NH State House Watch
AFSC-NH State House Watch, May 17
2013 Issue 19
Casino Vote Wednesday
Casino gambling and the state budget continue to be the big issues at the State House, but other matters are on the agenda, including the minimum wage, predatory loans, rooming houses, Stand Your Ground, voting rights, medical marijuana, and electronic payment of wages. Read on!
After weeks of deliberation on regulations, revenues, and community impacts of a proposed gambling casino, the House “Super Committee” voted 23 to 22 that SB 152 is Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL). The vote, which surprised some State House watchers, foreclosed committee debate on 17 amendments to address perceived flaws in the Senate-passed bill.
Writing for the majority, Representative Mary Jane Wallner said SB 152 “does not create a meaningful regulatory structure or process necessary for effective checks and balances,” “appears to sacrifice long term revenue for a one-time payment,” and contemplates expansion of gambling to other sites. “For all these reasons, the majority of the committee believes that, while no bill is perfect, SB 152 is not good enough.”
Representative Peter Leishman, speaking for the minority, re-stated arguments for a casino. He also said that if the ITL motion is defeated, “an amendment crafted by the minority that will significantly strengthen the bill will be offered.”
The committee vote sets the table for a big battle on the House floor on Wednesday, May 22. The debate will start with the ITL motion. If it passes, SB 152 and casino gambling are dead (for the time being). If the ITL motion is defeated, Rep. Leishman’s motion to substitute a re-worked gambling bill will be proposed. Other amendments on specific issues are likely.
(To read the lengthy majority and minority reports, open up the House Calendar and scroll to the report of the Joint Committee of Finance and Ways and Means.)
This is an important time to let your Representatives know your opinion of casino gambling. Click here to get their contact information. Click here for talking points from the Granite State Coalition against Expanded Gambling. Click here to add your name to a petition from Casino Free NH.
News from the Senate
The Senate Ways and Means Committee estimated a level of revenue for the next biennium that is $168.2 million less than the amount projected by the House. Differences include $40 million less from tobacco taxes and $107 million less from the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET). Since funds raised by the MET get spent on health care for the poor and generate matching federal funds, the lower MET estimate implies a lower level from the federal match as well, leaving the state with $214 million less to spend. According to the Associated Press, “Senate Republican leaders say they will cut spending rather than raise taxes if a casino isn't legalized.”
The Senate budget will likely come to a vote on June 6. That will leave only 3 weeks for a House-Senate Committee of Conference to resolve differences and bring revised budgets back to the House and Senate floors for approval before the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Coming Up on the House Floor, Wednesday, May 22
In addition to the casino bill, the House will also consider:
SB 185, establishing a study commission on housing policy and regulation, is on the Consent Calendar with a unanimous “ought to pass with amendment” (OTP/A) recommendation from Executive Departments and Administration. The amendment adds representatives from the Community Action Association and the Department of Resources and Economic Development to the study commission. If it is approved, the bill will return to the Senate to consider the amended version. Housing Action NH supports this bill.
SB 100, authorizing electronic payment of payroll, has been recommended “Inexpedient to Legislate” (ITL) by the Labor Committee on a 13 to 7 vote. This bill ends the requirement that employers offer to pay workers with a paper check and instead allows them to substitute an electronic card. The majority concluded that nothing prevents employers from offering electronic payment now and that there might be hidden costs and excessive fees tied to such cards. We’ll be talking more about this with Zandra Rice-Hawkins on our radio show Monday (see below).
SB 143, relative to benefits for unemployed persons who are trying to start a business, has a narrow OTP recommendation from the Labor Committee.
SB 153, relative to legislative approval of collective bargaining agreements entered into by the state, is recommended ITL by the Labor Committee on an 11 to 9 vote. This bill started out giving legislators veto power over contracts between the State and unionized workers. After amendment by the Senate, the measure would only allow lawmakers to vote on the monetary aspect of union contracts. But the majority of the Labor Committee believes the bill would enable legislators to meddle too deeply in employee relations without any evidence of a problem that needed fixing.
SCR 1, relative to special use permits in the White Mountain National Forest, remains “on the table.” We hear that Representative Cushing plans to leave it there for a little while longer, but plans to move for it to return to the House floor in two weeks. If he succeeds in getting it removed from the table, he will try again to amend it with the language of HCR 1 (supporting medical services for military veterans) and HCR 2 (supporting an amendment to the US Constitution declaring the corporations are not persons who possess constitutional rights).
Coming Up on the Senate Floor, Thursday, May 22
HB 357, prohibiting employers from using credit history in employment decisions, has been recommended to be sent back to the Commerce Committee.
HB 414, which would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or perspective employee to disclose social media passwords, is unanimously recommended for passage with an amendment that clarifies the terms (social media, etc.) and adds personal email to the category of media for which passwords cannot be demanded.
HB 472, the rooming house bill, comes to the floor with an amendment and unanimous support. The amended analysis: “This bill clarifies that the exclusion of rooming houses from the definition of tenancy cannot be extended by directing the occupant to move from one room to another, or from one house to another, within the 90-day exemption period.”
HB 501, establishing a state minimum wage, has been recommended for defeat on a party-line 3 to 2 vote of the Commerce Committee. This bill would simply allow the state to set its own minimum wage without raising it above the current federal rate. But even that was too much for the majority.
HB 403, establishing a committee to study end-of-life decisions, has been recommended for passage with an amendment on the membership of the study committee.
HB 573, relative to therapeutic cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, was amended by the Health and Human Services Committee and then recommended for passage by 5 to 0. The amendment bans personal pot plots, lowers the number of official dispensaries from six to four, and removes PTSD as a condition treatable by therapeutic cannabis. The changes could be enough to overcome resistance from law enforcement and win support from Governor Maggie Hassan, but would require the amended bill to return to the House for further consideration.
HB 135, the repeal of parts of the “Stand Your Ground” law, has a 4 to 1 ITL recommendation from the Judiciary Committee. The bill’s defeat is expected.
HB 399, establishing the NH Liberty Act, would prohibit the state from supporting or implementing two sections of the National Defense Authorization Act, which many people see as an opening for federal repression of legitimate dissent. But the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for the bill to be defeated.
HB 119, dealing with voter registration, was intended to remedy a problem created by the last legislature, which mandated that voter registration forms include language suggesting people with automobiles that carry out-of-state registrations are ineligible to vote. The original House bill would have deleted this constitutionally dubious provision. But an amendment, favored by the Senate Pubic and Municipal Affairs Committee, would retain the suspect language albeit in a somewhat softer form.
HB 595, which would block Phase Two of last session’s voter ID bill, was amended by the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. Under this version, photo IDs from state colleges would still be acceptable and other photo IDs could be accepted at the discretion of local election officials. Local officials would also be allowed to provide ballots to voters that they know, even without a photo ID. Implementation of other aspects of Phase Two, including a requirement that election officials photograph voters lacking proper ID, would be delayed for two years. Assuming the amended version is adopted by the full Senate, the House will then vote whether to concur, non-concur, or non-concur and request a committee of conference.
The Ways and Means Committee wants HB 617, increasing the gas tax, to be returned (“re-referred”) for further consideration, and wants to kill HB 659, increasing the tobacco tax. Both bills come to the floor with 3 to 2 recommendations.
Coming Up in House Committees on Thursday, May 23
The Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee will hold a sub-committee work session on HB 562, relative to the interest rate on title loans, at 11:30 am in LOB Room 302.
The State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee is having a “full committee discussion with the Congressional Delegation” at 9 am in LOB Room 201 at 9 am. But none of the actual Senators or Representatives are expected to be there in person; they will be represented by staff.
News from Other States
Minnesota became the 12th state to approve marriage equality!
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is pushing for Medicaid expansion, but having trouble convincing Republican lawmakers.
Speaking of Arizona, Arnie was there this week for a meeting on for-profit incarceration. You can read his blog post about a demonstration to un-celebrate the 30th birthday of the Corrections Corporation of America.
The NH Minority Health Coalition is sponsoring a May Health Day event on May 25, 2013 from 9 am to 2 pm at their office, 25 Lowell Street, 3rd floor, in Manchester. The event will include free health screenings and information on diabetes, HIV, and stress reduction. Call 603-627-7703 for more information.
David Zarembka, Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams, will speak on “Peacemaking after Deadly Conflict” on Sunday, May 26, at Concordia Lutheran Church in Concord. The program begins with a 6 pm potluck meal followed by the program beginning at 7 pm. Click here for a flyer and more details.
The Granite State Organizing Project is holding its Micah Awards Dinner on Saturday, June 8, from 6 to 9 pm at St. Augustin Church in Manchester. Tickets are $25 a person or $180 for a table of 8. Contact Sarah Jane Knoy or call 603-668-8250 for more information.
Coming up on “State House Watch Radio”
Zandra Rice-Hawkins of Granite State Progress will be our guest next week on “State House Watch.” We’ll be talking about the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council and also about specific issues such as guns, paychecks, voting rights, and the minimum wage.
“State House Watch Radio” airs each Monday from 5 to 6 pm, with a re-broadcast on Tuesday at 7 am. If you are close to Concord, you can tune in at 94.7 FM. If you are further away, you can listen live over the internet or download podcasts at your convenience.
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AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, the death penalty, immigration, and labor rights. We also follow the state budget and tax system, voting rights, corrections policy, and more. The AFSC is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who care about peace, social justice, humanitarian service, and nonviolent change. Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty staff the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show. Susan Bruce helps with legislative research. Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.
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