NH State House Watch
AFSC-NH State House Watch, May 24
2013 Issue 20
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Casino Plan Killed, Medicaid Expansion Wounded
The big news this week was the defeat of SB 152, the casino gambling bill, by a vote of 199 to 164. “This is a true victory for the people of New Hampshire over the temptation to fund the state budget at any cost, even the health of our families and good reputation as a place where individuals can work hard, study and flourish as individuals and communities. It is not too much to say that love of neighbor and integrity won out in this significant battle,” said the Rev. Linda Lea Snyder of the NH Council of Churches. (Click here to find out how your Representatives voted.) This debate is over…for now.
Our relief at the gambling vote, though, is matched by our distress at a party-line 4 to 2 vote in the Senate Finance Committee to block the State from expanding access to Medicaid. But it is far from the end of the debate on this one. The measure will still be debated by the full Senate when it considers the budget on June 6. If Democratic backers of Medicaid expansion can’t find two Republicans to join them, the issue can still be debated in the House-Senate Committee of Conference which will be formed to reach a budget compromise.
Our main message for now is that if your State Senator is a Republican, please contact her/him to urge a vote to put expanded Medicaid back in the budget.
See below for more.
What happened in the House
The casino debate took more than two hours, with an emphasis on whether the bill should be killed (voted “inexpedient to legislate”) or if debate on amendments to “fix” a flawed bill would be allowed. The vote to kill the bill concluded the matter and prevented any debate on the amendments.
Some of the Representatives who supported the ITL motion were in favor of a casino, but thought SB 152 was just a bad bill. Others opposed giving Millennium Gaming (the company that was on the inside track toward winning a license) a monopoly in the state. Rep. David Hess, a prominent Republican casino opponent, asked, “How can we address unmet needs by creating more needs?”
We hope the defeat of the casino bill will unleash a constructive discussion about ways a wealthy state can find the money it needs to fund essential services.
Without debate, the House approved an amended version of SB 185, establishing a commission on housing policy and regulation. The amended version will return to the Senate. Also without debate, the House voted to concur with the Senate version of HB 193, relative to registration of vehicles by residents without a permanent street address. This constructive bill will head toward the Governor’s desk for her signature.
Due to the gambling debate, the House didn’t get much else done. But they did approve a measure phasing out use of lead fishing tackle, which threatens the health of loons (and committed many puns along the way). They also sided with car dealers against car manufacturers by passing SB 126, and adopted SB 122, which creates a commercial shrimping license. The rest of the House agenda has been postponed to Wednesday.
What happened in the Senate
The good news is that HB 472, which strengthens protections for residents of rooming houses, cleared the full Senate on a voice vote. Unfortunately, the bill was weakened by the Senate Commerce Committee with an unhelpful amendment that may allow for ongoing exploitation of longer term residents. The amended bill returns to the House, which can vote to concur with the Senate, non-concur and ask for a committee of conference to look for a compromise, or non-concur and let the bill die. We expect the House to concur with the Senate.
An amended version of HB 573, relative to the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, received thumbs-up from Senators by a vote of 18 to 6. The new version, which bars home-grown pot and eliminates PTSD as a condition which can be treated with medical marijuana, returns to the House.
Other Senate news was not so good.
On a party-line vote, the Senators defeated HB 501, which would have restored the State’s authority to establish a minimum wage.
HB 135, the bill to repeal some provisions of the so-called Stand Your Ground law, was laid on the table on a roll call vote of 19 to 5. That’s the end of that for this year.
Two House-passed bills intended to remedy assaults on voting rights approved in the previous legislation session were approved by the Senate with amendments that weaken the measures. HB 595, relative to photo identification of voters, was intended to remove the requirement that voters who did not have proper photo ID would have to be photographed in order to receive ballots. It was also intended to block a measure that would have restricted the types of photo ID that would be acceptable. The Senate’s version downsizes the list of acceptable ID. It also restores the photo requirement, but with an implementation delay until September, 2015. HB 119, relative to voter registration, was intended to remove statutory references that imply New Hampshire residents need to register their cars in New Hampshire in order to be registered voters. A Superior Court judge ruled last fall that the reference to motor vehicle law caused confusion and ordered the state to remove it from the forms before the 2012 elections. The Senate’s version of HB 119 changes the wording of the law only by saying the law “may” require voters to register their cars in the state. If this is confusing, we recommend an article from today’s Union Leader.
HB 399, “The NH Liberty Act,” which would prohibit the state from complying with parts of the National Defense Authorization Act that opponents believe gives the federal government too much authority to repress legitimate dissent, went down by voice vote. This was an interesting bill which united liberals with right-wingers in the House, but netted no interest in the Senate.
More on the budget
Lacking interest in new sources of revenue other than casino gambling, the Republican majority of the Senate Finance Committee has been busy proposing cuts to the House-approved budget. So far these include $4.9 million for programs for the disabled, $1.8 million for troubled juveniles, $250,000 for tobacco prevention, $400,000 for family planning, $3.6 million for mental health. “The cuts outlined by Senate Republicans are nothing short of devastating for the health and well-being of the people of New Hampshire,” Governor Maggie Hassan commented.
As noted above, the Finance Committee also voted 4 to 2 to reject Medicaid expansion. Peter Bragdon, the Senate President, said “The federal government is making many promises when it comes to helping states fund Medicaid expansion, but we have been disappointed before with these types of promises and need to be cautious.” The fact that the State could pull out of the program if the Feds renege did not seem to matter to Senator Bragdon.
The vote drew a strong rebuke from the Governor. "The decision by Senate Republican leadership to reject $2.5 billion in federal dollars will make health coverage more expensive for hard-working New Hampshire families and undermine our state's economic recovery. They are rejecting health coverage for tens of thousands of working families, rejecting 700 jobs, and rejecting more than $92 million in savings for our state. Uncompensated care at our hospitals' emergency rooms and health centers increases costs for everyone, and rejecting these dollars will mean more than 58,000 Granite Staters will continue to go without health insurance.”
NH Citizens Alliance is organizing phone calls to encourage Senators to do the right thing. If you can help out on Wednesday, May 29, from 5:15 to 8:30 pm, contact Jillian, 603-724-4047 or email@example.com. Click here for background on Medicaid expansion from NH Voices for Health.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to complete its work next week and bring a full budget proposal to the Senate for consideration on June 6.
Coming up on the House Floor, May 29
The following bills, which were on the calendar for May 22, are scheduled to come up next Wednesday for debates and votes in the House.
SB 100, allowing employers to substitute electronic payroll cards for paper checks.
SB 143, relative to benefits for unemployed persons who are attempting to establish a business.
SB 146, relative to aid for the permanently and totally disabled and old age assistance.
SB 153, relative to legislative approval of collective bargaining agreements entered into by the state.
(See last week’s State House Watch for more details.)
Coming up on the Senate Floor, May 30
HB 414, relative to privacy in the workplace, would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose social media passwords. This has been recommended “ought to pass” with a friendly amendment.
HB 261, relative to the assistance program for 2-parent families with dependent children, permits HHS to re-establish an assistance program for said families, subject to available funding. This bill, recommended OTP, does not provide funds for the program.
Action in House Committees
The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold a full committee work session on HB 480, relative to solitary confinement, on Tuesday, May 28, at 1pm, in LOB Room 204.
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.
New England Veterans for Immigration Reform will hold a panel discussion with immigrant veterans and policy experts on Monday, June 10, at 11 am at Harbor Homes, 45 High Street, Nashua NH 03060. Call (207) 370-5840 for more information.
Coming up on “State House Watch Radio”
Rick Trombly, a former State Representative and Senator who now serves as Executive Director of NEA-NH, will be our guest next week on “State House Watch.” We’ll be talking about the end-games (with an emphasis on the “games”) of legislative sessions, including budget negotiations, House-Senate rivalries, and the orchestration of conference committees. We’ll also have a special set of songs for Memorial Day.
“State House Watch” 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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