NH Legislature This Week—June 17, 2013
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“Driven by a Republican majority, members of the state Senate ignored the pleas of voters and the medical community Thursday when they declined to include a proposed Medicaid expansion in their 2014 budget proposal… [Senate President] Bragdon has argued for weeks that his position—that the federal government can’t be counted on to come through with the promised $2.5 billion in funding—isn’t ideological… If the federal government had ever reneged on a penny of its Medicaid responsibility Bragdon would have a point. It hasn’t and he doesn’t… In their philistine fight to dismantle government, [former House Speaker] O’Brien et al. cut many essential programs to the bone, leaving some of the state’s neediest out in the cold. Last November, voters rewarded O’Brien by ousting many of his colleagues and relegating him to the back bench. With regards to Medicaid, it’s a lesson Bragdon and his followers should pay closer attention to.” Nashua Telegraph, in one of their more pointed editorials.
“Some of the people who openly admit to being Free Staters are very smart and just nice people; but, like in the NH Republican Party the nuts are the ones bringing down the whole program.” Rep. Lee Quandt (R-Exeter).
The legislature is winding down, and so are the weekly updates 🙂
The House and Senate will meet again on Wednesday, June 26th for what is expected to be the last session of the year. All Conference Committees must make their recommendations by Thursday, June 20th.
Legislators will have an opportunity to submit bills for next year during the filing period from September 9th to September 27th.
Next week, we may or may not publish a newsletter with the results of the budget negotiations. Such details can take time to analyze and we rely heavily on analyses done by others who are far more knowledgeable about the details and issues involved.
We will definitely have at least one more issue after the legislature votes on the budget, however. From there, we will only publish more newsletters this year if something significant happens or if we have some interesting analysis to share. The newsletters will resume in January of next year, when the legislature resumes meeting.
A brief rundown of the Senate version of the budget
The Governor, House and Senate are currently negotiating the budget.
Both that House and Senate budgets would significantly increase state funding over the previous 2 year budget, but both would still provide less funding than the previous, pre-recession budgets.
Here are some of the highlights of the budget differences between the House and the Senate.
The House would increase the tobacco tax and suspend for 2 years certain business tax cuts that were passed by the previous legislature, but not scheduled to go into effect until now. The Senate version assumes that there will be a $41 million surplus from the current fiscal year, which ends in June. They would transfer this money into the General Fund rather than rebuild the Rainy Day Fund.
The House version of the bill would accept the federal government offer to expand Medicaid, the national health care program for people with low income. The federal government would pay 100% of the costs for the next three years and then 90% of the costs each year thereafter. This would bring in $2.5 billion in additional funding over the next seven years and would help pay for medical expenses for 58,000 low income Granite Staters (61% women).
The Senate version of the budget would not expand Medicaid, but would create a committee to study the issue.
The Senate wants to take $50 million out of budget, which would cause 700 layoffs. In the last budget, many of the savings were eliminating jobs that were unfilled, although many state workers lost their employment. This time, there are very few unfilled positions and hundreds of state workers would be left unemployed, exacerbating NH’s unemployment rate and reducing state services. Over the last two years, NH’s unemployment rate has stagnated while the national unemployment rate has continued to drop. The Senate sees these cuts as being necessary because they are more pessimistic about the state’s economic growth, which significantly effects state revenues.
The Senate version would remove $532,000 from Governor Hassan’s proposed Office of Innovation and Efficiency and would instead add $620,000 for flood control programs. The Senate version would also cut $105,00 for staffing the Human Rights Commission, but would add $148,000 to help combat the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that threatens Ash trees. The Human Rights Commission is the arbiter of NH’s Civil Rights laws and decides cases involving alleged discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The Senate budget would also provide an additional $4.5 million in local grants for infrastructure projects through the Department of Environmental Services over the House version.
The House budget would raise gas taxes from $0.18 per gallon to $.30 per gallon by 2015 and would increase the diesel fuel charge to the same rate by 2018. This would generate almost $90 million for road and bridge maintenance over the next two years. The Senate version removes the tax increase and the associated funding.
The Senate would fund $2.34 billion for education—about $23 million more than the House version. The current biennium budget for education was $106 million less than the House version.
The Senate budget also provides $153 million over 2 years to the University System, which is a $70.5 million increase over the past 2 years. However, this is still $44 million less than what the system had been receiving before the budgets cuts of the previous legislature. The Senate would also fund the community college system with $82.4 million, which more than eliminates the cuts that had been made in the previous budget cycle.
Overview of the Committee of Conference procedures
So, what happens when the House and the Senate disagree on the details of a bill? If the differences are irreconcilable, then the bill dies. However, if the House and Senate believe that they can come to an agreement, they form a Committee of Conference for that bill.
The Committees typically consist of 3 Senators and 4 House Reps, although there are 4 Senators in on the budget committee. When the committee believes that they have reached a compromise that will pass both chambers, the members of the committee will vote on the new language. The committee vote must be unanimous. If any one person on the committee votes no, then bill dies.
By tradition, the House Speaker and the Senate President will each appoint both Democrats and Republicans to each conference committee. However, it is common to replace a member of the minority party if the minority is unanimously opposed to the bill. This happens more often in the smaller Senate. For example, if the bill was unanimously opposed by the Senate Democrats, the Senate President could replace Democrats on the committee with Republicans who support the bill. This is commonly done by both parties to ensure that the minority party can not block legislation that the Senate and House may support, but have minor disagreements.
Once the new language is approved by the committee of conference, the language is sent back to both the House and the Senate for a final up-or-down vote. No further amendments may be made once the bill leaves the conference committee.
If the bill is approved by both chambers, then it goes to the Governor for signature or veto.
The Senate has voted on the following bills:
HB1 is the state budget. The House passed version would spend $11 billion over the 2 year biennium. The Senate proposed version would spend $10.7 billion. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the proposed Senate version be passed 4-2.
HB2 is the state budget “trailer”. This includes all of the changes to laws needed to implement the budget. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the proposed Senate version be passed 4-2.
HB25 is the capital improvements part of the budget. It addresses non-highway improvements and repairs to state-owned buildings, facilities, parks, etc. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the proposed Senate version be passed 4-2.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nashua Wards 1, 2, 5, Hollis, Brookline, Mason, Greenville, New Ipswich, and Rindge
Rep. Jim Belanger (R) P: (603)465-2301 Jim.email@example.com
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R) P: (603)465-7463 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Gary Daniels (R) P: (603)673-3065 email@example.com
Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston
Rep. Jack Flanagan (R) P: (603)672-7175 Jack.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Melanie Levesque (D) P:(603)249-3367 email@example.com
Brookline and Mason