NH Legislature This Week—March 9, 2015
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“If law enforcement or the state does not find sufficient ground to pursue prosecution, allowing private citizens to file criminal complaints could overwhelm the courts with meritless proceedings.” Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch (D-Bradford) on HB440, which would allow individuals to prosecute other people in court on criminal charges. Sen. Avard is a sponsor.
Special double issue
We were not able to put out a newsletter last week due to several conflicting commitments, but we are back with a special double issue this week! The legislature is at their peak right now in terms of votes as they work to vote on the bulk of the bills. This week the House has a self imposed deadline to act on all House bills except the budget bills that are not going to a second committee. 246 bills are up for a vote in the House this week and the Senate has a similar full plate.
Unemployment is down.
The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.5% in February, continuing a steady decline since the peak of 10.0% in October 2009. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate continues to decline as well and is at 4.0%. The Gross Domestic Product continues to grow and is now at $16.7 trillion, double the GDM from the late 90’s.
Citizens Arrest Taken a Step Further
Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont) has introduced a bill (HB440) which would allow any individual to bring criminal charges against any other individual and to prosecute them in circuit court, bypassing the police and the county attorneys. Currently, the county attorney may not prosecute a case if they feel that there is not enough evidence to get a conviction.
Opponents of the bill are also concerned about the fairly obvious potential for misuse by bringing criminal charges against someone as a means of harassment or over disagreements. One example is HA1, introduced this year (see below) which seeks to remove the top two officials at the Department of Education for “implementing education programs that fail to adhere to the principle of local control.”
The bill’s other sponsors are Sen. Kevin Avard (R-Nashua), former House Speaker Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon), Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton), Rep. Debra DeSimone (R-Atkinson), and Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont).
Discounted Hunting Licenses for Infants
This week, the Senate passed a bill (SB183) to give discounted lifetime hunting licenses to infants. Surprised? Actually, current law allows children of any age to receive lifetime hunting licenses. SB183 would just give a special discount if the applicant is under one year of age.
Last week, the House voted on the following bills:
CACR12 is a Constitutional Amendment that would require any candidate for office to live in a district for at least the same amount of time as the term of office being sought. The House defeated the amendment on a voice vote.
HB627 would eliminate registering to vote on election day. The bill was defeated 275-64. Rep. Adams, Belanger, Flanagan and Gargasz voted against the bill. Rep. Ammon was not present.
HB654 would defund domestic violence programs. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB202 would prohibit family planning clinics from dispensing prescription drugs. The House defeated the bill 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 House passed the bill on a voice vote.
HCR2 is a House Resolution calling on Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to address the campaign funding problems created by the Citizens United decision. The House passed the resolution 181-134. Rep. Adams, Belanger and Gargasz voted in favor of the resolution. Rep. Ammon was not present and Rep. Flanagan did not vote on the resolution. Special note: Rep. Pamela Tucker (R-Greenland) has invoked a rule to bring HCR2 back to the House for a revote.
HA1 would remove the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Department of Education because “these individuals … perpetrated a fraud on the people of New Hampshire by implementing educational programs that fail to adhere to the principle of local control and thereby forced the increase of local taxes …”. The address was defeated on a voice vote.
Last week, the Senate voted on the following bills:
SB107 would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a union. This allows employees to have the benefits and working conditions negotiated by labor unions without contributing to the union. Sen. Avard is a sponsor. There was an initial vote to pass the bill, but the Senate deadlocked 12-12. The Senate then decided to table the bill.
SB195 would require all students to be instructed in cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables. The Senate Education Committee recommends that the bill be passed 4-1.
Next week, the House will vote on the following bills:
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 Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 15-1.
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 Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 15-2.
HB163, 392, and HB684 all set a state minimum wage. The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee recommends that all be defeated.
HB370 would allow towns and counties to establish their own minimum wage laws. The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 19-0.
HB426 would permit drivers at least 18 years of age to use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. The House Transportation Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 13-3.
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. The House Ways and Means Committee recommends that the bill be passed 20-1.
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 Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be passed 12-3. Similar bills have been passed by the House, but failed in the Senate in recent years.
HB685 would prohibit any state or local law enforcement officials or agencies from enforcing any federal laws related to guns. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 12-5.
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 Judiciary Committee recommends that the bill be passed 10-9.
Next week, the Senate will vote 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. The Senate Education Committee recommends that the bill be passed 3-2.
SB261 would establish a state minimum wage at $8.25. The Senate Finance Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 4-2.
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