NH Legislature This Week—March 23, 2015
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“They are budgeting as if we are still in the pits of the Great Depression.” Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua).
“I have been warned by many other legislators not to go into a room with you alone for reasons that would be impolite to repeat. The requirement that I come into the Speaker’s Office to speak one on one with you is too great a risk on my part and serves no other apparent purpose. To the contrary, it gives further impression that this is some form of a trap to further retaliate against platform Republicans, adding credence to the idea that this meeting is only to give you the opportunity to invent false statements or threats of some sort.” Rep. Max Abramson (R-Seabrook). Rep. Abramson was removed from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee due to a 2012 conviction of a felony for recklessly firing a gun during a party. Speaker Jasper wants to meet with Rep. Abramson and has not yet assigned him to a different committee. Rep. Abramson moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project.
Quote of the Previous Week – Raptor Edition
On March 12th, the House dealt with several bills that were introduced by fourth grade classes to learn about the legislative process. There were significantly more of these bills this year than usual and the House got a bit testy about it. The House ended up spending over 18 minutes discussing HB357, to make the red tailed hawk the state raptor – mostly discussing how the bill is a waste of time. The gallery was filled with the 9 and 10 year old fourth graders and their parents. The bill was defeated 133-160. Rep. Groen expressed his opposition this way.
“It‘s known for its extremely strong and sharp talons with which it grasps its prey and then its razor sharp beak, which it uses – it mostly likes field mice and small rodents – but it grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor sharp beak to rip its victim to shreds and to basically tear it apart limb by limb. And I guess the shame of making this the state bird is that it would make a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.” Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester)
Who is in the mood for Pasta and good company?
The Brookline Democrats will be holding our fourth annual Pasta Dinner on Saturday, March 28th. Come join us at the Brookline Community Church at 7PM along with our special guest, Rep. Steve Shurtleff, the House Democratic Leader. Tickets are $13 each or $25 per family and can be purchased at the link below or at the door.
Budget Season Ramps Up
The main budget battle will come just over a week away, when the House takes up recommendations that would cut $20 million from mental health services, reducing uncompensated care funding for hospitals, and eliminating the recent expansion of Medicaid, which would cause 37,000 people to lose their health insurance.
Later this week, new revenue numbers will be available, which may shrink the size of some of these cuts. However, many state Republicans are concerned that Governor Hassan may run against Sen. Kelly Ayotte for U.S. Senate next year and want to remove anything from the budget that the Governor could use to show that the state is doing well under her leadership.
This week, the House will be taking up one part of the budget – the Department of Transportation. This budget is being passed as an amendment to an unrelated bill. Some Republicans in the legislature are considering raising the gas tax by 8 cents, which would raise an estimated $55-60 million (out of an $88 million cut). For the arguments for and against the budget, we are republishing these summaries provided by two members of the committee and published in the House Calendar.
“The DOT budget presented in the committee amendment to HB357 reflects a budget that lives within our current means, without raising the road toll or registration fees. As a result, there is a stark reduction in funds available for our transportation infrastructure. It is a baseline, bare bones proposal that some may call fiscally responsible and others may call irresponsible due to layoffs and service cutbacks that may come as a result. The majority of the committee understands both sides of the argument. This effort, although extremely painful for both budget writers and state employees, has provided us with an opportunity to see what happens when the can is kicked down the road for far too long. A decade of reliance on one-time revenue sources, creative but temporary accounting solutions, as well as a decline in federal funding has lead us to our current situation. Here are the facts: the department believes that if this proposal were to become law, 400 of our valuable DOT employees may face layoffs. It would result in substantially reduced services including mowing, paving, maintenance, mechanical services, equipment, and bridge maintenance, among many other DOT functions. Under this proposal, the department would be facing a reduction in funding of $88.2 million, which represents a 42% cut in highway funds. These reductions will have a significant impact on the services our citizens, visitors, and business community have come to expect from DOT. There are no longer opportunities to employ temporary fixes to correct this disparity. Finance committee members with decades of experience have explored dozens of options. The only solution would be new or increased revenue streams into the highway fund. This would come in the form of higher registration fees and/or an increase in the road toll. However, the finance committee must work within the existing revenue framework unanimously approved by a bipartisan vote of the House ways & means committee. Despite reducing the use of highway funds to support the department of safety to the statutory level, a provision that had been suspended in past years, reductions of more than 40% are still necessary to produce a balanced DOT budget for the next biennium within the House-passed revenue estimates. The committee believes strongly in the legislative process and our ability to work collectively to find solutions to the tough problems our state faces. We must all do what we believe is in the best interests of our constituents. Through this process the House, and eventually the Senate, will be able to choose a path forward. The committee chose to present this as the baseline option. This is the first step.” Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Kearsarge) writing for the majority of the House Finance Committee on HB357, the budget for the Department of Transportation.
“The amendment to HB 357 will cripple and eviscerate the department of transportation (DOT). The effect of HB 357 as amended will be a reduction of over 690 employees, almost half of the entire workforce. Fifty maintenance sheds and at least 2 district offices will be shuttered. Almost all DOT construction programs will cease as will most federal funds for projects and services due to failure of maintenance of efforts. Finally some 2500 miles of roadway and up to 1000 bridges will be left to local communities to maintain if they so choose. Of the 1000 bridges left behind, many may be subject to emergency closure. The result of HB 357 is irresponsible and unconscionable. The primary purpose of government is public safety. HB 357 abdicates that responsibility.” Rep. Dan Eaton (D-Stoddard) writing for the minority of the House Finance Committee on HB357, the budget for the Department of Transportation.
Bills that slipped past us
We are now approaching crossover – the date at which the House and Senate will have acted on their own bills and then take up bills passed by the other chamber. Looking over the list of bills that we have reported so far this year, occasionally an update to a bill of interest will get past us and goes unreported here. To correct this, we have some “missed updates” on these bills.
CACR11 is a Constitutional Amendment that will allow the legislature to extend absentee voting to all voters. Currently, the Constitution restricts absentee voting only to people who will not be in their home town on election day or people with disabilities. This Amendment was defeated by the House Feb. 18th on a voice vote.
HB102 would require that all warrant articles be voted upon at town and school district meetings, eliminating the ability to “pass over” questions. Currently, only towns with less than 10,000 population can skip over questions. Rep. Belanger is the primary sponsor. Rep. Flanagan is also a sponsor. This bill was passed by the House on a voice vote on February 4th. There is a Senate hearing on the bill on Wednesday (see below).
HB240 would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to collect evidence unless a court order was obtained or unless it was an emergency situation. This bill is being retained by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee until next year.
HB605 would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences. This bill is being retained by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee until next year.
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 bill was passed by the Senate on a voice vote.
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. The bill was passed by the House on a voice vote on March 4th.
Last week, the Senate voted 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 tabled the bill for now. The bill can be taken up again at any point this session.
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 tabled the bill for now. The bill can be taken up again at any point this session.
SB195 would require all students to be instructed in cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables. Technically, the Senate changed to bill to merely encourage schools to teach cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables rather than require it and then passed the bill on a voice vote. The version that was “passed” effectively does nothing. For all practical purposes, the bill was defeated.
SB162 would prohibit smoking in a motor vehicle when a passenger under the age of 18 is in the vehicle. The Senate defeated the bill on a voice vote.
CACR5 is a Constitutional Amendment that would allow any taxpayer to challenge the constitutionality of any tax in the state courts. The Senate passed the Amendment 24-0. Sen. Avard voted in favor of the Amendment.
Next week, the House will vote on the following bills:
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 House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be passed 14-3.
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 House Ways and Means Committee recommends that the bill be passed 15-0.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee (LOB room 206)
SB116 would repeal the license requirement for carrying a concealed gun. Tuesday 10:00
House Education Committee (LOB room 207) Rep. Adams is a member of this committee.
SB101 would prohibit the state from requiring schools to implement the Common Core education standards. Sen. Avard is the primary sponsor. Tuesday 11:15.
House Hearings for this coming week:
Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee (LOB room 102)
HB102 would require that all warrant articles be voted upon at town and school district meetings, eliminating the ability to “pass over” questions. Currently, only towns with less than 10,000 population can skip over questions. Rep. Belanger is the primary sponsor. Rep. Flanagan is also a sponsor. Wednesday 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 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