NH Legislature This Week—January 10, 2015
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“The good news is that thanks to our bipartisan progress, we’re in a better position than most other states. Our unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 2008, last month New Hampshire’s credit outlook was restored to “stable,” and our private sector has recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession. We also continue to be known across the country for our high quality of life. A recent report ranked New Hampshire as the best state to live and the best state to earn a living, and in 2013, our median household income was the highest in the nation.” Governor Maggie Hassan, in her Inaugural Address.
“For too long, wages have failed to grow with the cost of our families’ needs. Our path forward must strengthen wages for our workers by restoring and increasing New Hampshire’s minimum wage. Increasing the minimum wage will have a ripple effect on wages higher up the pay scale, while supporting businesses and encouraging job creation by putting more money in the pockets of consumers so that they can buy goods and services. It is long past time that we take this critical step forward for our economy.” Governor Maggie Hassan, in her Inaugural Address.
“I just came out of a caucus where I was essentially yelled at for 15 minutes without a chance to respond. This is my concern. This is why I am standing here. The House deserves better.” Now-speaker Rep. Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) announcing that he is running for Speaker against Rep. Bill O’Brien.
“The only people who should be armed in the House of Representatives are trained police professionals.” Rep. Len DiSesa (D-Dover) and retired police officer speaking against a rule change that allows legislators to carry concealed guns on the House floor. The House voted for this change on Wednesday.
Welcome to 2015!
The new session of the NH Legislature is shaping up to be an entertaining couple of years. Here is a brief recap of what has happened already.
Democrats lost two strong voices in Concord – Senator Peggy Gilmour of Hollis and Rep. Melanie Levesque of Brookline. Sen. Gilmour was seen as the Senate’s expert in health care, which is one of the most critical issues that the legislature has been and will continue to deal with. Her knowledge and political savvy will be greatly missed in that Chamber.
Rep. Levesque was an assistant majority leader and kept the House running smoothly despite being the largest state legislative body in the U.S.
In the 2014 elections, Republicans picked up a few seats, with Frank Guinta defeating Carol Shea-Porter in yet another swing in the see-saw that is NH’s first congressional district. Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Annie Kuster were all reelected.
Republicans gained control of the Executive Council, 3-2, when former Councilor David Wheeler regained his seat after Democrat Debora Pignatelli retired. Republican Kevin Avard defeated incumbent Senator Peggy Gilmour to increase the Republican majority in the Senate to 14-10. Sen. Avard will now be the Senator for Nashua Wards 1, 2, and 5, Hollis, Brookline, Mason, Greenville, New Ipswich, and Rindge.
Rep. Chris Adams (R-Brookline) will now be representing Brookline and Mason along with incumbent Rep. Jack Flanagan. Rep. Keith Ammon (R-New Boston) will now be representing Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston as former Rep. Gary Daniels has now been elected to the Senate, replacing Peter Bragdon.
Republicans took a 239-160 majority in the House, picking up 60 seats. It was assumed the former House Speaker Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) would again become House Speaker, but that is where the drama begins.
New House Speaker Elected
The vote for Speaker is traditionally a secret ballot. O’Brien and his allies tried to change the rules to have a recorded vote – making it more difficult for Republicans to vote against O’Brien, who was the party’s nominee. Democrats cried foul because they had not been informed in advance of the effort to change the rules. The rule change vote failed, allowing the Speaker to be elected in a secret ballot, as had been done in the past.
The vote to make Rep. O’Brien speaker failed by 4 votes. Instead, Rep. Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) managed to put together a large enough coalition of disgruntled Republicans, Democrats, and others that he was elected speaker.
Rep. Jack Flanagan (R-Brookline) appointed House Majority Leader
Speaker Jasper then appointed Rep. Jack Flanagan to be the new House Majority Leader. Rep. O’Brien and his allies then attempted to change the House rules to have the majority and minority leaders elected by their caucuses (to make O’Brien the majority leader). The rule change had the support of a majority of the Republicans, but was defeated by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Adams and Ammon voted in favor of the rule change. Rep. Belanger, Flanagan, and Gargasz voted against the rule change.
Sen. Kevin Avard has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee, Health & Human Services Committee, Rules Committee, and is the Vice Chair of the Enrolled Bills & Internal Affairs Committee.
Newly elected Rep. Chris Adams will be serving on the House Education Committee, while Rep. Jack Flanagan, will be serving as the Vice Chair of the Legislative Administration Committee.
Hollis Rep. Jim Belanger has now been promoted to Chair of the House Municipal and County Government Committee, while Hollis Rep. Carolyn Gargasz has been promoted to Chair of the House Children and Family Law Committee.
Newly elected Rep. Keith Ammon will be serving with Rep. Belanger on the House Municipal & County Government Committee.
Session Schedule for 2015
Most committees will be meeting this week for the first time. This is an opportunity for new members to learn how the committee operates and many committees will meet with individuals and organizations that they will be working with closely. Only 11 bills are up for a hearing in the House this week. The very first hearing will be on HB135 in which the House Election Law Committee will discuss qualifications for assistant election officials. The Senate will hold its first four hearings this week. The first Senate hearing will be for SB12, relative to jurisdiction over surrogacy cases, which is being studied by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Last day to introduce House bills is Jan 30th. Crossover (the date by which the House must vote on all House bills and the Senate must vote on all Senate bills) is March 26th for the Senate and April 2nd for the House. The session ends on June 25th.
The next House and Senate meetings have not been scheduled.
Well, that didn’t last long
The new session had barely begun when newly elected Rep. Albert “Max” Abramson (R-Seabrook) was removed from his assignment on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
“Once we did our due diligence and saw the facts, I felt that it was inappropriate for Rep. Abramson to serve on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee, given the nature of his conviction” said House Speaker Shawn Jasper.
Convictions? In 2012 a jury found Abramson guilty of a felony count of reckless conduct for firing a gun during a party at his house. Rep. Abramson maintains that he fired the gun to break up a fight at his house. He was given a one year suspended sentence. He currently does not have a committee assignment and a House committee is trying to determine if he is even eligible to be a member of the House.
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 Hollis Times
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