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NH State House Watch

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.

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State House Watch                          

July 3, 2020

Greetings, State House Watchers.

The long, strange legislative session is over. We’ll fill you in on how the last session days went, and we have updates on the minimum wage, housing, the Governor’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability and Transparency, and more.  In two weeks, we’ll send our annual report of all bills we’ve been tracking this year.

Minimum Wage

The House concurred with the amended version of HB 731, the bill to increase the minimum wage. It’s now headed for the governor’s desk. Raise Up NH is encouraging folks to contact the governor to urge him to sign the bill. The details are at the Raise Up NH Facebook page.

State Workers Deserve a Fair Contract

It has been about a year since state workers’ contracts expired. When negotiations between the state and the three public employee unions broke down, they requested that a “fact-finder” come in to evaluate the positions of all parties and recommend a fair outcome.  Both the House and the Senate voted to pass the fact-finder’s report that was brought to the Joint Committee on Employee Relations. This vote has no legal weight, but it sends a public message to the governor that he should treat state employees fairly.

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 has a statement on their Facebook page that begins, “Thank you to all the Representatives who voted 199-108 today to pass the fact-finder's report, one step closer to giving state employees a contract. You stood with public service workers, just as state employees stand alongside every New Hampshire resident of this state, regardless of party.”

Housing Supports

House bill HB 1247 was amended in the Senate to offer tenants some protection from being evicted when the governor’s emergency order banning evictions expires (which it did on July 1.) The House concurred with the Senate. Governor Sununu has announced a $35 million rental assistance program that will offer some help to those who are struggling to pay the rent due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Bob Sanders has the details at NHBR.

The Last Session Days for 2020

The Senate was in session on Monday for their final votes of the year.

HB 1665, establishing an independent advisory commission on redistricting. The Senate voted OTP by a roll call vote of 15-9. The bill was not amended, so it didn’t require House concurrence. It will head to the governor’s desk.

HB 687, relative to extreme risk protection orders, also known as the “Red Flag” bill, creating a process by which firearms can be taken away from people who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. The Senate voted OTP by a party line roll call vote of 14-10. This bill wasn’t amended, so it will head to the governor.

The following are the bills amended by the Senate that went to the House for concurrence. There is no requirement for a 3/5 majority on concurrence votes, just a simple majority.  

HB 1266, relative to absentee ballot request forms. A bill originally intended to improve access to absentee ballots for incarcerated voters was amended to make temporary modifications to the absentee voter registration, absentee ballot application, and absentee voting processes in response to the current pandemic.  The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 221-101.

HB 250, establishing a dental benefit under the state Medicaid program. This bill requires the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services to solicit information and to contract with dental managed care organizations to provide dental care to persons under the Medicaid managed care program. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 205-124.

HB 731, relative to the state minimum hourly rate. This bill raises the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $10 an hour in 2021 and $12 an hour in 2023 and leaves it there, with a minimum wage for tipped workers at $4/hour and provisions for employers to make up the difference if total wages don’t reach $12 an hour. The House concurred by a roll call vote of 199-124.

HB 1162, an omnibus child services bill. Some highlights: It expands the categories of individuals eligible to adopt and clarifies adoption and parenting laws for unmarried couples who share parenting. It also clarifies the law regarding insurance benefits for early intervention services and directs the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to administer family-centered early supports and services programs for children with developmental delays, including children under the age of three who have prenatal substance exposure. A minor diagnosed with a serious emotional disturbance or other behavioral health issues who is committed to DHHS for the remainder of their minority will be referred to a care management entity to develop a care plan intended to reduce the period of commitment.  The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 209-119.

HB 1245, adopting omnibus legislation concerning state agencies. Some of the highlights: The bill establishes earned-time credit reductions for prisoners who participate in correctional industries or other programs, and establishes a penalty for criminal trespass to include any state correctional facility, transitional housing unit, and parking area operated by the Department of Corrections. It establishes an offshore wind commission and an offshore wind industry development office in the Department of Business and Economic Affairs. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 190-127.

HB 1247, relative to mortgage defaults and nonpayment of rent during the novel coronavirus (COVID -19) outbreak state of emergency.  As approved by the Senate, the bill creates an option for mortgage borrowers to request forbearance from mortgage defaults and prevents landlords from taking possessory actions for nonpayment of rent or charging fees for nonpayment of rent during the COVID-19 outbreak state of emergency. As amended, there is protection for tenancy rights for rooming house residents, enabling tenants to get help from local welfare before getting an eviction notice, and a six-month right to pay back rent if a tenant was unable to keep up during the state of emergency. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 187-135.

HB 1280 began its life as a bill to set a cap on payments for insulin but after going through the Senate it became: Relative to copayments for insulin, establishing a wholesale prescription drug importation program, establishing a New Hampshire prescription drug affordability board, establishing the prescription drug competitive marketplace, relative to the pricing of generic prescription drugs, relative to prior authorization for prescription drug coverage, and requiring insurance coverage for epinephrine auto-injectors. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 224-104.

HB 1494, adopting omnibus legislation concerning workers. One of the most important provisions: It establishes an occupational safety and health advisory board to advise the Labor Commissioner on the adoption and enforcement of occupational safety and health standards for public employees. It requires public employers to provide workers with at least the level of protection provided under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, contingent upon federal approval of a state plan. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 202-127.

HB 1558, an omnibus bill relating to students, schools, and some unrelated issues. This bill includes a modification of policy for discipline and expulsions from school. It changes the formula for an adequate education grant to a school district operating a full-day kindergarten program. It requires the Department of Education to collaborate with the Brain Injury Association of NH to develop a return to learning policy and plan for students with concussions and brain injuries. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 201-129.

HB 1639, relative to health care. This is an omnibus bill which requires insurance coverage for long-term antibiotic therapy for tick-borne illnesses, authorizes pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine if one becomes available, and requires the superintendent of a county correctional facility to provide an inmate with medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders where medically appropriate. The House concurred by a roll call vote of 201-121.

HB 1672, relative to absentee voting. This bill authorizes online voter registration and no-excuses absentee voting. It allows municipalities to process but not count absentee ballots prior to election day. It requires the Secretary of State (SoS) to enter into an agreement with the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to share voter information or data from the statewide centralized voter registration database. The House concurred, by a roll call vote of 195-130.  

HB 1645 This bill began as a measure to lengthen the time needed for a person convicted of domestic violence to obtain an annulment. The Senate added a number of provisions from other bills, including prohibition of for-profit incarceration in most circumstances, a requirement that police report misconduct by other officers, a ban on use of chokeholds by police, and required screening for all law enforcement officers for psychological stability prior to assuming their duties as certified officers. The House concurred by a roll call vote of 255-74.

The session was reasonably smooth. Garry Rayno provides a comprehensive overview of the day for InDepthNH.  Bob Sanders at NHBR takes a look at what bills may or may not be able to avoid the governor’s veto pen. Holly Ramer at AP covered one of the less than stellar moments of the day. Representative Renny Cushing was speaking in favor of  HB 1645, which prohibits the use of chokeholds by the police. He concluded his remarks by saying “Black lives matter,” and was booed by some of his colleagues. We tip our hats to Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff, who was unhappy with the booing, and said that Cushing’s remarks would be printed in the permanent journal.

Next Step

The next step for all of these bills is the Enrollment Committee, where they are checked for clerical errors, and confirmed that the hard copies of the bills have been signed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.  Enrolled bills head to the governor’s desk where he can sign them, veto them, or allow them to become law without his signature.  Both the House and Senate will have veto override days in the fall. We’ll let you know when those dates are scheduled.

Black Lives Matter

The Governor’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency met on July 2. We don’t have any of the details as we go to press, but meeting transcripts and audio are posted promptly at the commission's page on the nh.gov website.

New Hampshire’s Black Lives Matter leadership have issued a set of demands for racial justice and they call upon all gubernatorial candidates to respond.  You can read the demands here.

We were impressed by the story of Chloe Bourgeois, a young Black woman from Gilford, and the reactions in her very white town to the Black Lives Matter signs she posted in her community. Read more in the Concord Monitor.

Safer at Home in New Hampshire

NH has moved from “Stay at Home,” to “Safer at Home’ and has transitioned to the final phase of reopening, with expectations that New Hampshire businesses will adopt the universal guidelines recommended by the Economic Re-Opening Task Force. Day camps, adult day services, amusement parks, movie theaters, and performing arts venues have all recently been allowed to reopen. The timeline, and the guidelines can all be found here.

We at SHW urge you to be careful, wear your mask, wash your hands, and enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend – and the summer!

We’ll be back with the big end of the year wrap edition of State House Watch in a couple of weeks. 

State House Watch Radio on WNHN-LP

Earlier this week, we posted our last "State House Watch" radio show of the season. Maggie interviewed Arnie on the eve of his retirement about his nearly four decades with the AFSC NH Program. Using songs to help tell his story, Arnie touched on the No Nukes movement, the campaign for a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr, and the small struggles which together add up to big movements for social transformation. He concluded by talking about what it means to "keep your eyes on the prize."  Songs came from Charlie King, Rev. Lillian Buckley, Woody Guthrie (by way of Billy Bragg and Wilco), John McCutcheon (by way of Rebel Voices), Mavis Staples, Ry Cooder, and Rev. Gary Davis.  The podcast is at https://www.wnhnfm.org/category/state-house-watch/.

Special thanks to Fred Portnoy and everyone else at WNHN-LP for another season of partnership. Keep tuning in during our same time slot to hear some of our favorite musical selections from State House Watch radio.  And there are lots of other great shows throughout the week as well.  The schedule is here.

Coming Up…

Sunday, July 5

2020 Seacoast Walk for Voting Safety, hosted by NH Rebellion.  2 PM to 4 PM.  Check the Open Democracy website for more details and to register:  https://www.opendemocracynh.org/2020_seacoast_walk.

BLM Organizing Event Zoom Call, hosted by Black Lives Matter Manchester and Black Lives Matter Nashua, 7 PM.  Zoom link will be posted at the Facebook event page.

Monday, July 6

Peace & Justice Conversations:  Changing to a Human Needs Economy, hosted by NH Peace Action, 7 PM to 8 PM (online). RSVP here to get the link.

Monday, July 20

Peace & Justice Conversations:  Combatants for Peace, hosted by NH Peace Action, 7 PM to 8 PM (online).  More info at the Facebook event

With best wishes, 
Maggie Fogarty 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. 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 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.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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