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NH State House Watch

NH State House Watch

AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published weekly 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. For an email subscription, visit our main page and click on <get our newsletter>. 

Click here for back issues.

We also have a weekly radio show on Mondays from 5 to 6 pm, re-broadcast Tuesdays from 8 to 9 am.  You can listen live on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over the internet. You can download a podcast of any of our earlier sho


State House Watch, April 29

2016 Issue 16

Greetings State House Watchers! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and we, your humble State House Watch team feel cautiously optimistic that it is now safe to put away your snow shovels without fear of being held personally responsible for more snowfall.

May 1st has been an international day for workers to rally for their rights going back to the 1886 Haymarket Massacre and the struggle for the 8-hour day.  In recent years it has been a day for immigrants and their allies to rally in support of human rights and humane immigration policies. This year’s May 1 rally will be at UNH-Durham, starting at 4:30 pm.  See details below and please plan to join us.

Landlord-Tenant Relations

The Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing Tuesday on HB 1370, the bill to expand the list of reasons a landlord can evict a tenant with only 7 days notice. As we noted last week, landlords are fighting a provision, added to the original bill by the House, requiring that landlords file eviction cases in the District Court where the rental property is located. At the hearing, Ken Siegel, a member of Nashua’s Board of Aldermen, testified that one of the city’s large landlords typically files its eviction cases in Portsmouth, a location convenient for itself but difficult for tenants to reach.  

Although landlords and their lawyers testified that tenants have the right to petition the court for a change of venue, it should be no surprise that many tenants fail to take advantage of this option. When they do not show up in court, perhaps because they have no means or time to travel to another part of the state, their cases go into default and their evictions proceed.
More than 20 property owners, lawyers for property owners, and/or landlord associated groups attended the hearing.

Lori Payne, the one tenant who testified and a resident of the property described by Alderman Siegel, pointed out that many of her neighbors are unfamiliar with their legal options and have limited means to travel. (The quickest bus route from Nashua to Portsmouth would be via Boston.)   

Others who spoke in support of the court venue provision included Maggie Fogarty, Elliott Berry of NH Legal Assistance, and Bob Keating, a Nashua landlord who is active in the Granite State Organizing Project.  

The bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Warren Groen, expressed his dissatisfaction about the way his bill was amended. We note that Representative Groen is also a landlord.  Representative Tim Horrigan spoke for his committee majority on behalf of the bill as approved.  Senator Dan Feltes, a former Legal Assistance attorney, also spoke in favor of the provision that gives the convenience of tenants preference over that of landlords.

You can read more in the Nashua Telegraph.

The Judiciary Committee has not yet exec’d on the bill, though they could take it up today or at their next meeting, Tuesday May 2.  (As we have grumbled in the past, Senators do not give advance disclosure of which bills they plan to discuss in executive session.)    

Temp Workers

When he arrived at the Bacardi bottling plant for his first day at his first job, 21-year old Day Davis sent a selfie to his girlfriend. Ninety minutes later he was dead, crushed under a machine. His story forms the backbone of "A Day's Work," an excellent documentary that Maggie and Arnie watched last night in Concord with an audience convened by the NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. The theme of the film is not just the epidemic of on-the-job deaths, but the particular plight of workers like Day Davis who are hired through staffing agencies.    

After the film, Arnie was able to conduct short interviews with Dave Desario, the filmmaker, plus George Gonos, a sociologist who is featured in the film, and Newmarket Representative Michael Cahill, who introduced a bill this year to provide additional protections for temp workers. Representative Cahill's bill failed, as did another filed by Senator David Pierce, but the issue will not go away. 

You can find out more about the film here and learn more about the issues from the Alliance for the Temporary American Workforce. You can listen to Arnie's interviews on our next radio show, Monday at 5 pm.  Get more details below. 

Committees of Conference, Vetoes, and More

The House and the Senate both have light schedules this week, so it seems like a good time for another review of the Committee of Conference process and what happens to bills after that.   

The 2016 Procedures for Committees of Conference (CoC) are at the beginning of the current House Calendar.  The condensed version goes like this: If the House or Senate approve different versions of the same bill, (e.g. a bill passed by the House is amended by the Senate, or vice versa) each chamber has three options:

(1) it can “concur” with the other, i.e. accept the language of the amended bill, in which case it goes on to the governor.
(2) It can vote to simply "non-concur," in which case the bill dies.
(3) It can vote to "non-concur" and call for a Committee of Conference (CoC). If one chamber calls for a CoC, but the other doesn't, the bill dies. If it is formed, the objective of the CoC is to reach agreement on new language that would be acceptable to both chambers. If it is unable to do so, the bill dies. COCs need to approve reports unanimously, but leadership can replace members at any time. The title of a bill may not be changed in a CoC, and no "non-germane" amendments may be added. "Reports" on agreed-upon language will return to both chambers for consideration.

May 19 is the last day for CoCs to be formed. May 26 is the last day for CoC reports to be signed, which will make for a busy week.  June 2 is the last day for CoCs to be acted upon, which means it is expected to be the final day of the regular 2016 legislative session.

Next Steps – Bills that pass must be enrolled

When a bill has passed both chambers, it is sent to the Committee on Enrolled Bills. This committee examines the bill for clerical errors or formal imperfections. In case of such errors, it reports them back to both chambers for amendment in those particulars only.

Once the enrolling reports are read in each chamber, the bill is signed by the Senate President or the Speaker of the House. The bill is then forwarded to the Secretary of State, who transfers the bill to the Governor.

To Sign or Not to Sign – the Governor’s Options

If the legislature has not adjourned, the Governor has five days in which to sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow the measure to pass without signature.

When the bill is signed, it becomes law; if it is neither signed nor vetoed, it becomes law without signature.

If the bill is vetoed, it returns to the body where it originated. A veto must have an affirmative two-thirds roll call vote in both chambers in order to be overturned. If the veto is overturned, the bill becomes law without the Governor’s signature. Without the 2/3 vote, the veto is upheld.

If the Legislature has adjourned, the Governor has five days (excluding Sundays and holidays) to sign the bill. If it is not signed, the bill dies. This is called the "pocket veto."

Last Week in the Senate

HB 659 This bill modifies the work requirements a voter must meet to obtain an absentee ballot to include voters caring for children or infirm adults. This bill actually makes voting easier, and it passed by a voice vote. Bravo!

HB 1148, relative to pipeline capacity contracts. Requires the PUC to determine whether any pipeline capacity contract with a term of more than one year is in the public interest. It was amended to establish a committee to review potential statutory revisions to constrain possible stranded costs associated with pipeline capacity contracts. It passed by voice vote.

HB 605, relative to mandatory minimum sentences. It was amended to add a provision that applies reduced penalties for driving an OHRV or snow machine during the period of suspension or revocation of a driver's license for driving while impaired. A floor amendment removed a line from the initial bill about armed career criminals. As it stands, the amended bill addresses mandatory minimum sentences only for drivers that are considered habitual offenders. Both the amendments passed, and so did the bill, by a voice vote. It will be going back to the House for concurrence (or not).

HB 602, relative to the use of drones. The amended bill passed on a voice vote and was referred to Finance.

HB 594, establishing keno. As we predicted last week, this bill was ITL’d. The roll call vote was 13-10.

HB 1594, relative to the discharge of a person committed for non-payment of a fine. That, at least, was the original bill. It was the beneficiary of a non-germane amendment that eliminated the original language of the bill and turned it into an act relative to body-worn cameras by police. Both the amendment and the reconfigured bill passed on voice votes. It will go back to the House for concurrence.

HB 1385, making certain changes to business profits tax provisions affecting a business organization when owners sell or exchange ownership interests in the business. This year’s Planet Fitness/gymtimidation bill passed on a voice vote. Governor Hassan vetoed similar legislation last year.

Next Week in the Senate

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, May 5 at 10 AM.

Regular Calendar

HB 1252, permitting employers to pay wages to employees weekly or bi-weekly. Current statute requires employers to pay workers weekly, unless the employer gets a waiver from the Labor Commissioner. This bill eliminates the need for the waiver. The sole beneficiary of this bill is the employer, who benefits by spending less on bookkeeping and payroll. Low-wage workers who do not have set hours will have an even more difficult time budgeting with a bi-weekly paycheck. Automatic gratuities (the percentage that some restaurants add to large groups) are required by the IRS to go into paychecks. This bill would mean that tipped employees could wait an extra week to receive their share.  We note that at least four of the bill’s sponsors are restaurant owners. The committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 3-2.

HB 582, repealing the license requirement for carrying a concealed pistol or revolver. This bill removes the language of “suitability” that gave chiefs of police some discretion in issuing concealed carry licenses. They would now be required to issue a concealed carry license to anyone who isn’t prohibited from owning a gun. The bill also stipulates that no fingerprints or photographs should be required or used as a basis to grant, deny, or renew a license. (We have to ask, should it be easier to excercise the right to vote or the right to carry a gun?) The bill passed the Senate on a strictly party line vote, was referred to Finance, and will come back again for another vote. Committee recommends OTP by a vote of 4-2. It will surely pass again, and given that it wasn’t amended it will head to Governor Hassan, who has vetoed similar bills in the past.

Coming Up in the House

The House will not be in session until Wednesday, May 11, at 10 AM. The Speaker is asking members to hold May 12 as another possible session day. There will also be a session on the 19th, and one on June 1st, which may be the very last session of the year.  

Coming up in House Committees

Tuesday, May 3

Finance-Division I joint with Finance-Division III, Rooms 210-211, LOB

11:00 AM Work session on SB 302. This bill establishes a statewide grant program to fund drug courts and alternative treatment programs. It also contains a funding mechanism for the grant program.

Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services, Room 307, LOB

11:00 AM Exec Session on SB 416. This bill prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who requests a flexible work schedule. This bill is good for workers and families. There’s still time to email the committee members and urge them to pass the bill as amended.

Wednesday, May 4

Finance, Rooms 210-211, LOB

10:00 AM Executive Session on a number of bills that have already been approved but were referred to the Finance Committee for further consideration. Given the anti-spending inclinations of certain members, the outcome is not predictable.  The bills include:

SB 464, establishing a statewide drug offender grant program for drug courts and alternative sentencing projects, and establishing a funding mechanism;  SB 491, which requires Medicaid coverage of medically necessary home health care services to be provided to older adults and persons with disabilities at their residences, and in the community. In other words, medically necessary care services will be available to people in settings where normal life activities take place;  SB 533, the omnibus opioid crisis bill includes $2 million in funding for the NH Housing Finance Authority to fund supportive housing projects for people with substance abuse disorders.

Finance will also give another peek at CACR 27, a proposed amendment to the state constitution providing that the state shall not spend more money from any fund than such fund receives in revenue, nor use the proceeds of any bond to fund its annual operating expenditures. An amendment to the state’s constitution requires that 2/3 of the voters approve it.

Coming Up in Senate Committees

Tuesday, May 3

Commerce, Finance, Health and Human Services, Judiciary, and Transportation all have executive sessions on unspecified pending legislation. Very few people have the ability to sit at the Senate and wait to see if a bill they are interested in is in executive session. This information should be a matter of public record. To re-grumble, we heartily disapprove of the lack of transparency.

Transportation, Room 103, LOB

1:30 PM HB 1132 This bill prohibits the carrying of a loaded rifle or shotgun that has a round in the chamber and the safety in the "off" position in a motor vehicle, OHRV, snowmobile, aircraft, or boat.

Wednesday, May 4

Public and Municipal Affairs, Room 102, LOB

9:15 AM HB 1356 attempts to define the terms “resident,” “inhabitant,” “residence,” and “residency.” Spoiler alert – this is not a gun bill.

May Day Rally for Immigrant Justice at UNH

Rejection of racism, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim sentiment will be the theme of the annual May Day Rally for Immigrant Justice to be held this year on the Durham campus of the University of New Hampshire. The rally will take place at 4:30 pm on the lawn in front of Thompson Hall in the center of the UNH campus featuring the voices of UNH students, immigrant activists, and local faith leaders.    

Speakers at the rally will include Eva Castillo, the Rev. Sandra Pontoh, Gabby Greaves, Auderien Monareh, Sid Nigam, Lina Shayo, and the Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood.  The Leftist Marching Band, a Portsmouth-based ensemble, will perform.

Sponsors of the rally include the Waysmeet Center, the Immigration Working Group of the United Church of Christ NH Conference, Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church, American Friends Service Committee, and the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees.  

Additional updates will be posted on Facebook.

State House Watch Radio - Monday at 5 pm

In their day-after May Day show next week, Maggie and Arnie will discuss temp workers, the May Day rally, landlord-tenant issues, and what to expect in the waning weeks of the 2016 legislative session.  The radio version of "State House Watch" airs live every Monday from 5 to 6 PM on WNHN-FM at 94.7 FM in greater Concord and streams live at everywhere. The show re-broadcasts and re-streams Tuesdays from 8 to 9 AM.  You can also find podcasts of our previous shows, including last week's discussion with Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the NH ACLU.

Other AFSC News

AFSC is hiring a Grassroots Organizing Intern, to work with Maggie and Arnie in Concord in support of community projects. The paid, 15 hour-a-week position, will focus on work to strengthen participation of Concord residents who experience economic and social exclusion.  Deadline for applications is May 6.  More details are here.  

AFSC is looking for a new co-tenant.  Since the departure of our GUI project staff at the end of March, we have a room available in our suite at 4 Park Street.  Rent is $350 a month for a great location with excellent neighbors.  Contact Arnie if you are interested.  

More Events Coming Up

Saturday, April 30

Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail Spring Symposium - "Beyond 'Chi-Raq': Deepening the Conversation on Race." This is a follow-up to the Tea Talk about Spike Lee’s film, “Chi-Raq.” You do not have to see the movie before attending. This is a chance to raise sensitive questions and share thoughts about race in an intimate setting. 10:30am - 2:30 pm (includes lunch) at South Church, 292 State Street, Portsmouth, NH.  Register and buy tickets online or call 603-436-8433603-436-8433.

39th anniversary of the Seabook occupation, which brought approximately 2,000 peace-filled protesters to the nuke's construction site and led to 1,415 arrests the following day.  

Sunday, May 1

May Day Rally to Save India Street Public Health, 1:00 – 2:30 pm, Lincoln Park, 356 Congress Street, Portland, ME. India Street Public Health Center is at risk of being defunded and closed. Help protect Portland people's access to quality public health care. Wear RED to show support! More info on Facebook.

May Day with Bill McKibben - a talk about transforming the energy created by the primary into climate action in NH. Hosted by 350 New Hampshire at the Community Church of Durham, 2:00 – 4:00 PM.  Get tickets here and see Facebook event page.

May Day Rally for Immigrant Justice, at 4:30 pm at UNH-Durham, on the lawn at Thompson Hall.

Thursday, May 5

Fight for $15 March in Concord.  Gather in the NH DOT lot on Hazen Drive at 4 pm.  Low-wage workers will share their stories and then we will walk up Hazen Drive to Loudon Road and come back to the starting point. This event is sponsored by the Granite State Organizing Project, United Valley Interfaith Project and SEIU Local 1984.  For more info, contact GSOP at 603-668-8250603-668-8250.

Sunday, May 8

"The Crisis in Burundi and the Quaker Peacemaking Response" is the theme of a conversation with Elie Nahimana, a Burundi Quaker pastor. He’s the Administrative Coordinator for Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC), a program to build trust and reconciliation among members of the Tutsi and Hutu communities. Potluck at 6 pm, followed by presentation. Concord Quaker Meetinghouse, 11 Oxbow Pond Road, Canterbury, NH (Near I-93, Exit 17).

-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty


PS - Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook.  Search for “American Friends Service Committee-NH” to “like” us.  After all, we are your Friends.

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.  Click here for back issues.

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 direct the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM.  Susan Bruce is a State House Watch researcher and writer.  Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.

"State House Watch" is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.

Your donations make our work possible.  Click the “DONATE NOW” button on our web page to send a secure donation to support the work of the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program.  Thanks!