of rights by any governmental entity and its agents in the superior court by bench or by jury trial.” OK, so why is this particularly interesting?
The bill is sponsored by four House Reps and one Senator—Rep. Stella Tremblay (R-Auburn), Rep. Andrew Manuse (R-Derry), Rep. Paul Ingbretson (R-Pike), Rep. Donald McClarren (R-Nashua Ward 2) and Senator Raymond White (R-Bedford). All four Representatives voted to close the House Gallery to the public during the debate on the State Budget. This was after Rep. Terri Norelli read aloud the following provision in the NH Constitution: “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.”
Bills of Particular Note
There are several bills listed below, but we want to call you attention to a few in particular.
HB1274, as amended by a committee, would sell the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to “a private operator”. The center is currently a public museum and planetarium named after Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord who was to be the first teacher in space, but died in the tragic explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. The center is also named after Allan Shepard who was the first American in space (Freedom 7 Mercury capsule) and was the commander of the Apollo 14 moon landing. Shepard was born in Derry.
Although they look to be headed to defeat, you still have to wonder why someone would introduce bills to legalize alcohol consumption and public drunkenness by teenagers, not allow a victim to bring charges against someone for violating a court protective order, or sell the naming rights of a bridges, overpasses and exits to the highest bidder. Viagra Bridge? No, thanks.
Committees will be holding public hearings this week on bills to end sobriety checkpoints, establish Bible classes in the High Schools, make it virtually impossible for truant officers to return children to school, make it much more difficult for NH to receive Federal Disaster Aid, and to allow 15 1/2 year olds to obtain a drivers license after taking an online course (because that would be so difficult to cheat on) and with no exam involving actual driving.
On a lighter note, we also have SB339, which would establish Loon Appreciation Day. How… appropriate.
Committee Votes on “New” bill this year:
CACR25 is a Constitutional Amendment which removes all references to the NH Supreme Court and the NH Superior Court from the NH Constitution and adds a statement that the legislature shall have sole control over all courts. If passed, the courts would exist only at the leisure of legislation passed by the legislature with whatever restrictions the legislature cares to place on them. The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend defeating the bill 16-1.
HB1274, as originally written, would have abolished the Department of Cultural Resources and transferred it’s responsibilities to other departments. However, the committee recommends rewording the bill to instead sell the McAuliffe-Shepard discovery center in Concord to “a private operator”. The committee vote was to recommend passing the bill as amended 15-0.
HB1285 Repeals the state Art Fund. The committee recommends passing the bill 8-7.
HB1621 has the title “repealing certain statutes”. Among it’s provisions is one to legalize alcohol consumption and intoxication by teenagers. Currently it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. The committee recommends defeating the bill 17-0.
HB1608 would place restrictions on a police officer’s ability to charge someone with violating a court protective order. The bill would also remove the current provision that allows the plaintiff to bring a criminal complaint if the protective order is violated. The committee voted to recommend defeating the bill 13-0.
HB1400 Authorizes the Department of Transportation to sell the naming rights of bridges, overpasses, and exits to the highest bidder. The committee voted 13-0 to recommend that the bill be sent to Interim Study (which would effectively defeat it).
Committee Hearings for this coming week:
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee
HB1452 Prohibits the creation of sobriety checkpoints. Thursday, Feb 2, 11:00AM LOB room 204.
HB1526 Legalizes possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Thursday, Feb 2, 1:00PM LOB room 204.
HB1527 Legalizes the cultivation of marijuana. Thursday, Feb 2, 1:30PM LOB room 204.
HB1706 Expands the death penalty to include deaths caused by robberies, heinous acts of torture or physical abuse, or crimes of any nature (but involve a death) that involve more than one person. Tuesday, Jan 31, 10:00AM LOB room 204.
House Education Committee
HB1382 Requires truant officers to obtain a warrant or a parent’s permission before returning a child to school. Thursday, Feb 2, 1:00PM LOB room 207.
HB1712 Requires that the State Board of Education establish elective Bible Study classes for grades 9-12. Thursday, Feb 2, 10:00AM LOB room 207.
HB1713 Abolished the Department of Education. Thursday, Feb 2, 10:30AM LOB room 207.
House Executive Departments and Administration Committee
HB1218 Restricts the State from receiving Federal Disaster Aid unless the aid has specifically been approved by both houses of the legislature as well as the Executive Council. Current law requires the approval of the Executive Council. Thursday, Feb 2, 2:00PM LOB room 306.
House Judiciary Committee
HB1506 Makes public employee personnel files public through the right-to-know laws. Thursday, Feb 2, 4:00PM LOB room 208.
House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee
HCR39 House Resolution urging Congress to privatize all aspects of social security. Thursday, Feb 2, 1:00PM LOB room 203.
House Transportation Committee
HB1440 Allows student drivers to obtain a license by completing an online course. Students taking this option would NOT be required to take an actual driving exam. Also, it would allow students to obtain a license at age 15 1/2 rather than the current 16. Tuesday, Jan 31, 2:15PM LOB room 203.
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