NH Legislature This Week—April 8, 2013
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“There is now open conversation among insiders about whether the party chair lacks support and will need to resign.” WMUR political reporter James Pindell on the controversy surrounding NH Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn (see below).
“You are (a) fiscal liability … You are the greatest present liability that (this) committee possesses currently.” NH Republican Party Treasurer Robert Scott on party Chair Jennifer Horn.
“Tomorrow as I consecrate the Eucharistic at the Divine Liturgy… I will knell (sic) and pray especially for you and the misguided counsel that surrounds you… Forget about the drama Jennifer … ‘For He exalts the righteous and He humbles the proud’ … your judgment now is upon you and no one will prevent it from occurring.” NH Republican Party Treasurer Robert Scott on party Chair Jennifer Horn the day before Easter.
“Our public elementary and high schools are too often failing to teach while continuing to indoctrinate forced attendees into the leftist world of government dependency and anti-American dogma.” Former House Speaker and Congressional candidate Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon).
“O’Brien’s two years as N.H. speaker were some of the most divisive, spiteful and unproductive in recent memory… O’Brien’s possible candidacy for the Second District Congressional seat serves as a litmus test for whether Republicans learned any lessons in the 2012 elections. Clearly, if he’s nominated, it will be proof that the N.H. GOP didn’t hear the voters’ clear message.” Portsmouth Herald editorial.
House and Senate focus on committees and public hearings
Now that the House voted on all House bills, they will spend the next few weeks holding public hearings on bills that were passed by the Senate. The full House will not meet again until April 24th. The House has set a deadline of June 6th to vote on all Senate bills.
The Senate is also spending this week in committee hearings. The full Senate will meet next on April 18th. The Senate has set a deadline of June 6th to vote on all House bills.
“What are our legislators doing?” in their own words
State Senator Peggy Gilmour has an excellent op-ed piece in today’s Nashua Telegraph. She emphasizes the legislation that she and her fellow legislators are focusing on that will grow our economy and encourage job creation. You can read her op-ed piece here:
Scott Brown may run against Senator Shaheen
Twitter has been all atwitter the past few days after former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown stopped in Nashua for a Martin Luther King event. At the event, he told press that he was considering changing his residence to New Hampshire so that he can run for Senate again. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is up for reelection next year. Brown pointed out that he has owned a vacation home in New Hampshire for 20 years. Most political watchers seem to be skeptical, however, because Senator Shaheen is very popular in NH and Brown would be seen as a carpetbagger.
This was the first of several events that Brown plans to attend in New Hampshire in the coming months.
On Wednesday, the House passed it’s own version of the budget. The House budget represents a 4% increase in spending from state taxes. The total budget increases 10% due primary to additional federal funding. The federal funding increase is primarily due to a significant expansion of Medicaid. That expansion will provide health care to 35,000 low income Granite Staters, including 1500 low income veterans.
Some Republicans are already starting to call the budget a 16% increase (expect that number to grow with each telling). We saw this a couple of years ago when certain candidates claimed that the Democrats had wildly increased “the budget” or “state spending”. What actually happened this is that the federal government spent a lot of money in NH as part of the economic stimulus package—much of which was included in the state budget. Also, the Democrats had greatly increased transparency by including many spending items in the budget that had long been pulled “off budget”.
The new House budget includes a $0.12 per gallon increase in the gas tax from the current $0.18 to $0.30 over the next three years. The funds will go to highway and bridge repair and maintenance. The last time that the gas tax was increased was 1991.
The budget also raises the cigarette tax by $0.20 per pack. This would take effect after the $0.10 per pack tax cut passed in the last session expires. This is estimated to bring in approximately $36 million additional revenue for education funding over the current tax.
The House budget includes the cigarette tax and gas tax because the Senate is widely expected to reject the stand-alone bills. By placing the taxes in the budget, then Senate will need to show how they will make up the difference if they choose to eliminate the taxes. The budget is ultimately going to go to a conference committee between the House and Senate because the Senate is unlikely to go along with these taxes and will almost certainly insist on expanded gambling as an alternative.
The House passed budget does not include funding from a potential casino, which the Senate and Governor strongly support. The House has traditionally opposed expanded gambling.
House Republicans offered over a dozen amendments including ones to increase spending on school construction, cut business taxes, and cut aid to hospitals. All of the amendments were defeated.
Here are some highlights from the new House budget (2014/2015) compared to the previous (2012/2013) budget:
- expects slightly less business tax revenue for the general fund, but more for the education fund
- Expects a significant increase in Meals and Rooms tax revenue as well as real estate transfer tax revenue
- Expects significantly less from the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (the tax on hospitals)
- The General Revenue fund is expected to drop from $1.415B in 2013 to $1.399B in 2014, then increase to $1.444B in 2015.
- The Education Fund is expected to stay flat from the previous 2 years.
- Highway funds are expected to decrease from $276M in 2013 to $241M in 2015
- LCHIP (conservation) funding increases from $240,000 in the previous budget to $5,450,000 for 2014/2015.
- University System funding from the general fund is partially restored from $81.5M for 2012/2013 to $139.8M in 2014/2015
- Community College funding from the general fund is restored from $52.1M for 2012/2013 to $76.9M in 2014/2015
- Veterans Home funding from the general fund is raised from $22.8M in 2012/2013 to $31.9M in 2014/2015
Nashua’s Joe Foster nominated to be Attorney General
Former Nashua State Senator Joe Foster has been nominated by Governor Hassan to be New Hampshire’s next Attorney General. All nominations made by the Governor must be approved by the Executive Council, so the Council has scheduled a public hearing on the nomination. The hearing will be on Wednesday at 3:00
The GOP don’t trust their party chair
Interesting reports are now surfacing about a major struggle between the NH Republican Party’s Chair, Jennifer Horn of Nashua and their treasurer, Robert Scott. A series of internal emails have been leaked which document a major dispute over access to the NH GOP’s bank accounts. The treasurer is not allowing Horn to access the party’s bank accounts and is not allowing her to sign checks. The treasurer cites a $92,000 tax lien on Horn’s home for unpaid back taxes as the source of the mistrust.
The emails were obtained by WMUR political reporter James Pindell. Pindell also reports that the NH Republican Party has hired a law firm to investigate the issue and their opinion is that Horn has a right to access the bank accounts.
According to Scott, the party’s insurance agent may drop their coverage because of the Chair’s tax problems.
Horn was elected in January and is the 3rd Chair in the last two years.
Also, don’t forget to see below for the fourth installment in our series, “What are our legislators doing?”. This week we look at Hollis Republican Rep. Carolyn Gargasz.
Last Week, the House voted on the following bills:
HB1 is the two year budget. The House passed the budget 194-172. Rep. Levesque voted in favor of the budget. Rep. Belanger, Daniels, Flanagan and Gargasz voted against the budget.
HB2 is the “budget trailer”. This bill contains all of the policy changes that are needed by the budget in HB1. The House passed the bill 193-166. Rep. Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Belanger, Daniels, Flanagan and Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB25 is the capital improvements part of the budget. It addresses non-highway improvements and repairs to state-owned buildings, facilities, parks, etc. The House passed the bill 285-68. Rep. Belanger, Gargasz and Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Daniels and Flanagan voted against the bill.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee (LOB room 205)
SB194 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the family planning portion of expanded Medicaid by July 1, 2013. Sen. Gilmour is a cosponsor. The bill was passed by the Senate on a voice vote. Tuesday 10:30.
Senate Hearings for this coming week:
Senate Commerce Committee (LOB room 101)
HB501 would reinstate NH’s minimum wage law, which was repealed in the last session. HB501 would set the state minimum wage to be the same as the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour. HB501 was passed by the House 200-183. Tuesday 2:20.
Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee (Statehouse room 100) Sen. Gilmour is a member of this committee.
HB573 would legalize the use of medical marijuana. The House passed this bill 286-64. Thursday 1:00
Senate Judiciary Committee (Statehouse room 100)
HB167 would require that crime victims be notified when the person who committed the crime has a parole hearing coming up. HB167 passed the House on a voice vote. Tuesday 9:40.
HB621 would decriminalize possession of less than one quarter of an ounce of marijuana, although there would still be fines. The House passed this bill 214-115. Thursday 9:00.
HB153 would legalize the use of industrial hemp. The House passed this bill on a voice vote. Thursday 10:30.
Senate Way and Means Committee (Statehouse room 103)
HB659 would increase the cigarette tax by $0.20 per pack. The House passed the bill 193-167.
What are our legislators doing? Part 4—Rep. Carolyn Gargasz
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R-Hollis) is currently serving her 7th term and has been a long standing member of the House Children and Family Law Committee. Rep. Gargasz is currently sponsoring 2 bills and cosponsoring 10 others. Here is a sampling of those bills.
HB303 would establish a committee to study teaching a second language in kindergarten. The bill was defeated by the House on an unrecorded vote of 258-97. Rep. Gargasz is the primary sponsor. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Susan Ford (D-Easton), Rep. Mary Gile (D-Concord) and Sen. Molly Kelly (D-Keene). Rep. Gile is the Chair of the House Education Committee. Sen. Kelly is a member of the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee.
HB554 would allow parents to agree on contributions to college or other postsecondary education expenses and would authorize the court to approve and enforce such agreements. The House passed the bill on a voice vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on March 26th, but has not yet made a recommendation. Rep. Gargasz is the primary sponsor. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Mary Gile (D-Concord), Rep. Susan Ford (D-Easton), Rep. Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill), Sen. Nancy Stiles (R-Hampton) and Sen. Betty Lasky (D-Nashua). Rep. Gile is the Chair of the House Education Committee. Sen. Stiles is the Chair of the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee.
HB370 would repeal the law enacted in the last session which funds private and religious schools by giving special tax breaks to businesses who fund them. Opponents of the law argue that it violates Article 6 of NH’s Constitution, which prohibits state funding of religious schools. The bill was passed by the House 188-151. The Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee held a public hearing on March 14th, but has not yet made a recommendation. Rep. Mary Gile (D-Concord) is the primary sponsor. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsborough), Rep. June Frazer (D-Concord), Rep. Mary Gorman (D-Nashua), Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R-Hollis), Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester), Rep. Peter Sullivan (D-Manchester), and Sen. Molly Kelly (D-Keene).
HB649 would authorize the commissioner of the Department of Corrections to award earned time credits for prisoners between the ages of 17 and 25 who participate in, or complete, educational, vocational, or mental health programming. For example, a prisoner could have 90 days cut from their sentence by competing a GED or 180 days for a Bachelor’s Degree. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on this bill February 13th, but decided to keep the bill in committee until next year. Rep. Mary Gile (D-Concord) is the primary sponsor. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Gene Charron (R-Chester), Rep. Steven Shurtleff (D-Penacook), Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R-Hollis), Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), and Sen. Nancy Stiles (R-Hampton).
Next week: Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline)
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.
Watch and listen to House and Senate sessions live
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. Peggy Gilmour (D) P: (603)465-2336 email@example.com
Nashua Wards 1, 2, 5, Hollis, Brookline, Mason, Greenville, New Ipswich, and Rindge
Rep. Jim Belanger (R) P: (603)465-2301 Jim.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R) P: (603)465-7463 email@example.com
Rep. Gary Daniels (R) P: (603)673-3065 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston
Rep. Jack Flanagan (R) P: (603)672-7175 Jack.email@example.com
Rep. Melanie Levesque (D) P:(603)249-3367 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brookline and Mason