NH Legislature This Week—March 17, 2014
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“It’s a momentous day for me personally, but it’s not about me. It’s a momentous day, I think, for the state, that (shows) we are committed to equality.” Senator David Pierce (D-Lebanon) on the Senate passage of CACR17, which would add “sexual orientation” to the list of categories where discrimination is prohibited in the NH Constitution (see below).
“African Americans make up only 13% of the nation’s population, yet almost 50% of those currently on federal death row are African Americans. It seemed to me that people of color and the poor were disproportionately impacted.” Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline) on HB1170, which would repeal the death penalty.
This week at the statehouse
The Senate will not be meeting this week, although they will be doing committee work on a few remaining Senate bills plus some House bills. The House will be continuing it’s marathon sessions this week with 91 bills scheduled to be voted on.
Some of the more interesting bills that the House will take up deal with whether or not sugar should be available in open bowls at restaurants (currently illegal) and another bill to make it illegal to dress up pet dogs to look like service dogs (for the visually impaired) so that they can be brought into restaurants, shops, etc.
3rd Annual Brookline Democrats Spaghetti Dinner
Please join the Brookline Democrats and Mason democrats for our third annual Pasta Dinner on Saturday, March 29, 7 pm at the Brookline Community Church.
We will be serving homemade sauces, pasta, salad, garlic bread, dessert and soft drinks, coffee and water.
Tickets are $13 per person, $25 per family.
Contact BrooklineDemocrats@gmail.com for further information.
Hollis Democrats host Bill Duncan to speak on Common Core education Standards
On Thursday, March 20th, the Hollis Democrats will be hosting a discussion on Common Core education standards with Bill Duncan of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education. The meeting will start at 7PM, but the social hour begins at 6PM at the Hollis Social Library.
Important Town Dates—Brookline and Hollis
Wednesday, March 26th is the 3rd Coop School District meeting, at 7PM at the High School. We will be re-voting on the bond and there are also some other articles that we haven’t addressed yet.
NH Senate passes historic non-discrimination Constitutional Amendment
The New Hampshire Senate has broken new ground, yet again, in the advancement of civil rights. This week, the Senate passed (23-0) an amendment to the NH Constitution that would add “sexual orientation” to the list of categories for prohibited discrimination. Article 2 of the Constitution currently reads “All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights—among which are, the enjoying and defending of life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this state on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.”
The article was part of the original document in 1784 with the last sentence being added in 1974. CACR17 would add “sexual orientation” to the list and would also change the word “men” to “individuals”.
Current NH law, enacted in 1996, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The amendment now goes to the House, where it needs 240 votes to pass. If passed by the House, it will go on the ballot in November where it will need a 2/3 supermajority of the voters to be enacted.
South Africa, Portugal and Sweden have constitutions which specifically call for equality based on sexual orientation.
NH House passes Death Penalty repeal
The NH House has once again voted to repeal NH’s death penalty. HB1170 [cosponsored by Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline)] was passed by a vote of 225-104. The bill’s fate in the Senate is still unknown as half a dozen state senators are still undecided. Governor Hassan has said that she would support a repeal of the death penalty as long as it did not affect the one person who is currently on death row in New Hampshire—Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester Police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
The House has once again defeated an attempt to allow a Casino in New Hampshire. Other casino bills are still alive and the vote was close enough that some negotiations could result in passage of some kind of bill. However, the issue is most likely down for the count this year.
The Times, they are a’changin…
This week, the House is scheduled to take up a bill that would repeal “an outdated piece of legislation”. The law allows selectmen to give tax abatements up to $3 to anyone who “shall construct, and during the year keep in repair, a watering trough, well supplied with water, sufficiently elevated and easily accessible for horses attached to carriages, if said selectmen shall deem the same necessary for the convenience of travelers.” The law also allows selectmen to create further abatements for people who own land next to highways and who “plant and protect shade trees” next to the highway.
Last week, the House voted on the following bills:
HB1170 would repeal NH’s Death Penalty. The House passed the bill 225-104. Rep. Melanie Levesque is a cosponsor. Rep. Gargasz and Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Belanger, Daniels and Flanagan voted against the bill.
HB1608 would prohibit hydraulic fracturing (AKA, “fracking”) for natural gas or oil. The House defeated the bill 248-66. The vote was not recorded.
HB1376 would require the Department of Environmental Services to examine the potential harm to the public and the environment from the transportation of bituminous tar sands through Coos county by the Portland-Montreal pipeline. The House changed the bill to instead create a legislative committee to examine the safety of pipelines in general, with no specific mention of tar sands or the Portland-Montreal pipeline. The amendment passed on a voice vote and the amended bill was then passed on a voice vote.
HB1633 would allow a casino and create regulations around it. The House defeated the bill 173-144. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan and Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Daniels and Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB1625 would reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana or marijuana plants. Under this bill, an adult with less than an ounce of marijuana would be fined at most $100. Anyone under the age of 18 with marijuana would have to complete a substance abuse program and community service and their parents would be notified. Other offenses would also be reduced in severity. The House passed the bill 215-92. Rep. Flanagan and Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Daniels and Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Belanger did not vote on the bill.
HB1403 would re-establish the state minimum wage, which was repealed by the previous legislature. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. This bill would create a state minimum wage of $8.25 starting January 1, 2015, then raising it to $9.00 starting January 1, 2016. Each September, starting in 2016, the proposed state minimum wage would be increased annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The House passed the bill 173-118. Rep. Levesque voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Daniels and Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan did not vote on the bill.
HB1567 would require police to obtain a search warrant before accessing location information from a cell phone or portable electronic device. Certain exceptions would be allowed, such as responding to calls for emergency services. The House passed the bill on a voice vote.
HB1619 would prohibit government agencies from acquiring personal information from third party providers such as utility and credit card companies. The House passed the bill on a voice vote.
Next week, the House will vote on the following bills:
HB1501 would impose extensive licensing requirements on abortion providers. The licensing would make it practically impossible to provide abortion services outside of a major hospital. The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 17-0.
HB1503 would add “fetus” in the definition of “another” for the purpose of murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide and causing or aiding suicide (except for abortions). The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be passed with an amendment that restricts conviction to cases in which a miscarriage or stillbirth is caused by a murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide. The committee vote was 10-7 with the minority supporting the original bill.
Last week, the Senate voted on the following bills:
CACR17 is a Constitutional Amendment that would add “sexual orientation” to the list of categories where discrimination is prohibited in the NH Constitution. Article 2 would be amended to state “All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights—among which are, the enjoying and defending of life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this state on account of race, creed, color, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation.” The Senate passed the amendment 23-0. Senator Gilmour is a cosponsor of the Amendment and voted in favor.
SB314 would establish an independent legislative redistricting commission. The Senate voted to send the bill to be studied on a voice vote, which would effectively defeated it.
SB281 relative to the siting of wind turbines. The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote.
SB367 would increase the gas tax by $0.04 per gallon to raise additional funds for highways and bridges. The Senate passed the bill 14-9, but then sent it to the Senate Finance Committee for further review (see below). Senator Gilmour voted in favor of the bill.
Senate Hearings for this coming week:
Senate Finance Committee (Statehouse room 100)
SB367 would increase the gas tax by $0.04 per gallon. Thursday 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