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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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 shows.

2015 ISSUE 29

Special Session Wednesday, November 18
Representatives, Senators, NH Voices of Faith Return to Concord

The NH House and Senate will convene Wednesday, November 18, in a “Special Session” called to respond to the heroin and opioid drug crisis.  The unusual session was proposed by Governor Maggie Hassan and approved by the Executive Council on a 4 to 1 vote on November 4.   

The House will convene at noon and the Senate at 1 pm.

The Governor's Proposal

According to a statement from her office on November 9, the governor was hoping for legislation that would:

1.    bring the laws and penalties for fentanyl in line with those for heroin; require boards governing all prescribers to update their rules by April 1;
2.    establish a statewide drug court office to expand existing drug courts and establish new ones;
3.    mandate use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and upgrade its technology;
4.    require all insurance companies to use the same evaluation criteria and remove some prior authorization requirements;
5.    limit emergency room prescriptions and all prescriptions to 34 days or 100 dosage units;
6.    allow increased oversight of pain and methadone clinics; update the Board of Medicine’s membership; provide additional support to local law enforcement;
7.    add an attorney at the Department of Justice focused on drug crimes; and
8.    increase funding for the Governor’s Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.

The Legislature's Approach

House and Senate Republican leaders, however, came up with their own plan: to create a 25-member legislative task force to consider responses to abuse of opioids.  The Task Force would consult experts and make recommendations concerning:  

1.    Amending the laws and penalties relating to the distribution of fentanyl to ensure they are on par with the laws and penalties relating to the distribution of heroin;
2.    Requiring insurance companies to use the same evaluation criteria for substance abuse treatment and removing prior authorization requirements;
3.    Mandating greater use of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and upgrading its technology;
4.    Continuing medical education relating to prescribing schedule II, III, and IV drugs;
5.    Providing for a statewide drug court grant program; and
6.    Reviewing the successful law enforcement partnership program taking place between the city of Manchester police department and New Hampshire state police.

The Task Force would present recommendations to the House and Senate by January 6.  You can see additional details in the House Calendar.

The Republicans have the majority in both chambers; State House Watchers expect their proposal to carry the day.  

What's this have to do with Medicaid?

Since a vital element of dealing with drug mis-use is making treatment available for addicts, and since insurance coverage to pay for treatment can be made available through Medicaid, there is an obvious connection to the need for the NH Health Protection Program to be re-authorized.  But just in case it’s not obvious to all of our legislators, NH Voices of Faith plans to have a visible presence at the State House on Wednesday as the legislators gather.  If you can join them, please contact Maggie.

Retained Bills

Legislative committees are wrapping up work on “retained bills” in the House and “re-referred bills” in the Senate.  Committee recommendations will come up right away when the Representatives and Senators re-convene in January.

For example, SB 219, relative to breast feeding, was proposed to require employers to make reasonable accommodations for mothers who are breast-feeding their infants.  After going through the legislative mill, the bill will return to the House and Senate as a proposal to expand breast-feeding protection to salaried, state workers.  It also sets up a task force to study the issue and consider expanding protections to larger classes of workers.  A step forward to be sure, but a small one.

SB 136, a bill that puts the legislature on record in support of a Constitutional Amendment overturning Citizens United, passed the Senate unanimously but was retained by the Legislative Administration Committee in the House.  Now that committee is calling for the bill to be sent to “interim study,” i.e. held over again without action.  We will watch for an effort to overturn the committee report on the House floor and substitute an “ought to pass” motion.   

2016 Legislation

The General Court website lists 773 “Legislative Service Requests” (LSRs) for 2016.  These are the names of bills that lawmakers have asked the Office of Legislative Services to prepare.  Once the legislators have agreed on the bills’ initial language, each one will be assigned a bill number and the text will be made public.  That means, for example, that we don’t really know what Rep. Jack Flanagan’s bill to expand the death penalty will say, or what will be the substance of a bill to ban “sanctuary cities.”  But we’re pretty sure we’ll be against them, and we’ll let you know the details when we get them.

Medical Marijuana

Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and told by her physicians that she does not have long to live, Linda Horan decided she would like to use cannabis to relieve the symptoms of her illness.  But while the legislature has approved the use of cannabis for situations like this, the state is dragging its feet on implementation.  That’s why Linda dragged the state into court yesterday, seeking judicial pressure on the state to at least give eligible patients the documents they need to procure cannabis legally in states where the dispensaries are up and running.  NHPR’s report is here.

A big thank you!

We send big thanks to everyone who volunteered, attended, and donated to support “What a Difference 40 Years Can Make,” the October 24 celebration of AFSC’s NH Program.  In addition to moving stories about work on immigration, death penalty repeal, MLK Day, and other issues, we had video greetings from Noam Chomsky and Bishop Gene Robinson.  

Speaking of thanks, the Governing Under the Influence project had a “volunteer appreciation” party yesterday in Concord.  Thanks to the hundreds of people out bird dogging the candidates and carrying the GUI banners at political events, the NH Primary debate includes discussion of for-profit prisons, immigrant detention, halting the plan to spend a trillion dollars on new nuclear weapons, and the need to restrain corporate influence over policy decisions.  Just today, AFSC staff and volunteers spoke to Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Rand Paul and heard some interesting replies.  Visit our website often to find out where the candidates will be and what they’ve been saying.   

“Class Action” Trainings

AFSC is working with Class Action and several other groups to host 4 workshops on class and classism.  In this workshop, participants will explore:

•how class identities affect our lives, how we work and who we work with
•how race intersects with class
•how we become more class inclusive (and why it matters)
•how we can celebrate differences from all class backgrounds to build community

The 4 workshops are:

Thursday, December 3 in Berlin, hosted by North Country Listens and Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network
Friday, December 4 in Claremont, hosted by United Valley Interfaith Project and Rethink Health
Friday, December 11 in Manchester, hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures
Saturday, December 12 in Pittsfield, hosted by Pittsfield Listens

Look here for more information and to register for the workshop you’d like to attend.

Fight for $15

The NH Fight for Fifteen coalition is sponsoring 3 demonstrations for a $15/hour minimum wage on Monday, November 16 from noon to 1 pm.  The demonstrations, coordinated by the Granite State Organizing Project, will take place at Concord Wendy’s, 106 Loudon Road; Manchester Wendy’s, 675 South Willow Street; and Nashua Wendy's, 46 E Hollis Street.  Sign up on Facebook.

Don’t Mourn, Organize

November 19 is the 100th anniversary of the execution of Joe Hill, the legendary organizer and song-writer from the Industrial Workers of the World.  In Joe Hill’s honor, we say, “Don’t Mourn, Organize” and print his final poem, known as "Joe Hill's Last Will."

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide
My kin don't need to fuss and moan,
Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.
My body?—Oh!—If I could choose
I would want to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and Final Will.
Good luck to all of you,
                                        Joe Hill

With best wishes,
Arnie and Maggie