NH Legislature This Week—February 13, 2017

NH Legislature This Week—February 13, 2017

Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats

www.BrooklineDemocrats.org

Quote of the Week

I will pay $1000 to 1st person proving even 1 out of state person took bus from MA 2 any NH polling place last Election Day Fergus Cullen, former Chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, on twitter. This is in response to claims by President Trump that thousands of people were bussed up from Massachusetts to vote in NH illegally. Somehow, with people from both parties holding signs outside of all polling places, no one noticed any buses pulling up.

Let me as be [sic] unequivocal as possible – allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless, without any merit – it’s shameful to spread these fantasies” Tom Rath, Republican strategist and former NH Attorney General.

Busy Week

The House will be in session on both Wednesday and Thursday to work through a backlog of bills that are coming out of committee. The Senate will be meeting on Thursday. Both House sessions and the Senate session will begin at 10:00 and will be streamed.

Governor Sununu’s Budget Address

Governor Chris Sununu addressed a special joint meeting of the legislature last Thursday along with members of the Executive Council and various commissioners. In the address, Governor Sununu stressed that his $12 billion budget would be “a true balanced budget, without an income tax or a sales tax, without increasing fees or taxes of any kind. And we will continue our responsible reductions in business taxes already set to take place.”

In addition to lowering taxes and balancing the budget, he also promised “we are going to double grants for towns, roads and bridges” and “we’re going to give a boost to school building aid.”

To pay for these, the Governor said “this budget cuts nearly $500 million from state agency budget requests, and it does so without a single layoff.” He did not specify what would be effected or the funds would be cut without layoffs.

The Governor announced that the state has a fund of almost $300 million earmarked for clean water projects. Although the Governor does not say where this money comes from, New Hampshire Public Radio reports that the funds are from a settlement with Exxon-Mobil over groundwater contamination.

Medicaid was barely mentioned in the address, but the recent expansion of Medicaid under Governor Hassan to take advantage of federal funding under the Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance to 52,000 Granite Staters. Repealing the Medicaid expansion has long been a goal of state Republicans, but Governor Sununu has not taken an official stand on the issue.

The Governor announced that the budget includes $18 million over 2 years to support schools with full day kindergarten. These funds would be targeted to school districts that are more economically disadvantaged. The proposed budget also increases funding for charter schools by $15 million.

The Governor addressed the problems with the Division of Children, Youth and Families, which are summarized well by New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jack Rodolico, “Since 2014, two small children have been murdered by their mothers while under the legal authority of N.H.’s Division of Children, Youth and Families. A recent outside review of DCYF concluded social workers are overwhelmed by their caseloads. Between fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the legislature slashed the budget for child protection by about 30 percent. After that cut, the state’s drug crisis surged, pushing more kids into the child protection system.”

Unfortunately, the Governor did not address how he would fix the problem aside from “we need new leadership” and “we will work to rethink how we partner with the community”. There was no mention of additional funding to hire more staff.

The Governor did promise that his budget includes $57 million in additional funding for the developmentally disabled. There has been significant wait list for such services in recent years.

New Hampshire Public Radio has a full transcript of the budget address annotated with notes and explanations for more information.

Concealed Gun Bill

SB12, which allows people to carry loaded, concealed guns without a special license and increases the length of a gun license from four years to five years. This bill has been speeding through the legislature like a bullet. The House passed the bill last week despite the fact that it does not usually take up Senate bills until after Crossover, which is March 23rd. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Sununu who could sign it into law this week. If signed, the new law would take effect immediately.

The testimony against this bill was just heart breaking, but their pleas have gone unheard. If you have not already, you should read the Concord Monitor article by Ella Nilsen “North Country teacher’s testimony about Sandy Hook draws scoffs at State House.

Efforts being made to end Gerrymandering

Every 10 years, the census is performed nationally as required by the Constitution. Based on this, every state redraws the district lines for various offices to ensure that the districts are representation is relatively level. Because the party in power always draws the lines, they are typically gerrymandered to help keep that party in power.

It works because membership in the parties varies considerably from location to location. Cities tend to have a lot of Democrats. Rural areas tend to have a lot of Republicans. If you draw the lines “right”, you can have a small number of districts which are overwhelming dominated by your opposition party and a large number in which your party has a significant advantage.

When districts are drawn this way, an election in which the voters are evenly split between the parties can result in the party in power having a large majority in the legislature. In order for the opposition party to become the majority, there would would have to be significant “wave” in their favor.

In New Hampshire, we have a number of tortured, gerrymandered districts as a result of the fact that Republicans won the 2010 election and redrew the districts to their favor. The most notorious example is Executive Council District 2, which consists of the largely Democratic cities of Keene, Concord, and Dover with a thin line of towns connecting them. This one district is overwhelmingly Democratic, leaving the other 4 districts with more Republicans than Democrats despite the fact that the voters in New Hampshire are almost exactly evenly split between the two parties.

Another good example is our own State Senate district 12, which stretches from Nashua wards 1, 2 and 5 to rural Rindge in Cheshire County. Senate District 9 is even worse, stretching from Bedford to the town of Richmond, south of Keene.

There are several ideas for fixing this problem and they are being suggested now, between censuses because no one can realistically know which party will be in power in 2021 when the districts are redrawn. Thus, it is impossible to know who would benefit from changing the current system.

HB203 and SB107 would create an independent redistricting commission. Such a commission would be made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, requiring them to come to some kind of agreement to move forward. Twenty one states currently have some form of redistricting commission.

Redistricting -you can help by taking action

There are several ideas for fixing this problem and they are being suggested now, between censuses because no one can realistically know which party will be in power in 2021 when the districts are redrawn. Thus, it is impossible to know who would benefit from changing the current system.

HB203 and SB107 would create an independent redistricting commission. Such a commission would be made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, requiring them to come to some kind of agreement to move forward. Twenty one states currently have some form of redistricting commission. HB203 is being opposed by the House Election Law Committee 11-9, but has not been scheduled for a vote in the House yet. SB107 is schedule for a hearing on Tuesday in room 102 of the Legislative Office Building by the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee.

Another approach is taken by HB320, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom) a first term legislator. This bill would use a mathematical optimization algorithm to eliminate gerrymandering. The bill had a public hearing before the House Election Law Committee and the Committee will be meeting on Tuesday to make a recommendation to the full House.

We will keep you updated on the progress, but readers are encouraged to contact the members of the committee to urge them to support this important effort to bring fairness to our elections.

A new tax on fuel efficient cars

HB621 would create a new tax on fuel efficient cars. The proposed new tax is called the Road Usage Fee (RUF) and would be paid annually along with car registration. Gas guzzlers that have 22.6 Miles Per Gallon (MPG) or less will no RUF tax. More fuel efficient cars will pay an annual tax that ranges from $7.70 for those with less than 26 MPG to $77.08 for those with 51 or higher MPG. Non-gas powered cars such as electric cars would be charged the most with an annual tax of $123.33. The House will be voting on HB621 this week.

Anti-Union bill opposed in the House

The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee has come out opposed (14-7) to SB11, which would prohibit collective bargaining agreements which require all employees to either join the union or contribute to the union. Such laws, called by their proponents “right to work”, have been strongly supported by Republicans nationally and in NH. The Senate passed this bill on an almost party line 12-11 with Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry) siding with Democrats in opposing the bill. The full House will be taking up this bill on Thursday.

Last week, the House voted on the following bills:

SB12 would repeal the licensing requirement for carrying a concealed pistol or revolver. This bill was passed by the Senate on a party line 13-10 vote on January 19th. Sen. Avard is a sponsor. The House passed the bill 200-97. Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr and Lewicke voted in favor. The bill now goes to Governor Sununu.

HB133, related to Jury Nullification was to be taken up last week, but the House decided to postpone consideration of this bill until next Wednesday, February 15th.

This week, the House will vote on the following bills:

HB133 would require judges to instruct juries that they have the option of finding someone not guilty even if the state has proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is known as Jury Nullification. The added instruction would be “Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.” The House Judiciary Committee recommends that this bill be passed 10-8.

HB203 would establish an independent commission to redraw the legislative districts in 2021, after the next census. The House Election Law opposes this bill 11-9.

HB621 would create a new Road Usage Fee (RUF) that would be paid only by cars that are more fuel efficient. This new tax would be paid as part of the annual car registration. The House Ways and Means Committee supports the bill 20-1.

HB201 would require background checks to purchase guns through gun shows, online and classifieds. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee opposes the bill 12-4.

SB11 would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require all employees to join a union or contribute to a union. The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee opposes the bill 14-7.

Senate Hearings for this coming week:

Senate Health and Human Services Committee (LOB room 101)

Sen. Avard is the Vice Chair of the Committee

SB236 would make the Medicaid expansion law permanent. This law allows low income people to access health insurance through the federal Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Monday at 9:45.

Senate Commerce Committee (Statehouse room 100)

SB83 would establish a state minimum wage at $8.50. Currently, the state minimum is the same as the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour.

Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee (LOB room 102)

SB194 would allow voters to register online. Monday at 9:00.

SB107 would create an independent redistricting commission. Monday at 9:20.

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 brooklinedemocrats@gmail.com.

Watch and listen to House and Senate sessions live and archived

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/media/default.htm

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.

Retainedmeans 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.

Crossoveris 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:

Nashua Telegraph

letters@nashuatelegraph.com

Hollis Brookline Journal

cabnews@cabinet.com

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.

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.belanger@leg.state.nh.us

Hollis

Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R) P: (603)465-7463 cgargasz@cs.com

Hollis

Rep. Keith Ammon (R) P: (603)296-9879 Keith.Ammon@leg.state.nh.us

Hollis, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston

Rep. John Carr (R) P: (603)673-3603 john.carr@leg.state.nh.us

Brookline and Mason

Rep. John Lewicke (R) P: (603) 878-2610

Brookline and Mason