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State House Watch June 26
2015 Issue 24
Budget Passed and Vetoed
The House and Senate moved surprisingly quickly through their business on Wednesday, with approval of a 2-year budget topping the list of important matters. As we reported last week, the budget that emerged from the Committee of Conference largely mirrored the Senate’s budget, with higher levels of spending on human services than the House had approved, but also containing cuts in business taxes and calling for the privatization of the Sununu Center, and not containing either the negotiated state employee pay raise or re-authorization of the NH Health Protection Program. NH Voices of Faith were there on Wednesday morning to call on legislators to create a moral budget and correct these serious shortcomings.
Expecting Governor Hassan to follow through on her statement that she would veto the budget, legislators also adopted a “continuing resolution” (HJR 2) to keep the government in operation for the first 6 months of the new fiscal year under the terms of the FY 2015 budget, which would otherwise expire on June 30.
Sure enough, Governor Hassan vetoed the budget yesterday. In her statement, she said, “I have vetoed the budget passed by the legislature because it is unbalanced, makes false promises about what it funds, and gives unpaid-for tax giveaways to big corporations, many based out-of-state, at the expense of critical economic priorities, including higher education, health care, public safety and transportation. The long-term impact of these unpaid-for corporate tax cuts will create a more than $90 million hole in future budgets, further eroding our ability to encourage economic growth.”
She elaborated that the use of $65 million in one-time revenue sources combined with the business tax cuts would open a gap that “would force the next legislature to make even deeper cuts to a budget that is already under-funded in critical areas.”
The governor said she is ready to go to work right away on negotiating a new budget. But the House and Senate leaders are likely to stall until fall, leaving state and nonprofit agencies to deal with months of uncertainty.
The Budget Debates
Votes in the Senate were strictly along party lines, with the 14 Republican members voting yes and the 10 Democrats voting no. The House vote of 196 to 161 on HB 1 was a bit more complicated, with all House Democrats, a handful of Republicans, and one Independent voting no. Presumably the GOP “no” votes came from members who thought the spending level was too high. Votes in both chambers on HB 2, the budget “trailer” bill, were similar: 14 to 10 in the Senate and 196 to 164 in the House.
The Continuing Resolution
Following adoption of the budget, both chambers voted to suspend their rules in order to take up HJR 2, the continuing resolution that would keep the state operating for 6 months under the terms of the FY 2015 budget. The rules were suspended following voice votes in both chambers.
Next, both chambers took up amendments introduced by Democrats to fund the continuing resolution at the higher spending levels of the just-approved FY 2016 budget rather than at 2015 levels. The amendment was rejected on a largely party line vote of 150 to 208 in the House and a strictly party line vote in the Senate. That issue disposed of, both chambers approved the continuing resolution on voice votes.
HJR 2 sped through bureaucratic channels to the governor’s desk, where Governor Hassan signed it into law yesterday.
Committees of Conference
After dispensing with the budget, both chambers turned their attention to reports from Committees of Conference (CoC) that had reached agreement on the bills they were considering. The ones we were watching were:
SB 135, relative to lead poisoning in children. The CoC report was adopted by the House on a roll call vote of 249-103 and a voice vote in the Senate.
SB 169 and HB 219 - These are the two proposals to limit the use of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards by recipients of public assistance. The Senate bill also aims to limit the use of cash obtained from EBT cards through ATM withdrawals, something the bill’s sponsor has admitted is unenforceable. Both measures seem designed to demean poor people and foster public suspicion of anyone who depends on public assistance. The House adopted the SB 169 CoC report in a roll call vote of 213-143 and adopted the HB 219 report by voice vote. The Senate adopted both by voice vote.
Now both EBT bills go to the governor. It has been our position all along that we don’t like either bill. Regardless of whether either or both become law, future legislatures may well decide to continue to attempt to restrict and demean people who receive public benefits. We hope that the governor will veto them both and we can get on the path of treating everyone with respect.
But we couldn’t help but chuckle at the very thought of a bill that would limit the purchases by the wealthy, perhaps those who take advantage of overseas tax havens. No new yachts for you!
HB 25 - This is the budget appropriating funds for capital improvements, including $800,000 for affordable housing investment. The CoC report was adopted on a voice vote in both chambers.
HB 407, establishing a committee to study the classifications of military vehicles and equipment that may be purchased by the state. The CoC report was adopted by a voice vote in the Senate and a “division” vote of 302–53 in the House.
HB 550, relative to the administration of the tobacco tax and relative to the sale or exchange of an interest in a business organization under the business profits tax. What began as a mundane bill about the tobacco tax became another route to lower business taxes when the CEO of Planet Fitness threatened to take his corporate headquarters out of state unless the tax code were changed to his benefit. The process gives new meaning to the term, “gymtimidation.” After expanding the reach of the bill so it would not apply to only one corporation (and thus have a deeper impact on the state’s revenues), the CoC approved the measure. Its report was approved by the House in roll call vote of 202-145 and the familiar 14-10 roll call vote in the Senate.
Governor Hassan has expressed concerns about the measure and may well veto it. But as Dave Solomon of the Union Leader reported on Monday, “That hasn’t stopped the company from moving ahead with its plan to “go public” in search of millions in new capital that it will use primarily to buy out existing private shareholders and consolidate under a corporate board of directors, according to the stock offering.” Those existing shareholders include former Governor Craig Benson, who accompanied the firm’s CEO during his gymtimidation routine at the State House.
We note that if HB 550 becomes law and Planet Fitness investors keep more of the money from a public stock sale, nothing prevents the company from moving its corporate headquarters for some other reason or recoups funds for the state if it does. We hope the governor will veto this hastily written and poorly thought out legislation, and that well-connected businesses get the message that they can’t hold the legislature hostage.
HB 614, implementing goals of the state 10-year energy program, was adopted on voice votes in both chambers.
HB 681, establishing a fine for persons convicted of domestic violence and increasing the marriage license fee was approved by the House in a roll call vote of 203-144 and by voice vote in the Senate. A number of the “no” votes in the House came from legislators who had signed “no new tax” pledges. We are pleased the bill passed despite their opposition.
The CoC reports are all available here.
To look up roll call votes, click here and choose either House or Senate, the year of the votes, and the bill number from the drop down menu.
Upcoming House Deadlines
September 2 is the first day to file new legislation for the 2016 session.
September 18 is the last day to file new legislation.
November 12 is the last day for House committees to report on retained bills.
Upcoming Senate Deadlines
October 13 is the first day to file legislation for 2016 Senate Session.
November 3 is the deadline for the Office of Legislative Services to accept drafting of a Senate Bill, Senate Concurrent Resolution, or Senate Joint Resolution with complete information for the 2016 Session.
Voting Rights Update
SB 179, the bill to create a 30-day residency requirement for voting in NH, is on its way to the governor’s desk. This is the latest attempt to solve the non-existent problem of “drive-by voter fraud” by disenfranchising voters. It looks as if Governor Hassan is poised to veto the bill. As NHPR reported, “Governor Maggie Hassan says she is likely to veto a bill that would require a person to live in the state for at least 30 days before being able to vote. In a statement on Thursday, Hassan’s press secretary says the governor has 'serious concerns' that this bill could violate the constitutional rights of New Hampshire citizens. This comes after activists and numerous lawmakers have put pressure on the governor this week to kill it.
We share the governor’s concerns, and urge her to veto this unnecessary and almost certainly unconstitutional bill. We will keep you posted on what happens next.
Speaking of keeping you posted–next week’s State House Watch will feature an end-of-the-session recap on our priority bills and more!
Marriage Equality Victory!
Many cheers for today’s US Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality! We send our deep appreciation to all the people who have worked hard to reach this day. Quoting Dr. King, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
"State House Watch/White House Watch" Radio
Arnie and Maggie will discuss highlights and low points of the legislative year, then we'll focus on presidential campaign developments and national issues. You can hear us Monday from 5 to 6 pm and Tuesday from 8 to 9 am at 94.7 FM in the Concord area and at wnhnfm.org anywhere you can get an internet signal. You can also download podcasts of past shows, including last week's discussion of the state budget, the Charleston murders, and recent interactions on the presidential campaign trail.
Governing Under the Influence
New Hampshire's not the only place where the candidates are showing up, and it's not the only place where AFSC's GUI project is busy. Check out our website for recent reports from Iowa. Go to the newsroom if you want to see the Fox News report on AFSC's bird-dog training. You can also find details of upcoming visits to NH from Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina, Lincoln Chafee, Chris Christie, Donald Trump, and more.
Saturday, June 27
The N H Progressive Summit, hosted by Granite State Progress and NH Citizens Alliance for Action, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, New England College, Henniker. Details here or on Facebook. AFSC will offer two workshops at the summit, one on bird dogging and one on the Governing Under the Influence project. Susan Bruce will co-lead one on social media. Other workshop topics include voting rights, the state budget, raising wages, and funding urgent needs by reducing military spending.
Seacoast Outright is hosting the first annual Portsmouth Pride event, with a parade and festival. 2 pm, Pleasant Street in Portsmouth. More info on Facebook
Sunday, June 28
Black Lives Matter vigil, 4 - 5 PM at Market Square, Portsmouth, sponsored by Occupy Seacoast and the Waysmeet Center. More info on Facebook.
Now through September 7
75th summer season at World Fellowship, where social justice meets nature in NH's White Mountains. Program activities include July 14 and 15 workshops on racism and classism with Maggie Fogarty and Molly Messenger, and an August 17 discussion of progressive politics and the NH Primary with Arnie Alpert. Every day is a good day to be at World Fellowship. Program and acommodations details here.
Join AFSC's Governing under the Influence project at the Independence Day Parade in Amherst NH. We'll be marching with our exciting new GUI banners. Several presidential hopefuls will be there, too. Contact Eric if you can help.
Join the NH Rebellion's marches from Rochester and Hampton to Portsmouth. You can find more information here.
Saturday, October 24
Save the Date for a celebration of AFSC-NH's 40th anniversary! Details coming soon.
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty