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>.
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State House Watch February 5
2016 Issue 5
In big news this week, Governor Hassan gave her annual State of the State Address. She cited progress on the economic recovery of our state since the recession, the bipartisan efforts to combat the opioid crisis, and providing NH workers with access to quality, affordable health care as some of the highlights of the past year. You can read the whole speech here.
The other big news is that the bill to modify and extend the NH Health Protection Program, HB 1696, will be going to the full House for a vote next week, mostly likely on Wednesday, February 10. Voices of Faith will be having a vigil that morning, outside of Representatives Hall, at 9 am. This bill will ensure that the 47,000 low wage workers who now have access to health care will be able to keep it. If it isn't reauthorized, the program will "sunset" (i.e. die an untimely death) at the end of 2016.
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on SB 463-FN, a bill which would suspend the death penalty in New Hampshire. Committee members heard from over 20 individuals in favor of the proposal. Only two people testified against it. Supporters included Ray Krone, the 100th death row exoneree; Sam Millsap, a former Texas prosecutor; members of the NH clergy; former members of the NH law enforcement community; a former FBI Special Agent; a former NH Attorney General; a former NH Supreme Court Chief Justice; several attorneys; and several murder victim family members, among others. The testimony largely focused on inherent faults in the criminal justice system and the possibility of executing an innocent person. The bill will move on to the Judiciary's Executive Committee session soon before heading to the floor of the Senate, most likely later in February.
Last week we reported that HB 1621, the bill on so-called “sanctuary cities,” was on the consent calendar for this week, after the committee recommended ITL on a vote of 13-2. On session day, the bill was removed from the consent calendar, and then tabled, rather than being voted on.
HB 1402 was also tabled. This bill would prohibit the state from acquiring military equipped vehicles or equipment not readily available on the open commercial market. It’s a twin of a bill that was turned into a study committee last year. The report from that study isn’t due until November. The majority felt the committee ought to finish their work before further legislation is introduced.
Last week we alerted you to the scheduled hearing on HB 1629, a bill prohibiting members of foreign terrorist organizations from receiving public assistance, medical assistance, or food stamps. At the hearing, the lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ken Weyler submitted to the committee troubling and offensive testimony about people who practice Islam. We choose not to repeat his words, but you can read about it here at Talking Points Memo.
This is a BIG week in the House. Make some popcorn and hunker down for child labor, Real ID, marijuana and so much more!
The House will be in session on Wednesday, February 10 at 10:00 AM. If necessary, there will also be a session on Thursday, February 11, the final day to act on House bills going to a second committee. There are a lot of bills coming up for votes, hence the extra day.
There will be no legislative activity on NH Primary Day, February 9. The legislature will take a winter break the week of February 22-26, and so will State House Watch.
Quick Jargon Review
ITL - Inexpedient to Legislate, i.e. should be defeated.
OTP - Ought to Pass
OTP/A - Ought to Pass as Amended
On the House Consent Calendar
HB 1668, establishing a registry for persons convicted of heroin-related offenses and requiring registration of heroin offenders. The committee voted ITL on a vote of 15-0, saying that this would create undue hardship for people trying to turn their lives around.
HB 1149, requiring a royalty on the price of natural gas conveyed by pipeline intended for use in a foreign country. The committee heard testimony that this bill could be in conflict with the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. The pipeline companies do not own the gas, which creates other issues, especially since there is no gas production company in NH to charge. The committee voted unanimously to recommend ITL 18-0.
HB 1584, relative to minimum and maximum sentences for felony convictions. This bill updates the credit for time served in county jail in lieu of paying a fine from $50 per day to $125. There will be no additional cost to counties; in fact, the committee believes it will reduce county costs. The committee voted OTP/A on a vote of 14-0.
HB 1675, relative to the legalization and taxation of marijuana. This is one of several marijuana bills before the legislature this session. The committee voted 14-1 to recommend ITL. The committee report finds that during the time of an opioid crisis in the state, it would be sending the wrong message to legalize marijuana. We suspect that will be the fate of all similar legislation this year.
On the House Regular Calendar
HB 1564, establishing an independent redistricting commission. The majority recommends ITL, and the minority wishes to refer it for interim study. The commission would be appointed to create redistricting plans and recommend them to the legislature. If the first plan failed, there would be a second. If that were rejected, a third plan would be adopted through the legislative process. The majority found the process cumbersome and the timelines unrealistic. They also stated that they see no need to change the current process. The minority thought that given all of the lawsuits after the last redistricting process, that there might indeed be a need to change the current process. The vote was 11-8.
HB 1674, requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods. This bill has been rejected before, and this year is no exception. The majority report asserts that voluntary labeling on the part of companies is adequate, especially when combined with the ability to scan a product on the shelf with a smart phone. The vote was 12-7.
HB 1416, relative to funding for criminal background checks. This would have authorized the Department of Safety to set reasonable fees for state criminal background checks. This was viewed as an anti-gun bill, and the gun crowd lobbied hard against it, even writing the majority opinion. The committee vote was ITL 11-4.
HB 1557, relative to alcohol and drug treatment programs. This bill initially required the Commissioner of DHHS to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of alcohol and drug abuse prevention, recovery and treatment programs. It was amended in committee. The bill now requires the legislative budget assistant office to evaluate the “feasibility” (it is in quotes in the House calendar) of calculating and using cost-effectiveness in evaluating new and existing state programs. All state programs. The title of the bill is now irrelevant to the bill. Rep. Lucy Weber states in the minority report that the amendment differs so much from the original bill that it is now a non-germane amendment, requiring a hearing under House Rule 45. The vote was ITL 11-7.
HB 1696, requesting a modification of the NH Health Protection Program (NHHPP). The bill reauthorizes the NHHPP for another two years, 2017 and 2018. The majority recommends that it pass as amended. The committee vote was 17-1. A minority report was also written, and we were dismayed by the sarcastic tone. We observe this kind of tone creeping into the House calendar with increasing frequency. We long for the days of dense, incomprehensible (yet polite!) prose in the Calendar. We also predict a lengthy floor debate on this bill. This weekend and early next week are good times to let your representatives hear from you about the importance of the NHHPP. You can find more information on the Keep NH Healthy campaign website.
HB 1641, relative to requiring prevailing wages on state funded public works projects. The bill would require certain workers employed in the construction of public works in the state to be paid the prevailing minimum hourly wage and benefits. The majority felt that despite testimony that it would level the playing field, it would do the opposite. The Department of Administrative Services testified that passing the bill would require hiring new employees to administer the provisions, and that would strain the transportation budget. They didn’t like the study that was done, because it was a national study, and therefore not applicable to NH. The majority recommends ITL on a vote of 10-6. The minority says that the bill would put money into the hands of NH workers by preventing unscrupulous out of state contractors from underbidding on NH projects. The minority found that this bill would not increase project costs, but it would create more jobs and economic activity.
HB 1622, relative to radioactive waste and establishing a nuclear waste storage fee. The majority recommended this bill be ITL’d. They fear the $500,000 storage fee for each cask of nuclear waste stored on site at Seabrook Station would be passed on to ratepayers, and they have no wish to tinker with the “critical carbon free electricity essential to powering our grid.” The minority would amend the bill to remove the fees, and reinstate the High Level Radioactive Waste bill that was signed in 1986 by Governor Sununu, and mysteriously repealed in 2011 as part of the budget trailer bill. The vote was 13-6.
HB 1368, requiring firearms owners to have liability insurance. The committee states that there is no available mandated insurance. They were concerned that the bill would disproportionately affect the economically disadvantaged. The committee report notes that they received an overwhelming number of emails and personal testimony in opposition to the bill. The vote was to ITL 20-1.
HB 1616, relative to driver’s licenses and identification cards that are compliant with federal identification law. In 2005, NH passed a law refusing to comply with the Federal Real ID act. There were privacy concerns about the establishment of a federal database, and the possibility of national ID cards. Real ID didn’t go away, and the states that refused to comply will have to by 2018 or those who carry noncompliant id's will be unable to board airplanes. The committee found a clever solution, by creating a Real ID compliant license that individuals can choose to procure, or they can opt out, and retain a regular license or ID that will be marked “non-compliant for federal purposes.” The other option for those who don’t wish to comply is to use a passport to enter federal buildings or fly. The committee felt that it was unfair to constituents not to offer a choice. The committee vote was OTP/A 16-2.
The enhanced license will cost $80 and the enhanced non-driver ID would cost $50. The cost of a noncompliant license is $50, and a noncompliant non-driver ID costs $10.
Coming up in House Committees
Thursday, February 11
Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services, Room 307, LOB
1:45 PM HB 1341 This bill permits an employee who is not a member of a union, but is required to pay fees to a union, to opt to have those fees contributed to a charitable organization.
3:00 PM Executive session to address three bills we're watching, including HB 1346, a bill to increase the tipped minimum wage. Currently the tipped minimum wage is 45% of the minimum wage in NH, which is $7.25. This bill sets a base rate of $3.27 and increases the amount incrementally each year by $1. By 2020, the tipped minimum wage would be equal to the regular minimum wage. HB 1376, relative to temporary workers, would require employers to offer a full-time temporary employee a permanent position after 6 months of temporary employment. HB 1476 adds an exemption to the prohibition on youth employment. Youth under the age of 16 would be permitted to work without a certificate for their parents, grandparents, or guardians, at casual or farm labor, or for an employer who obtains a signed and notarized document from the youth’s parent or guardian permitting the youth employment. (Have we no workhouses? A Mr. E. Scrooge wants to know.)
3:30 PM Work session on HB 1512, relative to the definition of “employee” for the purposes of workers compensation and unemployment.
Science, Technology and Energy, Room 304, LOB
1:00 PM HB 1483, relative to community renewable energy. This would allow municipalities to give a tax break to citizens who install renewable energy projects, whether they do it on their own or in cooperation with others. This sounds good to us.
Ways and Means, Room 202, LOB
2:00 PM Executive session on a number of bills including: HB 1258, establishing exemptions from the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax for new businesses in NH. HB 1422 creates an exemption from the business profits tax for new businesses in NH. HB 1538 would revise the business enterprise tax as a business flat tax. It would also repeal the Medicaid enhancement tax. The fiscal note estimates a loss of millions in state revenue, which would appear to be the goal of all three of these bills.
Friday, February 12
Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB
10:00 AM HB 1492, regarding individual privacy when law enforcement agencies use body-worn cameras.
1:00 PM HB 1426, relative to earned time credits for prisoners participating in rehabilitative or educational programming.
2:00 PM HB 1369, requiring judges to grant earned time credits when a prisoner has substantially reduced the threat he or she poses to the public.
Science, Technology, and Energy, Room 302- 304, LOB
10:00 AM HB 1116 relative to net metering. This bill modifies the cap to 75 megawatts.
1:00 PM HB 1275 relative to net energy metering capacity. This bill would double the cap (capacity) for net metering (meaning full credit for excess generation) of solar power to 100 megawatts.
Thursday, February 19
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Room 204, LOB
3:00 PM HB 1552 This bill aims to expand the death penalty to include acts of terrorism and homicides related to civil rights.
Next Week in the Senate
The Senate will be in session on Thursday, February 11 at 10 AM. The calendar includes:
SB 420, relative to aid to the permanently and totally disabled. This bill ties state cash assistance aid to eligibility for federal aid from either SSI or SSDI. Current statute only applies to eligibility for SSI.
SB 437, establishing a commission to address child hunger in NH.
Coming up in Senate Committees
Tuesday, February 9
Ways and Means, Room 103, SH
9:45 AM SB 551 establishing video lottery and table gaming at one location. This bill also distributes the revenue from the slot machines and table games to various state agencies and municipalities including the town of Salem and abutting communities.
Next week on "State House Watch/White House Watch" Radio
We'll be joined by Jay Smith from the NH Public Health Association who will give us an overview of public health issues being considered in the legislature this year. And then we'll offer updates from the last wave of bird-dogging on the day before the NH Primary. The show airs on Monday from 5 to 6 pm and re-broadcasts on Tuesday from 8 to 9 am. You can listen live at 94.7 FM in the Concord area and on wnhnfm.org anywhere you can get an internet signal. You can also download podcasts of past shows.
Governing Under the Influence Update
With the NH Primary just 4 days away, GUI is gearing up for a final push of bird-dogging and educational activities. Visit our website for the candidate calendar, bird dog reports, and blog posts. Contact Olivia if you plan to go to a candidate event with a question to ask. Contact Eric if you can help the GUI team display banners and pass out leaflets at campaign events.
Events Coming Up
February 5 to 7 - “We the People Convention” at Veterans Park in Manchester, sponsored by Open Democracy and the NH Rebellion. Look for the AFSC/GUI table.
February 9 - The NH Primary. You can register at the polls. You will be asked to show a photo ID to register and to vote. Visit the NH League of Women Voters for info on exercising your right to vote.
February 13, 15 and 16: "We are Concord" community conversations, hosted by a broad range of community partners including the City of Concord, the school district, the Chamber of Commerce, New American Africans, AFSC, and the Bhutanese Community of NH. These events are free and open to the public. Child care and interpretation (including ASL) will be available as needed. Find more information here, and register here.
February 16 - "Reparationists are the New Abolitionists," a presentation and conversation with Woullard and Brenda Lett, hosted by the Building a Culture of Peace Forum, 7 pm to 9 pm at the UU Church, 274 Pleasant Street, Concord. (Snow date is March 8.) For more information, contact LR Berger.
February 19 - "Then & Now, 1965 vs 2016: Have Things Changed?" Community Forum hosted by the Manchester NAACP, Springfield College, 500 N. Commercial Street, Manchester, 6 pm to 8 pm. (Snowdate is February 26.)
February 19 - NH Fiscal Policy Institute 3rd annual policy conference, entitled "Making Ends Meet: Enhancing Economic Security, Fostering Shared Prosperity." You can find more information and register here.
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty
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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. 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.
"State House Watch" is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.
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