NH Legislature This Week—March 20, 2017
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quotes of the Week
“Given that there are differing opinions, the best we can do is strongly recommend that all towns stay open for voting tomorrow.” Governor Chris Sununu regarding holding town elections in the middle of a snowstorm that shut down most of the state.
Town elections on Tuesday
Hollis and Brookline will be holding town elections on Tuesday. These were rescheduled due to the snow storm last Tuesday. Mason held their town election last Thursday.
Rescheduling town elections was very controversial. There is ambiguity in the law regarding whether or not towns have the power to reschedule elections. Secretary of State Bill Gardner took the strong position that towns did not have the legal authority and Governor Chris Sununu “strongly recommended” that towns continue to hold elections in the middle of the snow storm. Most towns in the southern tier seem to have rescheduled anyway.
The House and Senate will meet on Thursday. The House will act on all remaining House Bills except for bills related to the budget. The last day for the House to act on budget bills is April 6th. The House has already begun holding hearings on Senate bills that have passed the Senate and that will be the focus as the House finishes voting on its own bills. The last day for the Senate to act on all Senate bills is March 30th.
SB7 Food Stamps – when just being poor isn’t burdensome enough
The Senate completely re-wrote the bill to now forbid the Department of Health and Human Services to use any eligibility criteria except the absolute minimum required by federal law. An exception is made for families with children under 18, but even this requires the approval of an oversight committee consisting only of legislators appointed by the House Speaker and the Senate President. Mothers with children under 18 are required to cooperate with the state to determine the father of the children or they and their children will be ineligible for food stamps. The amendment and bill were both passed on a party line vote of 14-9. Sen. Avard, who was the primary sponsor, voted in favor of the bill.
When your Commissioner of Education wants to send tax dollars to non-public schools
Controversy has been bubbling this week over a contribution made by Commissioner of the Department of Education, Frank Edelblut. The saga started a couple of years ago when the school districts of Croydon and Newport school districts decided to go their separate ways. Croydon has its own elementary school for grades K-4, but was sending older students the schools in Newport. Since the separation, Croydon has been sending students to the Newport Montessori School, which is a private school.
In September 2015, the NH Attorney General sent a letter to the Croydon School Board informing them that it was illegal to use taxpayer funds to tuition children to a private school. The school board refused to comply with this order and the state began a lawsuit against the school district, which is now before the NH Supreme Court.
Advocates of “school choice” have been giving to a fund to provide for the school board’s legal defense. Commissioner Edelblut has been an outspoken proponent of using taxpayer dollars to fund private schools, but refused to tell journalists whether he was one of the donors. Later, it was learned that he had contributed $1,000 to the effort.
The NH Supreme Court is delaying action on this case, waiting for the outcome of two bills in the legislature that make such arrangements legal. HB557 was passed by the House 188-163 (Rep. Ammon, Belanger, Carr, Gargasz and Lewicke all supported it). SB8 was passed by the Senate on a party line 14-9 (Sen. Avard supported it). The difference between the bills is that the Senate version allows taxpayer funds to be given to private religious schools while the House version specifies that the schools must be non-religious in nature.
A similar bill was passed by the legislature in the previous session, but was vetoed by Governor Hassan.
House Hearings for this coming week:
House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee (LOB room 305)
SB224 would prohibit “conversion therapy” seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation for children under 18. Tuesday 1:45.
Last week, the Senate voted on the following bills:
SB83 would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50. The Senate defeated the bill 14-9. Sen. Avard opposed the bill.
SB7 would make is significantly more difficult for families in need to qualify for food stamps. Sen. Avard is the primary sponsor. The Senate completely re-wrote the bill to now forbid the Department of Health and Human Services to use any eligibility criteria except the absolute minimum required by federal law. An exception is made for families with children under 18, but even this requires the approval of an oversight committee consisting only of legislators appointed by the House Speaker and the Senate President. Mothers with children under 18 are required to cooperate with the state to determine the father of the children or they and their children will be ineligible for food stamps. The amendment and bill were both passed on a party line vote of 14-9. Sen. Avard voted in favor of the bill.
SB234 would create a needle exchange program to help prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases. The Senate made some minor modifications to the bill and then sent it to the Senate Finance Committee for a recommendation.
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