AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published weekly during legislative sessions 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 <SUBSCRIBE>.
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State House Watch
September 14, 2019
Greetings, State House Watchers!
First things first….Have you registered yet for our annual fundraiser? You don’t want to miss it! Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 28 at the UU Church in Concord, and get your tickets with this link today!
The Governor has had a busy summer with his red veto pen, and the legislature will be back in session next week to attempt to override the vetoes. There are also some important deadlines coming up for House and Senate members to file place holders for bills, and for committees to wrap up their work on retained or re-referred bills:
Deadlines in the House
The last day for filing LSRs for the 2020 session is September 20.
The last day to report on retained bills is November 14.
The first day to file LSRs for the 2020 session is October 16.
The last day to file LSRS for 2020 is October 30.
The last day to report on re-referred bills is December 19.
Veto Override Sessions
The House will be in session on Wednesday, September 18, and Thursday, September 19, at 10 AM. They will be voting on whether to sustain or overturn the governor’s vetoes. The Senate will be in session on September 19, at 10 AM for the same purpose.
The House and Senate sessions will be streamed online. Voices of Faith will be there both days, starting at 9 AM on the second floor of the State House.
Each override vote will start in the chamber where the bill originated, i.e. the first vote on HBs will be in the House; the first votes on SBs will be in the Senate. If the override gets the necessary two-thirds majority, there will be a second vote in the other chamber. If two-thirds vote to override in both chambers, the bill will become law. If the vote falls short of two-thirds in either chamber, the veto is sustained.
There will undoubtedly be a lengthy fight about the budget vetoes. New Hampshire is currently operating on a continuing resolution that keeps government agencies funded at the level of the last fiscal year. Social service agencies are already experiencing a spending crisis. The vetoed budget contained about $140 million for school stabilization grants. There was money earmarked for property poor school districts that are in crisis – like Berlin.
There’s another problem that hasn’t gotten much attention, one that Garry Rayno points out in this helpful piece on the budget for In Depth NH:
Without the change in law included in HB 2, ‘the trailer bill,’ another 4 percent reduction in stabilization aid to school districts will take effect this fiscal year on top of the 4 percent included in this year’s school budgets.
At a time when several school districts are suing the state for failing to properly fund education, this budget veto not only fails to increase school funding, it actually continues to cut it. The failure to pass a budget is also impacting cities and towns as they prepare their budgets for next year, without knowing what to expect in the way of school funding or other revenue. The continuing resolution, HJR 3, expires on October 1. As Garry points out, there is speculation that budget negotiations may continue to be stalled, requiring another CR to keep the state funded for three additional months. This would have painful consequences for NH cities and towns.
One of the sticking points for the governor is the budget’s failure to enact the next round of business tax cuts that were passed in the last biennium, cuts he believes are increasing state revenues. The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute just released a very useful brief, Business Tax Revenue and the State Budget. The Business Profits Tax is the largest source of state revenue, and those revenues are actually declining faster than projected, and may have been initially inflated by the Trump tax cut. Another round of business tax cuts will create challenges for the budget writers of the next biennium.
In addition to Garry Rayno’s analysis, we steer you toward Bob Sanders at NHBR for his insights about the business community and the potential veto overrides. Senator Dan Feltes and Representative Susan Almy wrote about the budget, business tax cuts, and the shrinking surplus in the Concord Monitor.
Other vetoes that will be revisited include three gun bills, as NHPR reports. The governor claimed in his veto that the bills would not “prevent evil individuals from doing harm.” There’s also the bill that would have created an independent redistricting commission, as Dan Tuohy reports for NHPR. And there are bills dealing with voting and elections, with health care, and worker rights.
NHPR has compiled and updated the NH Veto Tracker, which keeps track of all the bills vetoed by the governor, and provides a link to the veto statement issued for each bill.
In the House, the vetoed bills will be taken up in numerical order, which means the budget bills will be first. For the list below, we’ve chosen to use the same categories we used in our State House Watch End of the Year Review.
HB 1 Making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2020, and June 30, 2021 (the budget).
HB 2 Relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures (the budget trailer).
The first year of the legislative biennium (the odd numbered year) is when a new budget is crafted. The budget always begins in the House and takes the form of two bills: HB 1, the budget, basically a giant spreadsheet, and HB 2, the “budget trailer bill,” which outlines a range of policies tied to specific line items in the budget.
The budget went, as it always does, to a Committee of Conference. The day after both the House and Senate voted to accept the CoC reports, the governor vetoed both the budget and the budget trailer bill.
Had the budget gone into effect, it would have increased education funding by $138 million, including full funding of kindergarten, a return to stabilization grants, as well as fiscal disparity aid to communities with low property values. (Whether this level of funding rises to the level called for in a recent court ruling is doubtful.) There’s also $8 million for short-term increases in Medicaid rates for mental health and substance abuse service providers.
The CoC also agreed on a $17.5 million, 25-bed, secure psychiatric hospital to be built on the grounds of NH Hospital as a partial alternative to the Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) at the NH State Prison in Concord. It’s smaller than the 60-bed facility proposed by the governor and the 100-bed version that was the subject of an HHS “request for information” issued last year. The new facility would respond to the demand that individuals who are “civilly committed” (i.e. not convicted of a crime) to the SPU be moved out of prison and into an actual hospital. We are pleased to see the firm language stating that the state shall not enter into a contract with a private or for-profit prison company for the construction or operation of the new hospital. We are distressed that severely mentally ill individuals will still be held in a prison unit with a reputation for inhumane treatment.
The budget also includes major investments in affordable housing and homeless services, including an annual deposit of $5 million from the real estate transfer tax into the Affordable Housing Fund. Homeless services would get $2 million in funds for eviction prevention, $1 million to expand case management, $1 million for rapid rehousing, and $400,000 for homeless youth outreach. Also included is an amendment directing the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to amend the state Medicaid plan to create a Medicaid benefit for supportive housing services. The Lead Paint Hazard Remediation Fund has been created and given $3 million for loans to finance lead removal in low income homes and child care centers. The proposal to create a statewide housing appeals board was adopted, despite resistance from some local officials.
Children and Families
SB 1 Relative to family and medical leave. This bill would have established a system of paid family and medical leave insurance. The bill would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, a serious illness, the serious illness of a spouse or of certain other relatives. The insurance would be paid for by a 0.5% payroll tax. The provisions of SB 1 were included in the House-passed budget but dropped by the Senate and excluded from the budget which came out of the CoC.
HB 446 Relative to initiating amendments and corrections to birth records. This provides a procedure for an individual to obtain a new birth certificate based on a change of gender identity. It was amended to stipulate that any prior birth record would be retained by the town of birth and indicate on the original that it had been revised.
HB 349 Permits state and county prisoners to have a second medical opinion from a licensed health care provider. The prisoner would pay for the cost of the consultation.
Elections and Voting
HB 106 Relative to the terms “resident,” “inhabitant,” “residence,” and “residency.” This amends the statutory definition of these terms to include the intent to maintain a principal place of physical presence for the indefinite future. This bill removes a number of the requirements that were added by last year’s HB 1264, aimed at preventing student voting.
HB 105 Relative to domicile residency, voter registration, and investigation of verification letters. This bill modifies the definition of domicile for voting purposes, modifies forms and procedures for voter registration, and removes the requirement that the Secretary of State conduct post-election voter registration inquiries. This is a repeal of 2017’s SB 3, which is currently tied up in court.
HB 706 Establishing an independent redistricting commission. The Senate amended the bill to give the legislature more of a voice in the selection of commission members. The House concurred with the Senate amendment.
SB 67 Relative to the definitions of residence and residency. This bill stipulates that a person who meets the definition of resident or inhabitant but isn’t planning to stay forever (includes military personnel, students, workers employed for a fixed term) would not be considered a resident under Title XXI of NH’s motor vehicle statute, which requires a new resident to get a NH drivers’ license within 60 days of moving to the state.
SB 68 Relative to the centralized voter registration database. This bill would allow for the limited release of certain data contained in the centralized voter database pursuant to a court order, when such a release is necessary to protect the right to vote from infringement.
HB 611 Allowing voters to vote by absentee ballot. This would eliminate the current requirements for obtaining an absentee ballot and create “no excuses” absentee voting.
SB 106 Relative to the definition of political advocacy organization and expenditure. This revises the definition of political expenditure and political advocacy organization. This would be defined as an organization that spent $2,500 or more in a calendar year on communications distributed within 60 days before an election, that focused on a candidate or a measure (pro or con). Despite the overwhelming approval of both bodies, the governor vetoed the bill on July 10.
SB 156 Relative to political contributions made by limited liability companies (LLCs). This bill would require that a political contribution made by an LLC be allocated to the members for purposes of determining whether a member has exceeded the contribution limits. (No double dipping.)
HB 504 Relative to election-related amendments to the United States Constitution. This calls upon Congress to support election related amendments to the United States Constitution.
Energy and the Environment
HB 365 Relative to net energy metering limits for customer generators. This bill increases the electric generating capacity of customer generators who may participate in net energy metering and modifies the transition of tariffs applicable to certain customer-generators. The bill also clarifies the definition of eligible customer-generator for purposes of the utility property tax. This bill had strong bi-partisan support.
HB 582 Relative to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap and trade program for controlling carbon dioxide emissions. The bill makes changes to strengthen funding for energy efficiency programs while reducing rates for commercial and industrial customers.
SB 168 Relative to Class 2 obligations under the electric renewable portfolio standards. This bill increases the renewable portfolio standard requirements for new solar energy from 2019 – 2025.
SB 72 Relative to issuance of renewable energy certificates. This bill repeals the requirement that the Public Utilities Commission estimate and give credit for the total yearly production for customer-sited sources that are net metered.
SB 205 Relative to energy efficiency programs funded from the systems benefit charge and the duties and members of the energy efficiency and sustainable energy board. This bill adds requirements for uses of the Systems Benefit Charge (SBC) for energy efficiency programs. It also adds a voting and a non-voting member to the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Board.
SB 167 Establishing a clean energy resource procurement commission.
We hope you’ll visit the experts at Clean Energy NH for good explanations of all of these bills.
HB 109 Requiring background checks for commercial firearms sales. The bill requires commercial firearms sales or transfers in this state to be subject to a criminal background check and provides a criminal penalty for a violation. The bill excludes private, non-commercial sales or transfers between individuals, as long as neither are prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law.
HB 514 Imposing a 3-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm.
HB 564 Relative to possession of firearms in safe school zones. With exceptions for law enforcement and for people dropping off students (as long as the firearm remains in the vehicle), this bill prohibits carrying a firearm in a safe school zone. Violations would result in a Class A misdemeanor. The version which emerged from a CoC provides that school districts can make exceptions for individuals following a public hearing.
SB 5 Making an appropriation to the Department of Health and Human Services for Medicaid provider rates for mental health and substance use disorder and emergency shelter and stabilization services. The bill passed and was vetoed by the governor on June 7, on the grounds that the budget would make it redundant. He also went on to veto the budget.
HB 211 Relative to inquiries by prospective employers concerning salary history. This bill prohibits an employer from requiring a prospective employee to disclose her/his salary history prior to an offer of employment.
HB 293 Relative to employee credit privacy. This bill prohibits employers from using credit history in employment decisions.
SB 18 Relative to authorized employee wage deductions. This bill allows a public employee to specify voluntary deductions from wages for any insurance or employee benefit.
SB 20 Relative to notification requirements for employees, workplace inspections, and the youth employment law. This bill amends certain workplace notifications; amends certain provisions of the youth employment law; amends the requirements for employer retention of hour and wage records; and establishes prima facie evidence of a violation of youth employment laws.
SB 146 Relative to eliminating the waiting period before eligibility to receive unemployment benefits. This would repeal the one week waiting period that currently exists.
HB 148 Relative to notification to public employees regarding their right to join or not join a union. This would require an employer to provide written notice to a public employee regarding their constitutional right to decide whether or not to join a union, and the estimated annual cost of joining a union. It began as a thinly veiled attempt to discourage public employees from joining a union. It was amended to include educating new employees on their rights under collective bargaining in the public sector and it also clarifies how union representatives can meet with new employees in a timely manner. The House further amended the bill to stipulate that new hires would be given even more helpful information about union membership. This was a rare case of a bad bill being made good.
SB 151 Establishing an administrative hearing procedure and penalty for an employer who fails to make payment of wages or who fails to secure workers’ compensation coverage.
SB 100 Relative to discrimination in employment based on criminal background checks. This prohibits employers from asking about criminal history on an employment application and prohibits employers from conducting criminal background checks before an initial interview with a potential employee.
SB 271 Relative to requiring prevailing wages on state-funded public works projects. This bill requires that workers employed in the construction of public works projects in the state would be paid the prevailing minimum hourly wage and benefits.
SB 10 Relative to the state minimum hourly rate. The bill re-establishes a state minimum wage, sets it at $10 in 2020 and raises it to $12 in 2022. As introduced, it included an option for employers to pay $1 an hour less if they offered paid sick days and set the minimum wage for tipped workers at $4/hour. A House amendment eliminated the sick day provision and set the minimum for tipped workers at 50% of the standard rate. When the Senate declined to concur, a CoC approved a new version without the sick day provision and setting the wage for tipped workers at 45%. If a tipped employee did not earn at least $12 an hour, the employer must make up the difference.
Enrolled Bill Amendments
There are also two enrolled bill amendments that will be dealt with.
An enrolled bill amendment is a legislative device that is used to correct minor errors in the legislative drafting process. Normally, when the House is in recess, these amendments are adopted in a session where the Clerk meets with two members, one of which fills in as “the chair,” and another who moves and adopts the amendment. House Bills 226 and 315 need changes that go beyond the scope of a normal EBA. At the suggestion of the Clerks of the Senate and House, these amendments will be put forth to the body for a vote. It should be noted that the amendments will begin in the Senate, and if passed, go to the House for adoption. They will still both require the governor’s signature in order to pass.
The one we’ve been watching is:
HB 315 Repealing the authority to share voter information with other sites. This would eliminate New Hampshire’s participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. The House voted OTP/A by a voice vote. The Senate added an amendment stipulating that the Secretary of State become a member of another group whose purpose is to exchange information to improve the accuracy and efficiency of voter registration systems.
Copies of both of the enrolled bill amendments can be read on page 12 of the September 13 House Calendar.
State House Watch will be back next week with a report on the two days of veto overrides.
Thursday, September 19
Building a Culture of Peace Forum – Witness: Family Separation on Our Watch. Melissa Heinbauch and Ruth Stuart will share their experiences witnessing human rights atrocities of family separation and incarceration at the border and at the detention camps. Join us at the Concord UU Church, 274 Pleasant Street. Doors open at 6:30 PM; please arrive by 6:45 PM. Free and open to all.
Nuclear Weapons & You in the 2020 Election – Discussion hosted by the NH Nuclear Weapons Working Group, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others. 6 PM to 7:30 PM in the community room at Antioch University New England, 40 Avon St, Keene. All are welcome! Free food! Please RSVP here: www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-antioch
Friday, September 20
NH Youth Climate Strike – Join 350 New Hampshire Action and others for a march to City Hall in Manchester to strike for climate justice! Youth activists, student speakers, and community leaders will be in attendance. 12 PM to 2 PM. Meet at Veterans Park, Manchester. Facebook event here.
Saturday, September 28
AFSC-NH annual celebration and fundraiser - Please join us on Saturday evening, September 28, for “Keep on Moving Forward,” our annual community celebration and fundraiser. The event will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 274 Pleasant Street in Concord, with doors open at 5:00 PM. Our suggested donation is $20 to $75 per person, but don’t let that get in the way if you want to come. As in past years, the dinner will be prepared by AFSC volunteers with additions from local restaurants. Our guest speaker will be Massachusetts State Senator Jo Comerford, formerly the director of AFSC’s program in Western Massachusetts. We’ll also have music, a quick review of the year, and a couple of surprises. Please sign up here. If that doesn’t work for you, send us an email, call us at 603-224-2407, or drop a check in the mail to AFSC, 4 Park Street, Suite 304, Concord NH 03301.
Friday, October 11
Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis will be in New Hampshire! Stay tuned for more details coming soon from the NH Poor People’s Campaign.
OneActionNH.org is a great way to keep up with lots of other events going on in NH and Maine. Post your events there!
Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty
PS - Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook. Search for “American Friends Service Committee-NH.” 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.
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 wnhnfm.org every week while the legislature is in session.
Susan Bruce is 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.