NH Legislature This Week—April 6, 2015
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quote of the Week
“It’s the kind of budget which I think at this stage in New Hampshire’s economy is the kind of budget that people in this state expect from us.” Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare). Note that NH”s unemployment rate is now at 3.9%, near a historic low and well below the national average of 5.5%.
We are now past Crossover
At this point, the House has passed or defeated all of the bills that were introduced in the House and will now take up the bills that were passed by the Senate. Similarly, the Senate has completed work on all of their bills and is now taking up bills passed by the House. From here on, all bills are those that have been passed by either the House or the Senate.
Opening salvos of the budget battle
The House met on Wednesday to pass a 2 year budget for the State and they were met with hundreds of protesters upset about deep cuts on programs for the elderly (such as Meals on Wheels), the developmentally disabled, and substance abuse treatment and prevention. Many are also concerned about continued down-shifting of costs to the towns, further raising property taxes.
The House passed budget is $150 million short of the budget that Governor Hassan had sent to the legislature. The budget passed by the House ends Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance to 37,000 Granite Staters. The bill also makes deep cuts in education funding, elderly services, substance abuse treatment and renewable energy programs.
The budget ends funding for ServiceLink, which connects disabled and elderly citizens with resources. Half of the funding for this program is through federal matching dollars, which are lost if the state does not provide it’s share.
The Budget also turns down a 2% raise for state employees that had been negotiated with the state employees union. This would mean that the contracts need to be renegotiated.
There were many amendments to the budget bills (HB1 and HB2). Some were passed and some were rejected but almost all of the votes were strongly along partisan lines.
Amendment 1224H cuts $7.5 million from catastrophic aid for schools, $1.4 million from renewable energy (in addition to $50 million already taken out), $2.5 million from community colleges, $2.0 million from the Dept. of Corrections (in addition to the $2.0 million already taken), $2.0 million from Hospitals. The amendment also wipes out the entire $10 million rainy day fund. This amendment, along with amendment 1163H also reduces state education funding Brookline would not lose education funding in 2016, but would lose around $76,000 in 2017. This amendment passed 210-170 on an almost party line vote. Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in favor of these amendments.
Amendment 1162H would allow Keno with part of the tax proceeds to go to address problem gamblers and the remainder going to education funding. This amendment was passed 206-176 with Republicans mostly in favor and Democrats largely opposed. Income from Keno was not included in the budget. Rep. Belanger and Flanagan voted in favor of the amendment. Rep. Adams, Ammon and Gargasz voted against the amendment.
Amendment 1165H was defeated on an almost party line 147-234. It would have raised the cigarette tax from $1.78 to $1.99. This would have raised $53.2 million over the 2 year budget. The amendment also would have raised an additional $42.1 million through changes in the business tax rules, such as preventing diversion of business income to certain offshore tax havens. This amendment also provided for less pessimistic revenue estimates. Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in against of the amendment.
Amendment 1212H was defeated on a largely party line 167-199. This would have implemented the terms of the recently negotiated state employees contract. Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in against of the amendment.
HB 1 was passed on a largely party line 212-161 vote with 1 Democrat joining Republicans in support and 9 Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in favor of the proposed budget.
HB2 was passed on an almost party line 194-179 (26 Republicans joined all Democrats in opposition). Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in favor of the proposed budget.
After this big battle, the House will take a week off from meeting before taking up the bills that have been passed by the Senate. The House Committees will still be meeting and holding public hearings this week, however.
Senate passed bill would reduce state funding for education
SB227 makes changes to the state Adequate Education funding formula. Under current law, the amount of education funding that each town receives from the state is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. SB227 would not apply the CPI adjustments for the next two years.
For Brookline, this would result in a reduction in state aid of $87,000 per year from a total grant of $5.2 million. In other words, next year’s grant is supposed to go up $87,000 and the year after that it is supposed to go up again by a similar amount. By not adjusting for CPI, Brookline’s local property taxes would go up by around $250,000 over the next two years (increasing the tax rate by about $0.05).
For Hollis, the reduction would be $96,000 from a total grant of $4.9 million. For Mason, the reduction would be $12,000 from a total grant of $672,000.
The bill was passed by the Senate in a voice vote. The House Education Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill on Tuesday at 11:00 in room 207 of the LOB.
Gas Pipeline bill progresses
HB227 would require a town vote before public lands could be taken by eminent domain. Rep. Belanger is the primary sponsor and Rep. Gargasz is a cosponsor. This bill was passed by the House and now has a hearing before the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee on Wednesday at 10:00 in room 102 of the Legislative Office Building.
Last week, the House voted on the following bills:
HB25 is the state budget for capital improvements. The House passed this part of the budget on a voice vote.
HB1 is the state budget. The House passed an amended version of the bill 212-161. Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in favor of the proposed budget.
HB2, known as the budget rider bill, contains the changes in state laws and policy needed to implement the budget in HB1. The House passed an amended version of the bill 194-179. Rep. Adams, Ammon, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz all voted in favor of the proposed budget.
Senate Hearings for this coming week:
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Statehouse room 100)
HB208 would eliminate funding for energy efficiency programs. Wednesday 9:45.
Senate Judiciary Committee (Statehouse room 100)
HB618 would reduce the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana from a class B misdemeanor (a criminal offense) to a violation (something that is illegal, but subject only to a fine, such as a parking ticket). Tuesday 9:40.
Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee (LOB room 102)
HB227 would require a vote of the town before public lands could be taken by eminent domain. Rep. Belanger is the primary sponsor. Rep. Gargasz is a cosponsor. Wednesday 10:00.
Senate Ways and Means Committee (Statehouse room 103)
HB681 would increase the marriage license fee from $45 to $50 with the extra funds going to domestic violence prevention programs. Currently, $38 of the $45 fee goes to domestic violence programs, which it is used as a state match to federal grant funding. Tuesday 10:00.
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 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:
- The bill is assigned to a committee and the committee holds a public hearing.
- The committee either retains the bill or votes to recommend that the bill be passed (OTP), changed (OTPA), or defeated (ITL).
- 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.
- 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.
- If passed by the House, the bill goes to the Senate
- The bill is assigned to a Senate committee which then holds a public hearing
- The Senate committee either retains the bill or votes to recommend that the bill be passed (OTP), changed (OTPA), or defeated (ITL).
- 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.
- 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.
- If passed by the Senate, the bill goes to the Governor who may sign the bill into law or veto it.
- If the Governor vetoes the bill, it goes back to the House
- If 2/3 of the House votes to override the veto then the bill goes back to the Senate
- 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:
- Assigned to a committee and the committee holds a public hearing.
- The committee votes to recommend that the CACR be passed, changed, killed or sent to study
- 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.
- If passed by the House, the bill goes to the Senate
- Assigned to a Senate committee which then holds a public hearing
- The Senate committee votes to recommend that the bill be passed, changed, killed or sent to study
- 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.
- 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 Mason Grapevine
Residents of Mason can submit letters to the Mason Grapevine at TheMasonGrapevine@yahoo.com
Hollis, Brookline, Mason Reps:
Sen. Kevin Avard (R) (603) 271-4151 Kevin.Avard@leg.state.nh.us
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. Keith Ammon (R) P: (603)296-9879 Keith.Ammon@leg.state.nh.us
Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston
Rep. Jack Flanagan (R) P: (603)672-7175 Jack.email@example.com
Brookline and Mason
Rep. Chris Adams (R) P: (603) 673-3212 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brookline and Mason