NH Legislature This Week—July 1, 2013
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quote of the Week
“It’s just overwhelming, I’m overjoyed that this ruling [U.S. vs. Windsor, which ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional] came down the way that it did. I wish Charlie was here to experience this. It just was such an important part of her life – her family was everything to her and she fought for us even when she didn’t feel physically well enough to be doing it.” Karen Morgan, whose wife Charlie Morgan was a NH National Guard soldier who died of breast cancer in January. She came out as a lesbian on MSNBC after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
This will probably be the last legislative update this year
The legislature has finished it’s work and gone home, although there will still be study committees meeting over the summer. Also, in the fall, legislators will have the opportunity to file new legislation for next year.
That said, with the legislature no longer in session, we will not be publishing legislative updates for the rest of the year unless there is some unexpected reason to do so. We will resume next January as bills are filed and committee public hearings start up again.
Personal note from Brian Rater
I would like to express my great gratitude and appreciation to Sen. Peggy Gilmour, Rep. Melanie Levesque, Keith Thompson and Brendan Denehy, who proofread these legislative updates and provide me with valuable feedback and corrections each week. The weekly updates would not be possible without your tremendous support. Thank you!
There’s a new budget in town
Last Friday, Governor Maggie Hassan signed the state budget into law. It takes effect on Monday. Both sides of the debate have reasons to celebrate and to be concerned about, but a compromise was reached. The budget was passed unanimously in the Senate and by a 337-18 vote in the House. The 18 “no” votes included Rep. Gary Daniels (who represents Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon and New Boston) and former speaker Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon), who has made no secret that he is running for Congress against Congresswoman Ann Kuster. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan, Gargasz and Levesque all voted in favor of the budget. Sen. Gilmour supported the budget in the Senate.
CHINS program beginning to recover
The Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program has been around for decades and provides at-risk youth with counseling and services early on to prevent them from falling into the criminal justice system. Participation in CHINS required a court order and included children who habitually skip school, run away, or engage in dangerous behavior.
The previous legislature, in cutting the budget, cut the CHINS program almost out of existence. The program went from serving 1,000 children to just the 50 with the most severe emotional and mental health issues.
With the new budget, the program has been restored with $8.1 million (spread over several budget line items). The program is now working to try to rebuild itself.
One of the changes that the new CHINS program is seeing is that the services will now be available voluntarily, without requiring a court order. However, the new law allows the Department of Health and Human Services to stop accepting non-court ordered participation if there are too many kids being enrolled to be accommodated with the level of funding and resources that are available.
UNH Freezes tuition
The NH University System and NH Community College System have both agreed to freeze tuition rates for the year. This was part of a deal struck with the state in which the state restored most, but not all, of the education funding that had been cut in half by the previous legislature. The news is good for students who saw significant tuition increases (9% and 6%) when state support was cut. The tuition freeze will be in effect for two years.
Medical Marijuana bill on it’s way to Governor Hassan’s desk
HB573, which would legalize the user of medical marijuana, was finally approved by both the House and the Senate last week. The compromise measure now goes to Governor Hassan, who has said that she will sign it into law. The bill was passed by the Senate on a voice vote and passed in the House 284-66. Rep. Belanger, Gargasz and Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Daniels and Flanagan voted against the bill. Sen. Gilmour supported the bill in the Senate.
End of year roundup
Last year’s elections changed of the makeup of the state legislature considerably and we have seen the differences in the outcomes. Last year, the Democrats became the majority party in the House and Executive Council and retained control of the Governor’s office. Despite that fact that a majority of voters voted for Democrats for the State Senate, the Senate still has a 13-11 Republican majority due to the significant gerrymandering of the districts that had taken place in the previous legislature.
The new budget restores much, but not all, of the funding of many important programs such as CHINS, higher education, eliminating the wait list for the developmentally disabled, and LCHIP. The budget also restores considerable funding to the hospitals for unreimbursed care.
The voter ID law was somewhat loosened by allowing college students to use their student IDs as a form of ID and also by pushing back the requirement that people without ID be photographed by two years.
The business community had a big win with the passage of the extended research and development tax credit, which passed 342-7 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. In the previous session, this bill died when the Republican controlled House refused to pass it without adding in an unrelated amendment restricting abortions.
Although Medicaid expansion has not yet been accepted, the state did approve accepting Medicaid expansion for family planning.
The state is also no longer struggling to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the Executive Council is now supporting the rail study (a top priority for Nashua businesses).
Speaker Terri Norelli (D-Portsmouth) has created (or revived) an atmosphere of cooperation. The session began with seating arrangements intermixing Republicans with Democrats across rather than separating them, as has traditionally been done. Some Republicans were placed in leadership positions on their committees and a number of bills that were sponsored or cosponsored by Republicans were passed.
The House has also disbanded the Redress of Grievances Committee, which was created two years ago and spent much of it’s time on holding public hearings questioning the decisions of judges in divorce proceedings and child custody cases. Staff at the Division of Children, Youth and Families no longer have to worry about the committee issuing subpoenas ordering them to publicly release information that is protected by federal privacy laws.
Many of the most controversial bills in the current legislature are being held over until next year. We can’t say yet what will happen with bills dealing with election laws, hemp, marijuana, Medicaid expansion, health care reform, title loan interest rates, genetically engineered foods, and the Merrimack tolls. What we can say is that each year brings change and you can hear about those changes—good and bad—here. Have a great summer.
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