NH Legislature This Week—March 6, 2017
Brought to you by the Brookline Democrats
Quote of the Week
“85 percent of the fentanyl in this state is coming straight out of Lawrence.” Governor Chris Sununu at a meeting with business leaders. The Governor was not able to provide any evidence for this assertion and eventually apologized to the mayor of Lawrence, MA after a major media furor this week.
Last week, the House and Senate took a week “off” although most House committees continued to meet. This week, the House will be in session on Wednesday and Thursday to work through a lengthly backlog of legislation before crossover. The Senate will be in session on Thursday.
Consent Calendar tidbits
When a bill is considered to be minimally controversial and has broad support in committee, it will typically be put on the consent calendar. The process is the same for the House and the Senate. When that body next meets, at the beginning of the meeting they take one vote to approve all recommendations on the consent calendar without debate. What makes it “consent” is that any legislator can remove a bill from the consent calendar and place it on the regular calendar for debate and a separate vote. In this week’s House consent calendar, there are a few of bills worthy of note.
One is HB499 which raises the minimum age at which a person can get married. Current law allows boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 13 to get married as long as they have their parent’s permission or approval from a judge in certain circumstances. As with all states, 18 is the legal age of consent to get married without parental permission. HB499, as amended by the House Children and Family Law Committee, would remove the exemption, requiring both individuals to be at least 18 years of age in all circumstances. Currently, all states have exemptions that allow individuals younger than 18 to marry. Most states do not specify a minimum age for the exemptions.
The other bill of interest is HB250. This bill establishes a committee “to assess the benefits and costs of a ‘health care for all’ program for New Hampshire.” Normally, we do not report on bills to create study committees, but this one is interesting because part of the committee’s charter is to look into a public option for universal health care. The committee will also look into changes that may be needed in the event the Congress makes significant changes to the Affordable care Act (Obamacare). The bill passed the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee 21-0 and is on the House consent calendar.
Also of interest is HB97 which would limit the use of drones. While the state can not impose restrictions on the federal government, state and local governments would be limited in their use of drones to eight circumstances: 1) when the person watched and the property owner have given permission 2) a search warrant has been signed by a judge 3) swift action is needed to prevent harm to an individual or property 4) to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack 5) to increase situational awareness in understanding the scope of an incident to assist coordinating a response 6) to support tactical deployment of law enforcement in emergency situations 7) to document a specific crime scene or accident scene or 8) for training purposes. Individuals with drones would be prohibited from using drones to spy on people who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. They would also be prohibited from harassing or stalking someone by use of a drone or from flying a drone near critical infrastructure.
As a side note, there is a separate bill to prohibit drones over state prisons. According to testimony, there have been 13 drone sightings over the Concord State Prison in the 18 months before the hearing. Reports from other states said that drones have been used to drop contraband into the prison yard, but that has not happened at this facility yet.
This week, the House will vote 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 science, Technology and Energy Committee recommends that that the bill be defeated 20-1. The bill is on the consent calendar.
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 Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends that the bill be passed 14-2.
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 Election Law Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 11-8.
HB478 would expand NH’s civil rights laws to inlude “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 Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee recommends that the bill be passed 15-2.
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 Judiciary Committee recommends that the bill be passed 10-7.
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 Judiciary Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 9-8.
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 Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 12-9.
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 House Science, Technology and Energy Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 13-8. 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.
This week, the Senate will vote on the following bills:
SB170 would allow towns to issue bonds to cover the expansion of internet broadband. The Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee recommends that the bill be defeated 3-1.
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 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.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. John Carr (R) P: (603)673-3603 email@example.com
Brookline and Mason
Rep. John Lewicke (R) P: (603) 878-2610
Brookline and Mason