NH Legislature This Week—March 13, 2017
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“I ordered a bunch of seatbelts for Republicans”, Majority Leader Rep. Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) on strong-arming Republicans to stay late during the session to prevent the transgender civil rights bill from passing. Ironically, Republicans have strongly opposed the requirement that adults use actual seatbelts to prevent auto accident deaths.
“Our job is not to skirt challenging issues but to engage them.” Rep. Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location) and primary sponsor of the transgender civil rights bill.
Senate, but not House meeting this week
After last week’s marathon session, the House will not be meeting this week. This is mostly to allow legislators to focus on town elections (Tuesday) and town meetings. The House will be holding hearings this week on the state budget and a number of Senate bills that have already been passed by the Senate.
The Senate will be meeting on Thursday.
Important dates this week – mark your calendar!
Monday evening is the Hollis Brookline Coop School District Meeting. The meeting will start at 7PM at the Hollis Brookline High School in Hollis.
Tuesday is election day. It is expected to snow, but please make every effort to vote. If there is heavy snow, the election could be rescheduled. Please note that one of the warrant articles for Hollis and Brookline is to convert the Coop School District to SB2.
Because the Brookline School District is now SB2, there will be no annual school district meeting. Instead, all school warrant articles will be on the ballot on Tuesday. The SAU has published a voter‘s guide.
Brookline polls will be open from 7am to 7:30pm at Captain Samuel Douglass Academy.
Hollis polls will be open from 7am to 7pm at the Lawrence Barn.
Mason polls will be open from 11am to 7pm at the Mason Town Hall.
Wednesday is the Brookline Town Meeting at 7PM at Captain Samuel Douglass Academy.
Saturday (March 18th) is the Hollis Town Meeting at the Hollis Brookline High School starting at 10am.
Saturday (March 18th) is also when the Mason Town Meeting will be held at the elementary school at 9am.
Transgender Civil Rights bill tabled
Earlier, it looked like NH was finally going to include our transgender citizens in our civil rights laws, which provide legal protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. There was extensive public input on the discrimination that exists today and the devastating impact it has on the families of transgender Granite Staters.
The bill came out of committee with a strong, bipartisan vote of 15-2 in favor. However, House Speaker Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) came out forcefully against these protections. On Thursday, the House voted 187-179 to table the bill, effectively defeating it.
The arguments used by the House Speaker were especially shameful, depicting transgender people as predators looking to molest children in bathrooms. The vitriol was very reminiscent of the debate on same-sex marriage equality in which opponents argued that allowing marriage for lesbian and gay couples would lead to people marrying animals and children.
Among our Representatives, Keith Ammon, Jim Belanger, John Carr and John Lewicke all sided with the Speaker and voted to table this bill. Only Rep. Carolyn Gargasz had the guts to stand up to her party leadership and defend our most vulnerable community members against these hateful attacks. However, we also have to note that there was a second vote later to remove the bill from the table (if done the same day, only a majority vote is needed; 2/3 is needed in future meetings). For the second vote, Rep. Gargasz opposed the effort by the bill’s supporters to remove it from the table. That vote failed 168-180.
When poor just isn’t poor enough
New Hampshire Pubic Radio has an in-depth story on Sen. Avard’s bill to reduce eligibility for families to receive food stamps. The program is paid for by the federal government with the state only having to pay half of the administration costs. The federal government allows states to take into consideration the expenses of utilities and child care when the family has children. This is because children are expensive. In New Hampshire, this makes particular sense because we have a high cost of living and high utility expenses, especially in the winter.
Sen. Avard’s bill would require the state to use only the least generous eligibility calculation that is allowed by federal law. This would make a number of low income families ineligible for food stamps.
When asked by NHPR if he had written the bill himself, Sen. Avard said “I think I had some help.” That may be a bit of an understatement. The bill is identical to a “template” provided by the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability with blanks filled in to specify NH departments and programs.
Just because there is consent, that does not mean that there is agreement
Last week, we discussed the consent calendar and how it represented bills that were largely non-controversial with broad support. At the start of each House (or Senate) session, the legislative body takes one vote to approve all recommendations on the consent calendar. What makes it consent is that any Representative or Senator can remove any bill from the consent calendar by request.
Ironically, that actually happened to one of the bills that we discussed. HB499, which would raise the minimum age to get married to 18 was removed from the consent calendar by Rep. David Bates (R-Windham). After debate and a vote on a floor amendment, the bill was eventually defeated 168-179. Rep. Ammon, Belanger and Carr voted to defeat the bill. Rep. Gargasz and Lewicke voted in favor of the bill.
Last week, the House voted on the following bills:
HB493 would require that high capacity gas pipelines shall pay full fair market value and other expenses for land taken through eminent domain. Also, at least 74% of the gas transmitted would need to be distributed within New Hampshire. Rep. Lewicke is a sponsor. The House defeated the bill on a voice vote.
HB640 would de-criminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by people at least 21 years old, but possession would still be subject to a fine. The House passed the bill 318-36. Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr, Gargasz, and Lewicke voted in favor of the bill.
HB320 would change the process for drawing district maps after the census every 10 years to use a computer algorithm that would equalize the number of people per district while minimizing the total land area of each district. The House defeated the bill 161-184. Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr, Gargasz, and Lewicke voted against the bill.
HB478 would expand NH’s civil rights laws to include “gender identity”. This would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accomodations based on a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior. The House tabled the bill, effectively defeating it, 187-179. Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr and Lewicke voted to table the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against tabling.
HB578 would ban abortion after the fetus becomes “viable”. The committee notes that there is no accepted definition of when a fetus becomes viable. The House tabled the bill, effectively defeating it, 280-82. The vote was not recorded.
HB589 would repeal the 25 foot “buffer zone” around family planning clinics in which protesters are prohibited. The legislature enacted this buffer zone a few years ago in response to protester harassment of clients. The House defeated the bill 165-191. Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr and Lewicke voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Gargasz voted against the bill.
HB115 would establish a state minimum wage at $9.50 per hour, then gradually increase it to $12.00 per hour by 2019. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. The House defeated the bill 169-193. Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr, Gargasz, and Lewicke voted against the bill.
HB179 would prohibit adding a charge to electricity rate payers to pay for the construction of new natural gas pipelines. Rep. Lewicke is a sponsor. The majority notes that current law and rules do not allow for gas pipelines to be paid for through electricity bills, but notes that there is other legislation being considered that would allow this. The House defeated the bill 157-176. The vote was not recorded.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Finance Committee (Representatives Hall)
HB1 and HB2, the state budget. Monday at 3:00.
House Education Committee (LOB room 207)
SB 44 would prohibit the state from requiring implementation of the common core education standards. Sen. Avard is the primary sponsor. Wednesday 2:15.
House Public Works and Highways Committee (LOB room 201)
HB25 makes appropriations for capital improvements. Thursday 10:30.
Last week, the Senate voted on the following bills:
SB170 would allow towns to issue bonds to cover the expansion of internet broadband. The Senate sent the bill back to committee for further study on a voice vote.
This week, the Senate will vote on the following bills:
SB83 would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50. The Senate Commerce Committee opposes the bill 3-2.
SB7 would make is significantly more difficult for families in need to qualify for food stamps. Sen. Avard is the primary sponsor. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee proposes to change the bill to not include these restrictions, but instead to make families ineligible for food stamps if they do not cooperate with the state government to establish the paternity of the children. The vote in favor of this amendment was 3-2.
SB234 would create a needle exchange program to help prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee supports the bill 5-0.
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 and archived
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.
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. John Carr (R) P: (603)673-3603 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brookline and Mason
Rep. John Lewicke (R) P: (603) 878-2610
Brookline and Mason