NH Legislature This Week—February 18, 2013
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“High drama once again in the New Hampshire House thanks to the Bully Without a Pulpit, no wonder that a member of the main stream media asked me just moments prior to that whether I had heard that some TV types are trying to sell a reality TV show based on the goings on here.” Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) on a lengthy speech given by Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) during the “Right to Work” bill vote.
“The majority of the committee thought that the legislative perk granted by this bill was too large. A one day lift ticket at Cannon Mountain is $70.00 for an adult, and this bill would allow for unlimited free access. If you were to use this a half dozen times, you would be receiving perks worth twice as much as our biennial salary.” Rep. Steven Briden (D-Exeter) writing in the House Calendar opposing HB514, which would allow legislators to have free ski tickets. The committee recommended that the bill be defeated.
“In interviews he talks about “gun free killing zones,” calls Democrats ‘the party of slavery,’ and complains of conspiracies to commit voter fraud on a mass scale. … One has to think the Democrats would love to run against O’Brien in a general election. O’Brien may be thinking comeback, but they will be thinking Waterloo.” former NH Republican Party chair Fergus Cullen on rumors that Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) is considering running against Congresswoman Anne Kuster.
Sen. Odell, Prescott and Stiles—a special place in the Hall of Shame
Last Thursday, the Senate was scheduled to vote on a resolution by Sen. Sylvia Larson (D-Concord) to honor the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. However, immediately before the resolution was to come up for a vote, Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) introduced a change to the Senate rules which would prohibit any resolutions from being introduced. Under the proposed rule change, resolutions could only be introduced by suspending the rules, which requires a 2/3 supermajority of the Senate.
The proposal was passed by a party line 13-11 vote with all Republicans voting in favor of the change and all Democrats voting against the change. Immediately after the rule was adopted, Sen. Larson asked that the rules be suspended to allow the Roe vs. Wade resolution be passed. Three Republican Senators joined with all of the Democrats in supporting a suspension of the rules, but that was not enough to satisfy the new 2/3 requirement and so the resolution failed.
A special place in the Hall of Shame goes to Sen. Bob Odell (R– Lempster), Sen. Russell Prescott (R-Kingston) and Sen. Nancy Stiles (R-Hampton) who “supported” the resolution honoring Roe vs. Wade less than a minute after they voted to ensure that the resolution would fail despite their “support”.
We can’t wait to see the reelection campaign literature in which they tell their constituents that they supported a resolution honoring Roe vs. Wade. Let the buyer beware indeed.
Gov. Hassan proposes a State Budget
Gov. Hassan submitted her budget to the legislature on Thursday. The budget assumes a conservative 2% increase in tax revenues, but also includes a controversial $80 million in revenues from licensing a casino.
The budget reduces the state’s reliance on the Medicaid Enhancement Tax, easing the burden on hospitals, but does not eliminate it.
The balanced budget envisions significant increases in spending for Health and Human Services ($573 million). However, much of that spending is actually federal taxes coming in to the state to pay for an expansion of Medicaid. The state will receive $290 million in federal funding, which will pay for the expansion of Medicaid. However, this money must be included in the state budget.
The expansion of availability of Medicaid will cover an additional 58,000 people by 2020. This, combined with other provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the number of citizens of NH citizens without health insurance from 170,000 to 71,000.
The budget also restores funding for family planning services and fully funds the waitlist for people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain disorders. Funding is also restored for the state respite care program, which allows families to keep loved ones at home.
In the last session, the University System saw it’s state support cut in half from $100 million per year to $50 million per year. This budget raises state support to $75 million in 2014 and $90 million in 2015, restoring most of the lost funding. The community college funds are fully restored at $40 million per year.
Some funding is also restored for the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program. This program provides counseling and rehabilitative services for children deemed at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.
The inclusion of $80 million in revenue from a casino is likely to cause a great deal of discussion. The legislature has not authorized a casino and the House has opposed an expansion of gambling many times before. Moreover, the revenue is expected to come from licensing fees paid by the owner of the casino, but there is very long way to go to work out the details of how casinos would be regulated before a license could be issued. In Massachusetts, a law was passed to expand gambling almost two years ago and they have yet to get to a place where they could issue a license.
In an earlier newsletter, we noted a bill to redraw the House districts for Hudson, Pelham, Litchfield, and parts of Manchester. The House will be voting on this bill this coming week, but it has come out of committee with a 13-4 vote against the bill. The committee notes that a 2004 NH Supreme Court decision declared it unconstitutional for the legislature to redraw the districts at any time except during the session immediately following the census.
Smile, you’re on Drone-cam
This week, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on HB619, which would make it illegal to photograph a house from a satellite or aircraft. The bill specifically mentions only satellites and drones, but applies to “any device that is not supported by the ground”, which would include aircraft and hot air balloons as well. Those convicted would face up to a year in jail. The bill does not mention whether or not the sponsor intends to arrest the CEO of Google.
Tinkering with the NH Constitution
Every session there are several bills to change the NH Constitution and this session is not an exception. CACR6 is a proposed amendment that will have a public hearing this week. It rewrites Article 6 of the Bill of Rights which authorizes the creation of schools. Presumably this amendment is intended to give the legislature the power to decide how much or if the state will fund education. It does that. It also prevents school districts from building new schools without authorization from the legislature.
Curiously, the bill also changes several other provisions of this article. The current Constitution says that no one can be required to pay to support religious schools. The proposed amendment says that no one could be required to pay to support ANOTHER religious school. That’s a strange change.
Also, the proposal would eliminate altogether the current protections that state “And every person, denomination or sect shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect, denomination or persuasion to another shall ever be established.”
The proposal would also eliminate any mention of morality in the NH Constitution and would eliminate the language that explicitly gives religious schools the right to hire their own teachers. The proposal explicitly maintains the right to hire teachers for “political subdivision”, but not religious schools. While hiring decisions by religious schools would undoubtedly be protected under the first amendment of the federal Constitution, it is curious nonetheless.
It’s difficult to see these changes as oversights given that the current Article 6 is only 3 sentences and the proposed Article 6 is only 4 sentences. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont) and Rep. Tim Comerford (R-Fremont). In the last session, Rep. Itse was the Chair of the House Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee while Rep. Comerford was the vice-Chair of the House Legislative Administration Committee.
Last Week, the House voted on the following bills:
HB371 would repeal common law marriage. Many states have common law marriages in which a marriage is recognized as being legal even if there is no marriage license. In NH, if a couple lives together for 3 years, presents themselves as being married and are generally believed to be married by others, then they are legally married. This bill would repeal that law. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB323 “Right to Work” would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to contribute to the cost of labor negotiations. The House defeated the bill 212-141. Rep. Belanger, Daniels and Flanagan vote in favor of the bill. Rep. Levesque voted against the bill. Rep. Gargasz was not able to be present that day.
On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to vote on the following bills:
CACR3 is a Constitutional Amendment declaring that parents control the health, education and welfare of their children. The House Children and Family Law Committee recommends that the amendment be defeated 14-6.
HB335 would make permanent the cut in tobacco taxes made in the last session (ten cents per pack). When the legislature lowered the tobacco tax in 2011, there was a provision that would restore previous tax rate if total tobacco tax income fell. Since then, tobacco tax income has fallen significantly ($30.5 million relative to 2011)—exactly as had been predicted by Department of Revenue Administration. This bill would repeal that provision and make the tax cuts permanent. Tobacco taxes are dedicated to funding education and are the 3rd largest source of funding after the statewide property tax and the Business Enterprise Tax. The House Ways and Means Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 10-7.
HB354 would repeal the Business Enterprise Tax. The BET is a tax paid by most businesses which taxes 0.0075% of the salaries, benefits and profits paid by businesses. This bill would repeal that tax over 5 years. If repealed, state revenues would be down by $75—$100 million per year. The BET is the second largest source of education funding after the statewide property tax. See also HB434 below. The House Ways and Means Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 11-6.
HB370 would repeal the business tax credit, passed last session, the allows businesses to take a tax credit if they provide scholarship funds to private and religious schools. The House Ways and Means Committee recommends that the bill be passed 10-7.
HB434 would repeal the Business Enterprise Tax over a period of 20 years. The BET is the second largest source of state funding for education after the state property tax. See also HB354 above. The House Ways and Means Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 13-4.
Committee Hearings for this coming week:
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee (Representatives Hall)
HB290 would prohibit unlicensed people from openly carrying a gun in public buildings. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Delmar Burridge (D-Keene) and Rep. Tim Robertson (D-Keene). Thursday 10:00.
HB609 would allow a school district to vote to require the school board to create a policy to allow school employees to carry concealed guns on school property. It is not clear whether or not all school districts would be required to vote on this at school district meeting. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont) and Rep. Tim Comerford (R-Fremont), who are also the sponsors of CACR6, discussed above. Thursday 11:00
HB451 would repeal the licensing requirement to carry a concealed gun. This bill is sponsored by Rep. J. R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) and Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont). Thursday 1:00
House Education Committee (LOB room 207)
CACR6 is a constitutional amendment which would completely rewrite Article 6 of the Bill of Rights, governing schools and certain religious freedoms. The bill makes many changes such as allowing the legislature to eliminate state education funding, requiring all new schools to be pre-approved by the legislature and eliminating the provision that all people must be treated equally under the law. See also “Tinkering with the NH Constitution” above. Tuesday 10:00.
CACR7 is a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature the sole power to decide how much or if the state funds education. It would also give the legislature the power to raise such taxes from any potential source, such as an income tax. Tuesday 10:45.
House Environment and Agriculture Committee (LOB room 303)
HB660 would require labeling of genetically engineered foods and agricultural commodities. Tuesday 1:00.
House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs
HB573 would legalize medical marijuana. Thursday 10:00.
House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee (LOB room 307). Rep. Jack Flanagan(R-Brookline) and Rep. Gary Daniels (R-Milford) are members of this committee.
HB501 would reinstate the minimum wage and raise it to $8.25 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. NH’s minimum wage law was repealed in the last session. Tuesday 11:00.
House Science, Technology and Energy Committee (Representatives Hall)
HB580 would create a moratorium on new wind turbine plants and electric transmission lines until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan. Tuesday 1:00.
House State Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee (LOB room 203)
HB399 would make it a criminal offense to support the military in taking someone into custody for terrorism as authorized in the federal 2012 Defense Authorization Act. Section 1021 of that Act allows US citizens to be held without trial indefinitely or to be sent to another country if they are suspected of certain acts of terrorism.
House Ways and Means Committee (LOB room 202)
SB1 would double the business research and development tax credit from $1 million to $2 million. This bill has already been passed by the Senate unanimously. Tuesday 1:30.
HB659 would increase the cigarette tax by $0.20 per pack. Thursday 10:30.
Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee (LOB room 102)
SB183 would repeal the more restrictive voter ID laws that are set to go into effect next year. This bill is similar to HB595 in the House. Tuesday 9:15.
SB142 would allow for publicly financed election campaigns. Similar to HB250 in the House Tuesday 10:00.
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
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Rep. Gary Daniels (R) P: (603)673-3065 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston
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Rep. Melanie Levesque (D) P:(603)249-3367 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brookline and Mason