NH Legislature This Week—March 16, 2015
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system…we will consider any agreement reagarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time. We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.” Letter to the leadership of Iran signed by 47 Republican U.S. Senators, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
“It’s not every day that a United States senator attempts to undermine U.S. foreign policy and weaken the nation in one cursive swoop…The message was clear, albeit remarkably condescending: Any nuclear agreement reached with the Obama administration won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on…If the open letter to the ‘Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran’ represents the path forward for U.S. foreign policy, chaos is the destination. It’s simply stunning that Ayotte and 46 other senators can’t see that – or choose not to.” Concord Monitor editorial (March 11, 2015) on the letter signed by Senator Ayotte and sent to Iran’s leadership.
“One wonders how loud and angry the Republican response would have been if a petty clan of Democratic senators had written an open letter to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev lecturing him on the intricacies of the U.S. Constitution in the midst of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty talks…Although the scolding letter set this week to Iranian leaders by 47 self-satisfied Republican U.S. Senators isn’t, as some suggest, treasonous, it’s in the neighborhood. And while it wouldn’t be a stretch to argue the letter is unpatriotic, we’ll settle for calling it shameful and stupid… The consequence of this international relations amateurism is to further … cast the U.S. government as a band of dysfunctional and untrustworthy malcontents.” Nashua Telegraph editorial (March 13, 2015) on the letter signed by Senator Ayotte and sent to Iran’s leadership.
No House Session this Week
The House will not be in session this week. They will meet again on Wednesday, March 25th. This is the deadline for acting on all bills aside from the budget. The Senate will meet on Thursday to vote on a few bills (see below).
Natural Gas Pipeline Hearing
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. This bill was passed out of the House Municipal and County Government Committee (which Rep. Belanger chairs) with a strong “ought to pass recommendation”. The bill is now before the House Ways and Means Committee, which is holding a public hearing on the bill on TUESDAY at 10:00 in ROOM 202 of the Legislative Office Building.
There are a couple of parking garages nearby, but arrive early if you are not familiar with parking.
Is it a good idea to talk on your cell phone while driving? Some Reps seem to think so.
HB426 would make it legal for adults and teenagers at least 18 years old to talk and text on their cell phones while driving. The bill was defeated in the House last week, but it was a surprisingly close vote of 136 to 214. Voting in favor of the bill were 5 Democrats and 131 Republicans. Voting against the bill were 138 Democrats and 76 Republicans.
Rep. Belanger voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Adams, Ammon and Flanagan were not able to be present for this vote.
Minimum Wage Bills Defeated
The House defeated a series of bills to re-establish a state minimum wage, which was repealed under Rep. O’Brien’s term as Speaker. The vote was focused primarily on HB684, which was defeated on a 145-198 vote. The bill has the support of 136 Democrats and 9 Republicans. The bill was opposed by 6 Democrats and 192 Republicans.
Last week, the House voted on the following bills:
Rep. Flanagan was not able to be present for these votes. Rep. Adams, Ammon and Gargasz were present for some, but not all of the following votes.
HB207 would prohibit police officers from making an arrest without a warrant unless they or another police office had personal knowledge of the crime or if there were sworn, written statements from at least two witnesses. Rep. Itse (R-Fremont) is the primary sponsor of this bill and had sponsored a bill in the last session to prevent police from making arrests in domestic violence disputes unless the officer had personally witnessed an assault. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB440 would allow any individual to prosecute criminal charges against someone else in court when police and the attorney general refuse to do so. Sen. Avard is a sponsor. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB163, 392, and HB684 all set a state minimum wage. HB163 and HB392 were defeated on a voice vote. HB684 was defeated 145-198. Rep. Ammon, Belanger and Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Adams was not able to be present.
HB370 would allow towns and counties to establish their own minimum wage laws. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB426 would permit drivers at least 18 years of age to use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. The House defeated the bill 136-214. Rep. Belanger voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Adams and Ammon were not able to be present.
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. On the floor, Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford) offered an amendment that would raise the same amount of funds for domestic violence, but from general taxation rather than an increase in the marriage license fee. The amendment was defeated 170-199 with Rep. Adams, Ammon and Belanger in favor, Rep. Gargasz opposed). The House passed the bill (raising the funds through marriage license fees) 223-146. Rep. Adams and Gargasz voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Ammon and Belanger voted against the bill.
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 House passed the bill 297-67. Rep. Adams, Ammon and Belanger voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB685 would prohibit any state or local law enforcement officials or agencies from enforcing any federal laws related to guns. The House defeated the bill 119-234. Rep. Adams and Ammon voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Belanger and Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB403 would repeal the recently enacted law that establishes a buffer zone around women’s health care clinics to prevent protesters from harassing clients. The House passed the bill 170-159. Rep. Ammon and Belanger voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Adams and Gargasz were not able to be present.
Last week, the Senate voted on the following bills:
SB157 would require that high school students pass the same test given to immigrants as a condition for graduating from high school. Sen. Avard is a sponsor. On the Senate floor, Sen. Molly Kelly (D-Keene) submitted an amendment that would not make the test mandatory, but would make it optional and give a certificate to any student that successfully takes the test. The Senate passed the amendment on a voice vote, then sent the bill to the Senate Finance Committee for further review.
SB261 would establish a state minimum wage at $8.25. The Senate defeated the bill on a party line 14-10 vote. Sen. Avard voted against the bill.
Next week, the Senate will vote on the following bills:
SB1 would reduce the Business Profits Tax from the current 8.5% down to 7.9% by 2019. State income in 2017 would be reduced $10 million while 2018 and 2019 income would each be reduced $20 million from the current level. The bill is sponsored by all Republican Senators except Sen. Russell Prescott (R-Kingston). Sen. David Watters (D-Dover) is the only Democratic Senator sponsoring the bill. Other sponsors include House Speaker Gene Chandler (R-) and House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan (R-Brookline). The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the bill be passed 4-2.
SB2 would reduce the Business Enterprise Tax from 0.725% to 0.675% by 2019. State income in 2017 would be reduced $7.6 million while 2018 revenue would be reduced $15.1 million and 2019 income would each be reduced $22.7 million from the current level. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the bill be passed 4-2.
SB195 would require all students to be instructed in cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 3-1. The Senate Education Committee earlier recommended that the bill be passed 4-1.
SB162 would prohibit smoking in a motor vehicle when a passenger under the age of 18 is in the vehicle. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 3-2.
CACR5 is a Constitutional Amendment that would allow any taxpayer to challenge the constitutionality of any tax in the state courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee recommends that the amendment be passed 5-0.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee (LOB room 204)
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. This is the second committee hearing for the bill (Executive Departments and Administration held a hearing on February 10th and recommends that the bill be passed 11-1). Tuesday at 10:30.
House Ways and Means Committee (LOB room 202)
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. This is the second committee hearing for the bill (Municipal and County Government held a hearing on February 3rd and recommends that the bill be passed 15-1). 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 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:
- 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.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