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NH State House Watch

NH State House Watch

 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>. 

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.

 

 

State House Watch

February 16, 2018

We at State House Watch are saddened and outraged by the mass shooting at the school in Parkland, Florida, but the one thing we will never be is resigned to mass murder. We will continue to advocate for stronger gun-violence-prevention measures, and continue to work with all of you to build a culture of peace and nonviolence.

The past week has featured Governor Sununu’s “State of the State” speech, preceded by a “State of State Employees” event by workers who have been without a contract for 230 days.  Senator Jeb Bradley’s long-awaited bill to reauthorize the expanded Medicaid program was finally released.  We gave close attention to hearings on SB 525, a bill affecting immigrant access to adult basic education; HB 1762, a bill that would dramatically weaken labor standards; and a committee vote on HB 1485, authorizing excessive security deposits.  The House and Senate were both in session.  Read on for the details.

The House will take it easy during the week of February 26.  The Senate will take a complete break. “State House Watch” will follow the example of the Senate.  You will see us next week, though.  

 

The Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy urges supporters of HB 628, the family medical leave bill, to use these days to let House Finance Committee members knowof your support for this important measure.  

Medicaid Update; Hearing Tuesday

Senator Jeb Bradley is the lead sponsor on SB 313, a bill to reauthorize (and rename) the expanded Medicaid program, which now provides access to health care for about 50,000 New Hampshire people.  The program is slated to "sunset" at the end of the year.  In other words, without a reauthorization, 50,000 people will be kicked out of the program that enables them to get health care, including addiction-related treatment and counseling.  

According to the Concord Monitor, the bill is being called a “placeholder” for a more detailed version expected soon.  This version’s features include shifting recipients into a managed care policy with work requirements along lines that Republican leaders had already insisted upon.  Recipients would also have to meet an “asset test,” in which those whose bank accounts, cash and possessions are assessed at above $25,000 – excluding the person’s primary home, primary car and furniture – would be screened out.  Backers assume they will be able to come up with the necessary funding without any new fees or taxes. 

The first public hearing on the measure, a joint session of the Senate Finance and Health and Human Service Committees, will be Tuesday, February 20 in Representatives Hall, starting at 1:30 PM. We encourage supporters to emphasize the ongoing need for this program.  Voices of Faith will be present to show support for expanded Medicaid.

If you can’t attend the hearing, you can still call lawmakers and voice support for SB 313. Contact the Finance Committee and Health and Human Services Committeetoday and ask these Senators to vote yes.  You can find an online petition supporting expanded Medicaid here.

Watching Governor Sununu

Governor Chris Sununu had a positive meeting with a group of immigrants and immigrant allies in his office last week. Participants, convened by the Granite State Organizing Project, encouraged the governor to extend his calls to block deportation of NH residents, support protections for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and TPS (Temporary Protective Status) holders, and to implement policies separating State Police from immigration enforcement.

The Governor delivered his State of the State address yesterday. You can read the speech (without the off-the-cuff remarks) at the NH Governor Official Website. Seated in the gallery were the Sepang family from Dover, Indonesians who have filed for asylum in the US, but are at risk (like so many immigrant families) of deportation. You can read and listen to more coverage of the speech at NHPR.

The State Employees Association, which like other unions that represent state workers, has been without a contract since the end of June, held a press conference at the LOB and lined the hallways of the State House to press their demands for a fair contract without further delay.  Read more here.

Action in Committees

Supporters of adult education, including teachers, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students, and members of NH Voices of Faith, filled the LOB lobby and a hearing room Tuesday to oppose SB 525, which would deny adult education to people who could not prove that they were legally present in the United States.  At the end of the hearing, Senator John Reagan, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he thinks the bill is not going anywhere.  There’s more at  NHPR.  

Representative Laurie Sanborn’s HB 1762, relative to documentation requirements for the Department of Labor, states, “it is time to change the culture of state government from one of enforcement, fees, fines, assessments, and delays,” to one that is more supportive of business.  The bill’s approach to culture shift, which Representative Sanborn also calls “red tape reduction,” is to largely dismantle the authority of the state Department of Labor to enforce its own regulations, including those meant to make sure workers get paid, that employers have workplace safety plans, and that reasonable restrictions on child labor are enforced.  Exercising considerable understatement, Labor Commissioner Ken Merrifield, a Republican appointee of Governor Sununu, told the House Labor Committee on Wednesday that this bill “could and probably would lead to workplace abuses.”  His Deputy Commissioner, Rudy Ogden, said that what Sanborn referred to as “red tape” and excessive penalties may be in response to a “serial pattern of significant violations.” “We have to have standards and some way of enforcing the provisions that have been put in place.”  Fines and penalties, he said, are “principally used to enforce the payment of wages.” Judy Stadtman of the NH AFL-CIO reminded members of the Labor Committee that the mission of the Department of Labor is to “serve and protect the interests and dignity of the NH workforce.”  The bill will be exec’d on Wednesday (see below).  

HB 1485, which would enable landlords to charge two months' rent for a security deposit on top of the first month’s rent in advance, received a thumbs down vote from the House Judiciary Committee.  We expect a close vote in the full House, which is likely to take up the measure on February 22. Please take a moment to call your Representatives and urge them to defeat this bill.

What's Going on at the State Liquor Stores?

 

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky has uncovered a practice at state-owned liquor stores that may violate federal laws against "boot-legging" and money laundering.  Apparently, out-of-state puchasers are driving off with huge amounts of liquor, especially Hennessey cognac, presumably for re-sale in other states.  “The stories are widespread of customers arriving at stores in out-of-state trucks and SUVs with wads of cash stuffed into their pockets, money belts and socks,” Volinsky told NHPR.  

In a letter to Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Volinsky says "these troubling practices have been ongoing for some time," and suggests they may expose Liquor Commission employees to criminal charges. Find out more from NHPR.

Last Week in the House

The House passed HCR 13, a resolution denouncing hate crimes, by a large margin, in a roll call vote of 324-69. State Representative Latha Mangipudi of Nashua spoke about her own experiences with rising racial hostility. Read more about the discussion on the House floor at the Concord Monitor.  

SB 33, relative to the definition of a political advocacy organization. Tabled by a roll call vote of 162-155.

HB 438, eliminating the automatic union dues payment for state employees. Voted ITL by a voice vote.

HB 114, relative to minimum electric renewable portfolio standards.  Voted OTP in a roll call vote of 167-164. A motion to reconsider failed in a division vote of 164 – 168.

HB 141, relative to electric renewable energy standards. Voted OTP/A by voice vote.

SB 128, relative to the policy goal of electric utility restructuring. Referred for IS by voice vote.

HB 529, phasing out and repealing the interest and dividends tax. Referred for IS by voice vote.

HB 1511, relative to the death of a fetus for the purpose of certain homicide charges. Tabled, by a roll call vote of 204-121.

HB 1566, prohibiting open carry of a firearm in certain public places. Voted ITL by a roll call vote of 194- 126.

HB 1355, establishing a commission to study adaptation of the tax structure of the state to economic and demographic change. The bill was ITL’d by a voice vote. 

Last Week in the Senate

SB 476, establishing a committee to study reinstituting the unemployed parent program. Adopted by voice vote.

SB 554, relative to the hourly rate and employer-sponsored health benefits.  This proposal to re-establish and raise the minimum wage with a differential based on health care benefits was defeated 14-10 by a party-line roll call vote. 

SB 439, repealing the authority to share voter information or data with other states. This proposal, which would have extracted NH from Kris Kobach’s “voter crosscheck” program, was defeated 14-10 by a party-line roll call vote. 

SB 579, relative to the penalties for welfare fraud, passed by voice vote. 

Next Week in the House

The House will be in session on Thursday, February 22, at 10:00 AM.

Consent Calendar

HB 1329, relative to eyewitness identification procedures. This bill is a collaboration between the NH AG’s office, the NH Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Innocence Project. Police departments would be required to submit their eyewitness ID procedures to the AG. Committee recommends OTP/A by vote of 20-0.

HB 1306, relative to aggravated felonious sexual assault in a public accommodation. This referred to a place where a user has an expectation of privacy, like a locker room or a bathroom. The committee felt this was already covered by existing laws, and recommends ITL by a vote of 20-0.

HB 1395, relative to the setting of cash bail. The committee wishes to study this bill with other bills relating to bail reform, and recommends IS by a vote of 18-2.

HB 1404, relative to the competing harms defense. This bill would amend current statute to allow a defendant to explain why an action was taken that broke the law, and allows the court to decide if they were justified. This deals with the rare circumstance where following the law would cause injury to a person or persons.  The statute has also been exercised on occasion by participants in acts of civil disobedience as a way to justify their actions.  

HB 1289, relative to trespassing fowl. The committee was sufficiently impressed by testimony from individuals whose properties were being soiled by free roaming chickens that they endorsed it, with an amendment. Committee votes OTP/A by a vote of 13-0. 

Regular Calendar

HB 1790, establishing a NH health access corporation. The majority finds that NH residents already have access to high quality health care in NH, and that creating this entity is unnecessary and unrealistic at this time. Committee recommends ITL by a vote of 11-9.

HB 1542, relative to carrying a pistol or revolver on university system and community college property. The majority finds that guns and students aren’t a good combination, and could make for possibly fatal confusion in the event of an active shooter situation. Committee recommends ITL by a vote of 15-5. The minority says, “Even though we feel that this bill is not needed, we supported it.”

HB 1474, designating the New Hampshire Red as the official state poultry. The committee recommends OTP by a vote of 13-0. Will the official state poultry be a permanent status, or will this be a 2-year position like that of the state berry? We will have to watch how the Senate plays chicken.  

HB 1565, relative to requiring the secure psychiatric unit to be accredited as a psychiatric hospital. Although the SPU houses people with severe mental illness, it is part of the state prison, not part of the state hospital. The committee believes accreditation is an appropriate step to address concerns. They recommend OTP/A by a vote of 20-0.

HB 1659, establishing a committee to study possible health and safety impacts of the alkali-silica reaction on the Seacoast. This reaction is causing the erosion of the concrete under the Seabrook nuclear plant. The committee recommends ITL by a vote of 14-5. The majority finds a study committee would duplicate the ongoing oversight by the NRC. The minority finds that this would provide an opportunity to oversee serious concerns about the concrete degradation. NextEra, which owns the plant, told the committee that more than half of the concrete structures have degraded to stage 3, which is the most serious, but said, in effect, “don’t worry, we’ve got it under control.”  We are worried.

HB 1301, including the legislature as a public employee under the public employee labor relations act. This would enable legislative employees to exercise the right to collective bargaining. The committee huffily recommends ITL by a vote of 6-2.

HCR 11, urging a pardon of Jerry DeLemus. The committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 9-8. Once again, we shake our heads.

Next Week in the Senate

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, February 22, at 10 AM.

Consent Calendar

SB 484, reestablishing the commission to address child hunger in NH. Committee voted OTP/A by vote of 5-0.

Regular Calendar

SB 517, establishing an electric vehicle charging stations infrastructure commission. Committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 5-0. We applaud planning for the future.

SB 490, establishing a commission to study end-of-life choices. Committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 3-2.

SB 586, relative to casino gambling. The bill to license two casinos has been recommended for IS, by vote of 3-2.

SB 404, phasing out the tax on interest and dividends. The current rate of the tax is five percent. The rate would be reduced to four percent in 2020, three percent in 2021, two percent in 2022, one percent in 2023, and repealed outright in 2024. The predicted decrease in state revenue begins at $4 million in 2020, $21 million in 2021, $38 million in 2022, $55 million in 2023, $72 million in 2024, finally climbing to $100 million in 2024. The Ways and Means Committee recommended OTP by 3-2.  

Coming up in House Committees

Tuesday, February 20

Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Room 302, LOB

9:30 AM Subcommittee work session includes HB 1516, establishing a commission to examine the feasibility of the New England states entering into a compact for a single payer health care program.

Room 305, LOB

9:00 AM Subcommittee work session includes HB 1632, relative to the labeling of bottled water; and HB 1382, repealing the requirement that restaurants provide separate bathrooms for each sex.

Environment and Agriculture, Room 303, LOB

10:00 AM HB 1766, relative to remediating the Coakley Landfill in Greenland. This bill requires the Department of Environmental Services to order the parties responsible for dumping hazardous waste at the Coakley Landfill to undertake remedial actions.

Executive Departments and Administration, Room 306, LOB

12:00 PM Subcommittee work session on HB 1803, relative to payroll deductions for government employees. This is another attempt to prevent automatic payroll deduction of union dues, but would also block deductions for the United Way and other charities.

Finance, Division II, Room 209, LOB

1:00 PM Yet another work session on SB 193, establishing education freedom savings accounts for students, also known as the voucher bill.  Next Monday on our radio show, we’ll be asking Representative Mel Myler why they are having all these work sessions (details below).  

Judiciary, Room 208, LOB

10:00 AM HB 1787, relative to the rights of conscience for medical professionals.

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

10:00 AM Subcommittee work session on HB 1500, relative to workplace violence, workplace injuries, and death in the workplace. Requires deaths and serious injuries to be reported to the Commissioner of Labor. This bill is scheduled for an executive session the next day.

Science, Technology, and Energy, Room 304, LOB

10:00 AM HB 1101, regulating groundwater pollution caused by polluting emissions in the air. This hearing will be followed by a full committee work session at 1:30 PM.

Wednesday, February 21

Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Room 302, LOB

9:30 AM Subcommittee work session includes HB 1516, establishing a commission to examine the feasibility of the New England states entering into a compact for a single payer health care program.

Room 305, LOB

9:00 AM Subcommittee work session includes HB 1632, relative to the labeling of bottled water. This would require water to be tested for the presence of certain chemicals and labeled with the results; and HB 1382, repealing the requirement that restaurants provide separate bathrooms for each sex.

Executive Departments and Administration, Room 306, LOB

10:00 AM HB 1592, requiring the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services to review standards relative to arsenic contamination in drinking water. This bill passed the House and was referred to ED&A.

Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs, Room 205, LOB

9:00 AM Subcommittee work session on HB 1813, relative to the law regarding Medicaid expansion. This bill requires the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services to seek a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce eligibility for benefits under the New Hampshire Health Protection Program from 138 percent of the poverty level to 100 percent.  This bill also requires the commissioner to develop and implement enhanced eligibility screening procedures.

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

9:00 AM Subcommittee work session on HB 1321, relative to the hours youth are permitted to work. This bill exempts home-schooled students from certain restrictions, including hours of work and days of work per week.  We are getting the impression that some legislators think child labor is the answer to the state’s workforce shortage.  

10:00 AM Subcommittee work session on HB 1246, relative to the minimum hourly rate for tipped employees. This bill would set the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees at $3.27. The wage would increase by $1.00 in 2019 and equal the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher, in 2020.

11:00 AM Executive session begins on bills including HB 1246 , relative to the minimum hourly rate for tipped employees; HB 1321, relative to the hours youth are permitted to work; HB 1500, relative to workplace violence, workplace injuries, and death in the workplace; HB 1716, establishing apprenticeship programs for unemployed workers; and HB 1762, relative to documentation requirements for the Department of Labor (see above).

Coming up in Senate Committees

Tuesday, February 20

Finance, Representatives Hall, SH

SB 313, reforming New Hampshire’s Medicaid and Premium Assistance Program. This bill establishes the New Hampshire Granite Advantage Health Care Program to replace the NH Health Protection Program. Eligible adults would choose coverage from a managed care organization contracted as a vendor under the Medicaid program. This hearing will be live-streamed at this URL

Wednesday, February 21

Executive Departments and Administration, Room 101, LOB

9:20 AM SB 588, relative to inspections of laboratories. We call attention to this because there is an amendment proposed that would convert a lab inspection proposal into a bill relative to loans for lead hazard remediation.  We have arrived at the point in the session where one must keep a (State House) watchful eye out for these sorts of changes and non-germane amendments. 

State House Watch Radio

Next week on "State House Watch," the radio edition, our guest will be  Representative Mel Myler, a member of the House Education Committee.  We'll be talking about SB 193, the school voucher bill, and other issues affecting public education.  We'll also share some audio clips about the impact on state workers of going without a contract since July 1 and the bill to gut state labor standards.

If you missed last week's show with Rob Werner of the League of Conservation Voters and the Concord City Council, you can find the podcast here

Since the WNHN-LP studio is too small for you to join us there, we hope you'll listen on 94.7 FM in the Concord area or www.wnhnfm.org on the internet.  We'll be live from 5 to 6 PM on Monday, with a rebroadcast Tuesday at 8 AM.  

Events Coming Up...

 

Saturday, February 17

"Immigration 101" with Eva Castillo, from the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, 2:00 PM at Church of Our Saviour, Milford.

Movie: “Dead Presidents,” with special guest Brother Ari Merretazon, at Brookside Congregational Church, 2013 Elm Street, Manchester, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM.  Free and open to the public. Sponsored by UJIMA Collective, NH Black Women’s Health Project, and Manchester NAACP. 

Sunday, February 18

“Keeping the Dream Alive: Let’s Talk About Racial Issues,“ a discussion hosted by the Greater Concord Interfaith Council, at South Congregational Church, 27 Pleasant Street, Concord, 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM. 

“Sites of Memory: Reconstructing the Past,” is the theme of this week’s Elinor Williams Hooker Tea Talk, at the Levinson Room, Portsmouth Public Library, 175 Parrot Avenue, Portsmouth. Free and open to the public.  Hosted by the Black Heritage Trail of NH and the Portsmouth Public Library.  More info on the Black Heritage Trail Website.

Civil Rights Sunday, every Sunday from 3 to 4 PM at Market Square, Portsmouth.

Ninth Annual Soul Food Dinner, presented by SNHU’s Office of Diversity Programs and Multi-Cultural Student Union, 5:00 PM at the SNHU Dining Center/Banquet Hall.  Tickets available here.

 

Tuesday, February 20

Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Immigrant Justice, 8:30 AM at the Norris Cotton Federal Building, 275 Chestnut Street, Manchester

 

Friday, February 23 

The NH Fiscal Policy Institute’s 5th annual conference, “Building a Strong Foundation for a Prosperous Economy,” 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM at the Grappone Conference Center,70 Constitution Avenue, Concord.  Information about speakers and registration attheir website.

 

Sunday, February 25

Civil Rights Sunday, every Sunday from 3 to 4 PM at Market Square, Portsmouth.

Monday, February 26
Poor People’s Campaign Organizing Meeting, St. James Episcopal Church, 44 West Street, Keene, 7:00 PM.  Facebook Event Page

Stop the Granite Bridge Pipeline resistance strategy session, First Unitarian Universalist Society, 12 Elm Street, Exeter, 6:30 PM.  Hosted by 350NH.  Facebook Event Page.  Another strategy session will be held March 7, 6:30 PM, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 669 Union Street, Manchester.  Facebook Event Page

Wednesday, February 28
ACLU Community Conversation: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Rights, New England College, 62 N. Main Street, Concord, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM.  Facebook Event Page

OneActionNH.org is a great way to keep up with lots of other events going on in NH and Maine.  Post your events there!

With very best wishes,
Maggie and Arnie

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.

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 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!