NH Legislature This Week—June 1, 2015
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“Fellow Republicans do we follow the lead of some for [NH Congressman Frank] Guinta to resign or do we stand by our constitution and say kiss our butt?” Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Hudson)
“Obama now controls all water in the US. The noose is tightening on America.” Former NH Republican Party Chair Jack Kimball on his facebook page. He also says “Jade Helm 15 just got worse! Pleeeeeese wake up America!” in reference to a conspiracy theory that the President Obama is about to use the military to invade conservative states.
“There needs to be significant changes for the Governor to support this budget. It doesn’t make the progress that we need to make for New Hampshire. There has to be compromise to get a budget that is passed by June.” Pam Walsh, Governor Hassan’s spokesperson.
The End is Near
June 4th is the last day for the House and Senate to vote on bills that were passed by the other chamber. After this date, the legislature will only be dealing with bills that have gone to a committee of conference, or bills that have been vetoed by Governor Hassan. A Committee of Conference is created when the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill and they want to negotiate with each other. A bill is only passed by the legislature when the House and Senate pass exactly the same language.
The last day for the legislature to act on bills that were sent to a Committee of Conference is June 25th. This effectively marks the end of this year’s session although the legislature may meet again to attempt to override vetoes.
HB572, which was passed by the House 364-5, would require Kinder Morgan to purchase any tracts of land that it takes through eminent domain, rather than just taking a slice of land in the middle of someone’s property.
The Senate will be voting on the bill on Thursday, but the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is recommending a complete rewrite of the bill, which would be far more limited than the bill passed overwhelmingly by the House.
The proposed Senate version would restrict any land purchase requirements to just the land within 200 feet of the pipeline. Also, the requirement to purchase the land would only apply to privately held land that is currently being used as a residence. It would not apply to land owned by commercial entities, town and state land, or land owned privately which does not have a house on it.
The proposed Senate version also gives Kinder Morgan the option of hiring 2 appraisers to assess the value of the land if they disagree with the tax evaluation. The wording of this provision is vague depending on how you interpret “each party shall agree on the choice of 2 licensed appraisers”. One interpretation is that Kinder Morgan must agree to both appraisers. Another interpretation is that Kinder Morgan will select one appraiser while the land owner will select another. Still, some might speculate that if a company hires one appraiser with a large contract, that it might influence them to appraise the land below market value. The value of the land would be the average of the 2 appraised values.
The House version of the bill simply adds “high pressure gas pipeline” to the list of other utility projects that are covered by the current eminent domain law, which requires the entire tract of land to be purchased. The Senate version would carve out a special exemption for natural gas pipelines, which would be far more favorable to the company, leaving property owners with unusable and unsellable land.
The House bill would also require the gas pipeline company to pay the towns a land use change tax for all land taken that was in current use. The proposed Senate version removes this provision.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources recommended these changes 3-2. Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) is the Chair of the committee.
Senate prepares to vote on the state budget
The Senate Finance Committee has presented it’s version of the state budget for the Senate to vote on this week. The vote was 4-2 along party lines with the Republicans supporting the proposal and Democrats opposed.
The proposed budget defunds the Medicaid expansion that was enacted a couple of years ago and provides health insurance to 40,158 NH citizens. 95% of the program is paid for by federal grants on the condition that the state pay for 5%. The cost to the state of continuing the health care expansion is about $12 million in FY2017.
At the same time, the proposed budget would cut the Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax, reducing state revenues $15.6 million in FY2017.
On the plus side, the Senate version restores much of the funding to elderly services, the developmentally disabled, and substance abuse treatment that was cut by the House, such as Meals on Wheels and ServiceLink. However, the funding of these services is still significantly below Governor Hassan’s proposed budget.
Committee of Conference – what does that mean, exactly?
So what is a committee of conference and how does it work? A bill is only considered to be passed by the legislature if the House and Senate pass exactly the same language.
Let’s follow the process with an example. A legislator in the House introduces a bill. That bill goes to a committee where a public hearing is held and the committee makes a recommendation. The bill then goes to the House floor where the language may be changed. If the House passes the bill (either the original or a modified version), then the version that was passed by the House goes to the Senate.
The Senate then assigns it to a committee, which will hold another public hearing and will make a recommendation. The full Senate then votes on the bill. If the Senate passes the bill exactly as it was passed by the House, then the bill goes directly to the Governor for a signature or veto.
However, if the Senate changes the language of the bill before passing it, then the bill must go back to the House for another vote. A bill is only passed if the House and Senate both pass exactly the same language.
When the bill arrives in the House, the House has several options. They may vote to pass the version that the Senate passed, in which case the bill then goes to the Governor. The House may decide to defeat the bill. The third option is that the House may vote to form a Committee of Conference (CoC) with the Senate to negotiate a compromise. If the House votes to form a CoC, then the Senate will then vote on whether or not to form a CoC.
If both chambers agree to form a CoC, then three members from each chamber will be chosen to be members of the committee. These six legislators will then negotiate on language that they believe will be acceptable to the House and the Senate. The new language must be agreed upon by all six members of the committee. If the committee can not reach a compromise that all of them agree to, then the bill is defeated.
Once compromise language has been reached, the bill is then sent back to the House and Senate. This time, each chamber may only vote to pass or defeat the bill. Changing the language is no longer an option after it has come out of a CoC. If both chambers pass the compromise language, then the bill finally goes to the Governor.
Next week, the House will vote on the following bills:
SB218 would make “spoofing” an unfair and deceptive act under the consumer protection law. Spoofing refers to transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller identification information. The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 13-8.
Next week, the Senate will vote on the following bills:
HB572 would give property owners the option of selling their property to Kinder Morgan if Kinder Morgan is successful in taking part of their property under eminent domain laws. The bill would also require Kinder Morgan to pay moving expenses, including up to 6 months of rent. Rep. Belanger is the sponsor. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources recommends that an amended version of the bill be passed 3-2. See above.
HB1 and HB2 are the state budget and the policy changes needed to implement the budget. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that an amended version of these bills be passed by a 4-2 vote.
HB468 would prohibit the government from tracking and/or locating people using electronic devices such as cell phones or GPS without a warrant. Exceptions are made for emergency situations. Private companies, such as rental car providers must make the customer aware of tracking in a written statement and may not share the information with the government without a warrant. The Senate Judiciary Committee recommends that the bill be passed with some minor amendments and a provision to make violations of the law a class B misdemeanor.
HB208 would eliminate funding for energy efficiency programs and energy assistance for low income families. The Senate Energy And Natural Resources Committee recommends an amended version, which would increase funding for government energy efficiency programs and energy assistance for low income families, while removing funding for commercial energy projects. See above.
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). The Senate Judiciary Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 4-1.
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 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.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R) P: (603)465-7463 email@example.com
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.firstname.lastname@example.org
Brookline and Mason
Rep. Chris Adams (R) P: (603) 673-3212 email@example.com
Brookline and Mason