NH Legislature This Week—January 13, 2014
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“Anti-gunners are on a witch hunt and if the accusing finger is pointed at you, this law will burn you at the stake. Don’t’ be fooled! This bill is all about taking power and control away from the New Hampshire citizen and has nothing to do with ‘gun safety’!” Jonathan R. Evans, president of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition in reference to SB244, which would require people found by the courts to have serious mental health issues to be registered with the National Instant Background Check System.
“Just because I held a girl’s hand in high school and kissed, and she is now a criminal and breaks into my house, I don’t want to lose my guns if I punch her.”, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg, now president of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, on SB318, which would establish “domestic violence” as a crime in New Hampshire.
Welcome to 2014!
Welcome to the 4th year of NH Legislature This Week. We are always trying to find ways to make it easier for the citizens of New Hampshire to keep up with what is going on in Concord. As always, your feedback is appreciated!
The House has already begun meeting, taking up bills left over from last year. The Senate is focused on holding public hearings for the new bills and will next meet as a full Senate on January 30th.
The big topic this week (and this year) will be Medicaid Expansion. The potential rewards and risks are high and there will likely be a great deal of compromise, as there has already been. Last week, the House passed a version of Medicaid Expansion and sent it to the Senate for consideration. See HB544 below.
The Senate will hold public hearings on two bills of interest on Tuesday. The first is SB244, sponsored by Sen. David Watters (D-Dover) which would require that people with a serious mental illness be placed on the federal registry of people who may not own guns. It would apply only to people who have been found to be mentally ill through the court system. People who would be required to be added to the list are those who are found mentally incompetent to stand trial, those who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, and those who have been appointed a legal guardian due to mental health issues.
The second bill is SB318, sponsored by Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), which would create the crime of domestic violence. New Hampshire is one of 15 states that do not have a specific domestic violence law. Violations are typically charged under other provisions, such as assault or criminal threatening. The bill would not change the actual acts or penalties involved, but would just create a new category which will help measure domestic violence rates.
The House is expected to vote soon (perhaps this Wednesday) on a bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana. The House has voted on such bills before and they have been defeated. This bill may be no exception as the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that it be defeated. However, a recent UNH Granite State Poll found that 51% of Granite Staters support legalization of recreational marijuana and support goes up to 60% when they are told about the particulars of this specific bill. The primary sponsor of the bill is Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester).
Taxing non-profits to offset tax cuts for businesses
HB1509 would require certain non-profits like hospitals and colleges to pay the Business Enterprise Tax. The BET paid by businesses would then be reduced, making the bill revenue-neutral for the state. This bill is the brain child of Rep. David Hess (R-Hooksett) and will have a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.
Last Week, the House voted on the following bills:
Note: Rep. Flanagan was not able to be present this day.
HB525 would raise the age required to be tried as an adult from 17 to 18. Those under 18 could still be tried as adults, but there is a special procedure to do so. 18 used to be the standard age to be tried as an adult, but states began lowering the age to 17. In recent years, states have been raising the age back to 18. NH is one of only 9 states that still sets the limits at 17. The bill is generally supported by law enforcement because of concerns with placing 17 year olds in adult prisons. The House passed the bill on a vote of 327-17. Rep. Belanger, Daniels, Gargasz and Levesque voted in favor of the bill.
HB544 would repeal a law passed by the previous legislature which forbids the state from creating a state-based health care exchange. The House amended this bill to instead expand Medicaid under the Federal Affordable Care Act. The expansion of Medicaid will make billions of dollars in federal funding available to low income families in NH over the coming years. Rep. Belanger, Daniels and Gargasz voted against the amendment and voted against passing the bill. Rep. Levesque voted in favor of the amendment and in favor of passing the bill.
On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to vote on the following bills:
Note: the House may not be able to get to all of the bills on the calendar. Some of the bills may be postponed until the next week.
HB660 would require that genetically engineered foods be labeled as such. The House Environment and Agriculture Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 12-8.
HB286 would allow towns with limited or no broadband internet access to purchase bonds to build such infrastructure. The towns would not provide the services, but could lease the infrastructure to the lowest bidding provider. The telecom industry has indicated that they have been reluctant to provide broadband in more rural areas because of the difficulty in recuperating the costs of building infrastructure. The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee recommends that the bill be passed 13-5.
HB492 would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana. An October 2013 Granite State Poll found that most Granite Staters support legalization of recreational marijuana (51%-41%). If they were told the details of this bill, support goes up (60%-36%). The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 11-7.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee (LOB room 204)
HB1170 would repeal the death penalty. Rep. Levesque is a cosponsor. Thursday 1:00.
House Judiciary Committee (LOB room 208)
CACR12 is a constitutional amendment that would require that judges and the attorney general be elected. Tuesday 10:00.
House Municipal and County Government Committee (LOB room 301) Rep. Belanger is a member of this committee.
HB1573 would disband all regional planning commissions. Thursday 1:00.
House Transportation Committee (LOB room 203)
HB1117 would prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. “Hands-Free” operation of a cell phone would still be allowed. Emergency personnel (police, fire, ambulance, etc) would be exempt. The penalty for cell phone use while driving would be $100. Tuesday 2:30.
House Ways and Means Committee (LOB room 202)
HB1509 would require certain non-profits (with over $1.5 million in annual expenditures) like hospitals and colleges to pay the Business Enterprise Tax while lowering the rate for businesses. Tuesday 1:30.
Senate Hearings for this coming week:
Senate Judiciary Committee (Statehouse room 100)
SB318 would create the crime of domestic violence. Tuesday 10:30.
SB244 would require certain people deemed mentally ill to be registered with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Tuesday 9:00.
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 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 Journal 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 Journal 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
Brookline and Mason
Rep. Melanie Levesque (D) P:(603)249-3367 email@example.com
Brookline and Mason