AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published weekly during legislative sessions (and occasionally at other times of the year) to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, 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
January 15, 2021
Greetings, State House Watchers!
It’s been another difficult week of news about last week’s insurrection at the US Capitol. The stories of violence, hate, and anger are taking a toll on many of us, even the most seasoned social justice activists. On Monday, January 18, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Rev. Steven Eddington of the Franklin UU wrote in an op-ed for the Union Leader, “We need you Martin – more than ever.”
Dr. King’s last book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” is as relevant now as when it was published in 1967. A few excerpts:
“In the days ahead we must not consider it unpatriotic to raise certain basic questions about our national character.”
“There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from remolding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”
One more, because we all need to hear this:
“I have…decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to [our] problems….I'm talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I've seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs...I've seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors…to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear…..What I'm saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"
Let us use this day to take a collective deep breath, nourish our spirits with Dr. King’s words, and recommit ourselves to the work of building Beloved Community.
President Donald Trump was impeached by the US House this week for his role inciting the violent insurrection we saw last week at the Capitol. Some of those who continue to insist (despite all evidence to the contrary) that the election was “stolen” are planning armed marches and possibly violent actions at State Houses around the country in the days leading up to and on the day of the inauguration of President-elect Biden. There are no specific threats of violence in NH, but we recommend avoiding the NH State House for at least the next 5 days.
COVID vaccine rollout
This week, Governor Sununu announced some changes to the state’s vaccination plan. Beginning January 22, residents aged 65 and older will be able to register to be vaccinated at www.vaccines.nh.gov. This group has been moved to phase 1B of the vaccination plan, along with people with developmental disabilities who live in group settings, and staff at correctional facilities. Jordyn Haime covered the latest changes and controversies related to the Sununu vaccination plan for NHPR.
COVID in NH jails and prisons
NHPR reports that half of the people imprisoned at the Valley Street jail in Manchester have tested positive for COVID-19, a tragic consequence of what one judge referred to as “deliberate indifference to the health of its inmates.” Since March, there have been 650 people infected by COVID in New Hampshire’s jails and prisons, a heartbreaking reality but one that was foreseen by prisoner rights advocates given the impossibility of adequate physical distancing in these settings. We applaud our friends at ACLU-NH for calling upon Governor Sununu to immediately add all incarcerated persons to phase 1B for vaccination distribution. Add your voice by calling the governor today, (603)271-2121, or send him an email, email@example.com.
The NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides a weekly update on institutional outbreaks, although this information is not found on the DHHS COVID dashboard. This week’s report shows active outbreaks at Valley Street, the Merrimack County jail, the NH State Prison for Men, the Northern NH Correctional Facility in Berlin, the Secure Psychiatric Unit, and the Strafford County jail. The report gives the numbers of infected inmates and staff, as well as any deaths. As mentioned above, staff at correctional facilities have been bumped up to phase 1b for vaccinations, but, according to the current timeline, most people who are imprisoned may not be eligible for the vaccine until late in the spring.
The state budget
The state budget is always crafted during the first year of the biennium. Phil Sletten of the NH Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) has put together a useful presentation on the basics of the state budget, including all of the deadlines for 2021. This is a terrific resource to bookmark for future reference and share with everyone you know. You can find it here. We also recommend that you read NHFPI’s latest fact sheet about the demographics – and racial disparities - of poverty in New Hampshire.
Next week in the House
There are no hearings on legislation scheduled. Remote orientation meetings are still being held by some committees. The Speaker says he hopes to have one committee kick off the hybrid hearing schedule next week. Rather than have remote sessions the way the Senate is, the Speaker has opted for a complicated system that will enable committees to meet in person, with air purification systems installed in committee rooms, and systems for remote participation. This means that committee work will continue to be delayed for an indefinite period of time. This time last year, committees were very busy holding hearings on new bills.
Speaker Packard’s opposition to remote technology is unfortunate. Each remote committee meeting has a list of ways for members of the public to watch or participate in the hearings. There are upsides to remote hearings, including enhanced transparency, safety and participation by people who would otherwise need to take time off work, drive long distances and pay for gas and parking to be present in person. We hope the Speaker can be convinced to embrace the benefits of online gatherings.
In a message to House members this week, the Speaker cautions representatives about their discourse on social media and challenges them to use that platform for positive discourse. Good idea.
On Tuesday, January 19th at 3:00 PM, House members, House staff, and General Court Joint staff are invited to attend a remote anti-harassment/anti-discrimination training presented by Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards. Another good idea.
Next week in the Senate
The Senate will be meeting remotely for the month of January. This means that each committee has a list of different instructions for accessing remote hearings. It’s a list that includes the Zoom link and ID number, a series of telephone numbers, a YouTube link, and a link to sign in to speak or submit testimony. The options for members of the public to attend and participate are excellent, and can be found in the Senate Calendar.
Tuesday, January 19
9:50 AM SB 38 Relative to the organization of alternative treatment centers. This bill permits alternative treatment centers to organize as business corporations and limited liability companies and provides the procedure for alternative treatment centers organized as voluntary corporations to convert to business corporations or limited liability companies. The alternative treatment centers that this bill refers to are the five medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in New Hampshire.
10:20 AM SB 44 Establishing the New Hampshire workforce pathway program and commission. The purpose of the program is to advance the skills and placement of unemployed and underemployed workers into high demand positions by providing job ready credentials and certificates, at no expense to the participants. The program would be administered through the community college system, and work in partnership with the Department of Employment Security to identify students who qualify.
1:30 PM SB 39 Exempting information and records contained in law enforcement personnel files from disclosure under the right-to-know law. Exempted information would include internal investigations and pre-employment background investigations of any state or local law enforcement official.
Ways and Means Committee
9:00 AM Joint economic briefing with House Ways and Means Committee
Wednesday, January 20
Executive Departments and Administration Committee
9:20 AM SB 33 Relative to Native American name restoration. This bill authorizes cities and towns to name or rename locations or geographic features in the Abenaki language. It requires the Commission on Native American Affairs to assist cities, towns, and the state when requesting or determining historic or otherwise appropriate Abenaki names for geographic features and locations. The bill also requires the Commission on Resources and Development to act as the state contact for the federal government for state naming issues. Their goal is to promote and strengthen Native American heritage and ensure that it is valued and visible.
9:40 AM SB 42 Restricting public officers from engaging in certain private dealings. This would prohibit a public official from providing services valued at more than $200 to the state or political subdivision where he or she holds office unless the contract is obtained through open competitive bidding.
Ways and Means Committee
9:00 AM Joint Economic Briefing with House Ways and Means Committee
Thursday, January 21
Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee
9:10 AM SB 31 Relative to voter checklists and modifying the absentee ballot affidavit. If a person registering to vote entered a place where they were last registered, the supervisors of the checklist shall enter that information in the statewide centralized voter registration database. The Secretary of State will provide information on voters who report previous out-of-state registration to the chief elections officer of that state. The Secretary of State is required to develop the establishment of secure electronic data transfers of this information between states. This bill simplifies the absentee ballot affidavit envelopes, while still requiring the voter to provide a reason for voting absentee.
9:20 AM SB 46 Relative to the use of electronic poll books by cities and towns. This bill would permit cities and towns to use electronic poll books. These are electronic voter registration information systems that would replace paper-based poll books. Paper poll books are the three ring binders our names are checked off on when we vote at the polls.
State House Watch radio on WNHN 94.7 FM
Tune in on Monday - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - for the second State House Watch radio program of the session. Jennifer Dube and 350NH will be hosting and sharing updates that include the RENEW NH Coalition which launched publicly yesterday. RENEW is a regional alliance focused on affordable housing, bold climate action, equitable economies and racial justice. AFSC and 350NH are members; more information about the coalition can be found here. “State House Watch” radio on WNHN-LP airs Mondays at 5 PM and rebroadcasts Tuesdays at 8 AM at 94.7 FM in Concord and at www.wnhnfm.org. Recordings of past shows, including last week’s program with House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, are here.
Saturday, January 16
Change for Concord Community Forum – 2 pm to 3:30 pm, online. Hosted by C4C and Black Lives Matter North Country. See Facebook event for more information.
Geisel Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration – Many events are planned from January 16 to 18. See the schedule here.
First Baptist Church (Nashua ) Annual MLK Celebration – Online at 7 PM, with keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Willlard Ashley, Sr, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Faith, Ethical and Spiritual Communities, under the umbrella of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Join Zoom Meeting, Meeting ID: 835 1904 3390, Passcode: MLK
Sunday, January 17
Dover Area Religious Leaders Association (DARLA) MLK Celebration – Online at 7 PM. Zoom link, or join by phone, (312)626- 6799 (Webinar ID: 884 3049 9449).
Monday, January 18
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Peace Walk – Route 16, North Conway, 12 noon to 3 PM, hosted by Andy Davis and Jamie Gemmiti. A walk from the intersection of Route 302 and Eagles Way (the entry road to Kennett High School) to Schouler Park to honor the legacy and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We invite all to come in a reflective spirit of nonviolence and respect. Signs in the spirit of the event are welcome. Please wear masks and practice physical distancing.
Community Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - Hosted by the World Fellowship Center and the UU Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes, online at 6 PM. More information at the Facebook event page.
“Set the House on Fire Gospel Concert Celebrating the Life and Legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” – 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, to be broadcast live on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/seacoastrep/ Hosted by the Seacoast NAACP and many partners. Musicians include Funky Divas, Miss V, Set the House on Fire Band, and North Star AME Zion Church Choir, plus a theatrical scene from the new play “Martin and Stokely” written by Najee Brown of “The Bus Stop” fame. Donations to offset program expenses and to continue promoting efforts to help “achieve equality of rights and eliminate race prejudice in the United States” can be made at Eventbrite through www.SeacoastNAACP.com.
NH Peace Action’s Peace & Justice Conversations: King’s Legacy Today – Online at 7 PM, with special guest Dr. Deborah Opramalla, chairperson of the NH Poor People’s Campaign. Register here.
Saturday, January 23
The Traverse, Episode 4: Do Police Belong in Schools? – Hosted by Rights & Democracy and the ACLU-NH. Online, 1 PM to 2:30 PM. More information at the Facebook event page.
Sunday, January 24
Annual Granny D Celebration - Hosted by Open Democracy, on Zoom at 2 PM. More information at the Facebook event page.
With best wishes,
Maggie Fogarty, Grace Kindeke and Susan Bruce
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. Maggie Fogarty and Grace Kindeke staff the New Hampshire Program which publishes this newsletter. Susan Bruce is our State House Watch researcher and writer.
"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.