NH Legislature This Week—January 20, 2014
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“Repealing the death penalty is a way for the state to counteract and push back against the culture of violence. Wherever the death penalty is administered by the state, the dignity of all our citizens is diminished.” Right Rev. Robert Hirschfeld, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.
“I really believe that they set up these ‘Gun Free Zones’ for one reason. To have these killings and to make stiffer gun laws. To some it is the price of doing business. Very sad.” Rep. John Burt (R-Goffstown) accusing gun safety advocates of intentionally causing school shootings.
“As we move into the new year and a new session of Congress, Republicans continue to push the envelope of the negative… if the goal is to actually capture the attention of the American people beyond those on the right who live in a perpetual world of conspiracy and the language of ‘no,’ it might be time to consider going positive.” Former US Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).
NH House Stirs the Pot
Last week, the New Hampshire House became the first legislative body in the US to pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana use. Colorado and Washington state have both recently legalized marijuana, but through voter initiatives.
HB492 would legalize up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal, recreational use by anyone 21 and older. Individuals would be allowed to have up to 6 marijuana plants. Marijuana growing facilities and retail stores would be licensed there would be a $30 per ounce wholesale tax as well as a 15% sales tax.
The bill had a interesting series of votes on Wednesday leading up to it’s passage. First, there was an attempt to table the bill, which failed 113-221. Then, there was a vote to defeat the bill, which actually succeeded 170-168. Immediately after that, however, Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) asked the House to reconsider the bill, which they agreed to do 173-165.
Next, there was another vote to defeat the bill—this one failed 168-170. There was then a second attempt to table the bill, which failed 153-185. Finally, after some changes to the bill were made, it was finally passed 170-162.
We did a quick review of the recorded votes that changed between the first vote to defeat (ITL) the bill and the final vote in favor of passage. We found 14 Representatives who initially voted to defeat the bill, but ended up voting for final passage (9 Democrats and 5 Republicans). There were 9 Representatives who initially voted against the attempt to defeat the bill, but then later also voted against final passage (7 Democrats and 2 Republicans). There were also 5 Representatives who cast one of the votes, but not the other.
However, the bill is still in the House and will not yet be heading over to the Senate. Because this is a fiscal bill, it must go to the House Ways and Means Committee for a second public hearing. It will then come back to the full House for a final vote.
Governor Maggie Hassan has already publicly stated that she will veto the bill if it is passed by the House and Senate.
Locally, the bill was supported by Rep. Jim Belanger (R-Hollis) and Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline). The bill was opposed by Rep. Gary Daniels (R-Milford), Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R-Hollis) and Rep. Jack Flanagan (R-Brookline).
Death Penalty Update
HB1170, which would repeal the death penalty, had a long public hearing last week in Representative’s Hall. The many speakers were almost all in favor of repeal.
This is the 3rd attempt in the last 13 years to repeal NH’s death penalty. In 2000, a repeal bill was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen. In 2009, the House passed a repeal bill but it was defeated in the Senate.
In NH, the death penalty is only allowed for the murder of a law enforcement officer, hit men, murder while serving a life sentence, and murder during a kidnapping, drug sale, home invasion, or rape.
The last execution in New Hampshire was in 1939, but there is one inmate who is currently on death row. Thirty two states have death penalties.
HB1170 is being cosponsored by Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline).
NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal comes to NH
In recent weeks, much national news attention has been focused on “bridgegate”. After the mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse incumbent Governor Chris Christie’s reelection campaign, state political operatives shut down two lanes of traffic leaving the city, causing massive back-ups, delaying emergency vehicles, and delaying school buses. After the story became public, Governor Christie fired his deputy chief of staff and other officials resigned.
Matt Mowers, now the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, was a regional political director for Christie’s reelection campaign for the region including Fort Lee. Mowers is understood to be the campaign official who asked the Fort Lee mayor for his endorsement. Mowers is one of 17 individuals who have been subpoenaed as state officials look into the allegations.
Rep. Richard “Stretch” Kennedy (1933-2014)
Rep. Kennedy of Contoocook was a fixture in NH politics in the 1990s and 2000’s. He was a fierce advocate for gun rights and would often rock the boat in his own party (Republican) by funding more conservative challengers to sitting incumbents. However, he was always a popular, if undiplomatically blunt, character.
Early on in his career, he would sponsor anti-gay bills that would seek to prevent NH from recognizing Civil Unions from Vermont or marriages that might some day be performed in other states. However, after sitting down and having conversations with his gay and lesbian constituents and colleagues, he eventually became a key ally. A bill was introduced to repeal a 1980’s law which had made it illegal for gays and lesbians to adopt or serve as foster parents. Kennedy then gave an impassioned speech on the House floor in which he said that there was a lesbian couple that live near him that he would trust to raise his grandchildren, if necessary. The repeal bill was passed and signed into law by then Governor Jeanne Shaheen.
Last Week, the House voted on the following bills:
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 passed the bill 170-162, but then sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee for further review. The bill will be brought back to the full House for a final vote before potentially being sent to the Senate. Governor Hassan has publicly stated that she will veto the bill. Rep. Belanger and Levesque voted to pass the bill. Rep. Daniels, Flanagan and Gargasz voted against 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.
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.
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.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Children and Family Law Committee (LOB room 206) Rep. Gargasz is a member of this committee
HB1624 would make several changes to the juvenile justice system, including raising the age at which an offender is considered to be an adult from 17 to 18. Tuesday 10:00.
House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee (LOB room 302)
HB 1589 would require background checks for all firearms purchases. The bill would require that all firearms in NH be sold through licensed firearms dealers. Tuesday 1:15.
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee (LOB room 204)
HB1306 would prohibit police from soliciting another person to participate in criminal activity. Tuesday 10:30.
HB1435 would require that the location, time and duration of any police (sobriety) checkpoint be made public a week beforehand. Tuesday 11:00.
HB1550 would allow audio and video recording of any public official (such as police) while in the course of his or her official duties. Tuesday 1:00.
HB1575 would require state police to wear a camera when interacting with the public. Tuesday 1:30.
HB1580 would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. Tuesday 2:00.
House Environment and Agriculture Committee (LOB room 303)
HB1608 would prohibit hydraulic fracturing (AKA, “fracking”) for natural gas or oil. Tuesday 10:00.
House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee (LOB room 205)
HB1484 would prohibit hospitals from retaining DNA sequencing information obtained from newborns. Only the parents would be provided with such data. Tuesday 11:15.
House State, Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee (LOB room 203)
HJR11 is a resolution urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and end unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns. Thursday 11:00.
Senate Hearings for this coming week:
Senate Finance Committee (Statehouse room 100)
SB217 would make it illegal to have collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union. Thursday 1:00.
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