NH Legislature This Week—March 12, 2012
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“Sometimes, when you allow conscientious objection or religious freedom to play in individual decisions, then the temptation is always to draw out what I call the ‘hypothetical horrible’ and say, ‘What if this, what if that?’ but those hypothetical horrible really don’t show up.” House Speaker, Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) on the House passage of a bill to prevent the state from approving any funding for any organization (such as hospitals and Planned Parenthood) who also provide pregnancy termination services. Federal laws requires the state to approve spending federal funds to reimburse hospitals that provide Medicaid. New Hampshire currently receives $700 million per year in Medicaid funding.
Brookline Democrats’ Spiffy new face on the web
We have been working on a major renovation of our web site, and it is now live. Check out BrooklineDemocrats.org for the latest news and events and to read back issues of “NH Legislature This Week”.
Senator Jackie Cilley and Ann Kuster are coming to Brookline
Join us for a spaghetti supper on Friday, March 23rd 7PM at the Brookline Community Church for supper with Senator Jackie Cilley, candidate for Governor and Ann Kuster, candidate for Congress. Tickets are available from our web site, BrooklineDemocrats.org, or reservations can be made by sending an email to BrooklineDemocrats@gmail.com. Tickets are $13 for an individual or $25 for a family.
Running the House Marathon
The House was in session all day Wednesday and Thursday last week and still didn’t get to about 50 bills that they had been planning to vote on. This week, the House will meet on Wednesday, Thursday, and, if necessary, Friday to finish the bills from last week. Below you will find the results of the votes taken last week and the list of bills that we are following that have yet to be taken up.
House votes Legalizing Marijuana
In a surprise, the House voted 162 to 161 to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Possession of such an amount would still qualify for a fine of up to $100, but would not be considered a misdemeanor as it is now. House Speaker Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) did not vote on the bill, but could have cast the deciding vote to defeat the measure. House Speakers traditionally do not vote on bills, but may sometimes vote to break or cause a tie. Rep. Jim Belanger voted to pass the bill. Rep. Jack Flanagan and Rep. Carolyn Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Dick Drisko could not be in the legislature that day.
Congressional Districts redrawn—Bass is not happy
For months, Republican leaders have been haggling in back rooms over how to redraw NH’s congressional districts. Rep. Charlie Bass, who represents Nashua and the western and northern portions of the state (including Brookline) had been pushing to move some of the more Democratic towns into Rep. Frank Guinta’s district and to more some of the more reliably Republican towns from Guinta to Bass. Congressman Guinta has apparently won out and the Republican plan, just now starting to come into public view, makes few changes in the district lines.
The new plan adds Merrimack, New Hampton and Hart’s Location to Congressman Bass’s district (CD2), while moving Allenstown, Atkinson, Chichester, Epsom, Loudon, Pittsfield and Shelburne to Congressman Guinta’s district (CD1). The net effect technically makes our district, CD2, slightly more Democratic, and CD1 becomes slightly more Republican, but the differences are miniscule. CD2 is a Democratic leaning district while CD1 is a toss-up district. In 2010, Charlie Bass(R) defeated Ann Kuster(D) by only 3,550 votes in an election in which Republicans won landslide victories.
Rail Study Derailed
The Executive Council has voted against allowing a federal grant to be used to study the extension of rail service into the Nashua area. The $3.2 million grant was awarded by the federal government, but like more federal funding measures requires the approval of the state even if no state funds are being spent. The study has the strong backing of businesses in the area (including the Nashua and Manchester Chambers of Commerce) who see the prospect of having people traveling up from the Boston area to take advantage of sales-tax free shopping. Councilor David Wheeler (R-Milford), who represents the Nashua area (including Brookline) voted to refuse the grant.
The House has voted on the following bills:
Note: Rep. Drisko could not be in the legislature for these votes.
HB1452 would prohibit sobriety checkpoints. The bill was defeated 226-111. Rep. Belanger and Gargasz voted to defeat the bill. Rep. Flanagan voted to pass the bill.
HB1344 would prohibit public employees from running for the legislature. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB1546 would allow employers to no longer cover contraception as part of their health care plans. The amendment was adopted 187-152 and the bill was passed 196-150. Rep. Belanger voted in favor of the amendment and the bill. Rep. Flanagan voted against the amendment, but then voted to pass the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against the amendment and voted to defeat the bill.
CACR11 is a constitutional amendment that would have judges serve 7 year terms instead of the current lifetime appointment. A majority of the House voted to pass this amendment, 218-120. However a constitutional amendment requires at least 240 votes to pass, so the amendment failed. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to pass the amendment. Rep. Gargasz voted against the amendment.
HB1131 creates a study commission to determine how to revise the laws “if the supreme court and superior court were abolished as constitutional courts”. The House passed the bill on a voice vote.
HB1167 would repeal the requirement that public schools hold sessions for 180 days per year. The House Education Committee is recommending an amendment that would keep the 180 day requirement, but repeal the requirement that any equivalency in terms of hours would need to be approved by the Department of Education. The House passed the amended version on a voice vote.
HB1713 abolishes the Department of Education. The House Education committee recommend that the bill be defeated 16-1. The House defeated the bill 276-44. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz voted to defeat the bill.
HB1595 would prohibit a voter from changing their party status for 90 days after a primary. It says that if you vote in a party primary, then you may not change your status back to undeclared for at least 90 days. The House defeated the bill 195-124. Rep. Belanger and Gargasz voted to defeat the bill. Rep. Flanagan voted to pass the bill.
HB1214 would ban corn-based ethanol as a gasoline additive. The House passed the bill on a voice vote.
HB1277 requires federal law enforcement agencies to notify New Hampshire law enforcement agencies before doing an investigation or enforcing any law in New Hampshire. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HR25 House Resolution declaring that the NH Legislature has the power to overturn any federal law or ruling of the US Supreme Court. The House passed the resolution on a voice vote.
HB1126 would require that only the NH House and NH Senate could place names on the ballot for election to the United States Senate. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB1348 would exempt poker from the gambling laws by declaring it to be “mind sports”. The House defeated the bill 235-73. The vote was not recorded.
HB1318 would allow anyone 18 or older to carry a gun openly or concealed, loaded or unloaded without a license. The House put the bill “on the table” with un recorded vote of 246-73. The bill could be brought back for a vote later in the session, otherwise it will automatically be defeated.
HB1341 would allow the unauthorized firing of guns in compact parts of cities. The House passed this bill 196-123. Rep. Belanger and Gargasz voted to pass this bill. Rep. Flanagan voted to defeat the bill.
HB1511 would allow felons to possess certain firearms including a black jack, brass knuckles, sword cane, billy clubs, etc. The House defeated the bill 261-58. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz voted to defeat the bill.
HB1297 would prohibit the creation of a health care exchange and would prohibit any state agency from planning for the creation of an exchange. The federal Affordable Patient Care Act requires each state to set up a health care exchange. If a state does not actively plan a health care exchange, then a federally mandated default exchange will be created. The House passed this change 219-94. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted to support the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against the bill.
HCR41 is a resolution urging Congress to void the grant that the Department of Health and Human Services provided to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England which funds health care and cancer screens for low income and rural women. The House passed the resolution 179-134. Rep. Belanger voted to pass the resolution. Rep. Flanagan and Gargasz voted against the resolution.
HB1526 would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The House passed the bill 162-161. Rep. Belanger voted to pass the bill. Rep. Flanagan and Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB1705 would legalize, regulate and tax the sale of marijuana. The House defeated the bill 228-89. Rep. Belanger voted to pass the bill. Rep. Flanagan and Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB1696 would eliminate the speed limits unless someone caused property damage or injured someone other than themselves. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
Wednesday, March 14th, Thursday, March 15 and Friday, March 16th the House will vote on the following bills
HB1194 directs the Secretary of State to remove a sentence from the NH Constitution that states that rulings of the Court system shall have the force of law. The controversy arises because the sentence did not appear on the ballot when voters approved the amendment in 1978. The Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee recommend that the bill be defeated 13-0.
CACR26 is a constitutional amendment that would repeal the ability of the chief justice NH Supreme Court to establish rules governing the administration of the courts. The House Judiciary committee recommend that this amendment be passed 11-5.
HB1148 would require that evolution be taught as a “theory” and that schools would required to identify major proponents of evolution and discuss those people’s views on atheism. The House Education Committee recommend defeating the bill 16-0.
HB1382 would require truant officers to obtain a warrant or the permission of a parent prior to returning a child to school. The House Education Committee recommend that the bill be defeated 15-1.
HB1712 would require elective bible classes in the public schools. The House Education committee recommend that the bill be defeated 17-0.
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 Education committee recommend that the amendment be passed 12-5.
HB1187 would establish a committee to figure out how to set up New Hampshire as an independent country “in the event that the federal government takes action that is in conflict with the constitution of the state of New Hampshire.” The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee recommend that the bill be defeated 10-0.
HB1220 would repeal the requirement for a criminal background check and a protective order check for the sale of firearms. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommend that the bill be defeated 15-2.
HB1659 would require women having abortions to have to watch graphic videos and to be described in detail the procedure and a graphic depiction of the fetus. The House Judiciary committee recommend that the bill be passed 13-4.
HB1679 would make it illegal in most cases to terminate a pregnancy after the second trimester. The House Judiciary Committee recommend that the bill be passed 13-4.
HB1527 would legalize the cultivation of marijuana. It would still be illegal under federal law. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommend that the bill be defeated 15-1.
HB1615 would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp under state law. The state would still need approval from the DEA to be able to license industrial hemp growers. Currently, 10 states have applied for approval and none have been received. Industrial hemp is controlled by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 because it physically looks like hemp plants used for marijuana, but industrial hemp plants can not be used to make marijuana. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommend that the bill be passed 15-1.
HB1206 would prohibit employers from withholding union dues from employees paychecks. The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee recommend that the bill be passed 12-5.
HB1264 would create an exemption to the civil rights laws and allow any business to refuse to provide services for weddings. Current law exempts businesses with fewer than six employees from all state civil rights laws. The House Judiciary committee recommend that the bill be defeated 9-5.
HB1440 would eliminate the requirement for instructor-led drivers education and allow teens to get a drivers license by taking an online course. The House Transportation committee recommend that the bill be modified to allow students to take online classes in lieu of the classroom hours, but still require instructor-led driving training. The committee vote was 14-2 to pass the bill as modified.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.email@example.com
Rep. Jim Belanger P: (603)465-2301 Jim.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Dick Drisko P: (603)465-2517 email@example.com
Rep. Jack Flanagan P: (603)672-7175 Jack.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz P: (603)465-7463 email@example.com