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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.

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 State House Watch

May 24, 2019

It's Memorial Day weekend, and however you choose to observe the holiday, we hope that you’ll tune in to State House Watch radio on Monday at 5 pm, on WNHN LP (94.7 FM in Concord, or streaming at wnhnfm.org). Arnie has put together a special music show, with songs from the perspective of soldiers (or their families) from a variety wars. We guarantee you’ll hear at least one song you’ve never heard before.

Yesterday was a busy day at the State House, with positive action in a number of areas, including death penalty repealsensible gun controlelection reform, and theminimum wage.  With deadlines for wrapping up legislative work looming, House and Senate committees will hold their final executive sessions next week, with the largest sets of eyes watching the Senate Finance Committee deliberate over the state budget.  

Some House committees, already done with their work on active bills, are turning their attention to bills they retained; we’ve listed two such work sessions below. The House Calendar doesn’t specify which bills they will be working on, so you might want to do some digging if there’s a retained bill you are watching. To find out what bills have been retained by a committee, we refer you to the Advanced Bill Status Searchon the General Court website.  On the left side of the page are some drop-down menus. Under “House Committee,” choose the committee you’re interested in. Then under “House Status,” choose “retained in committee.” Click <submit> and voila, the list of bills retained by that committee will appear. You can contact the chair of the committee to ask when the bill you’re interested in will be scheduled.

There’s also a check box at the bottom of the page that once clicked and submitted will take you to the list of the 151 bills that have been retained (so far) by the House.

It’s the same process for Senate bills, using the drop-down menus on the right side of the page. In the Senate, bills that are held in committee are called “re-referred.”

Death Penalty Repeal Moves Once More to Senate

Following yesterday’s House vote to override Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of legislation repealing the death penalty, the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said it is gearing up for one more override vote in the Senate, which we are expecting to be at the beginning of the next Senate session, on Thursday, May 30.

The 247-123 vote, with Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff casting his vote with the majority, was one more than the two-thirds needed for a veto override.  The debate on the floor included remarks from Representative Susan Ticehurst about an ancestor who was hung as a witch, plus a reflection from Representative Renny Cushing on the leadership of Nelson Mandela.  

Under considerable political pressure, many Republicans who had voted for repeal three months ago voted to sustain the veto.  But enough Republicans—notably including David Welch and David Danielson, who both spoke during the debate--and almost all the Democrats held firm in what could very well be the last House vote ever on this matter.  The final speaker was Representative Laura Pantelakos, the longest-serving current House member, a former chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee who several years ago changed her mind about the death penalty and became a strong advocate for its repeal.  

“We are deeply gratified that our elected representatives stuck to their convictions despite monumental political pressure to do otherwise. New Hampshire never has been in love with the death penalty and today, House members ratified what has been all but a policy for past 80 years,” commented Barbara Keshen, Chair of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NHCADP).  Coalition members and supporters plan to gather again at the State House next Thursday.

In the meantime, the Coalition is asking repeal supporters to write or call your House Reps who voted for the override and thank them for their vote, especially those Republicans who stood firm against intense pressure. Please find the override roll callhere (click on individual names in this list to locate their contact information).

The Coalition also requests that one more time you write to your pro-repeal Senators – handwritten notes are especially helpful for the Senate Republicans (these would have to be mailed by the weekend to have an impact), or emails if you cannot send a postal note. Please keep your messages nonpartisan and brief, thanking them for their previous vote and asking them to stand firm. You can find the Senate roll call here(click on individual names in this list to locate their contact information).

Minimum Wage

Senators and Representatives who support the re-establishment of the state’s authority to set a minimum wage and raising it to $12 an hour by 2022 still aren’t on the same page.  Last week, the House Labor Committee approved an amendment to SB 10, striking the reference to a lower minimum in workplaces where employers offer paid sick leave and restoring the minimum wage for tipped workers to 50% of the standard minimum, their preferred rate.  The amended bill will presumably reach the House floor on June 5 or 6.

The Senate was expected to vote last week to re-refer HB 186, the House minimum wage bill.  That motion was delayed until next week’s session.  Assuming that’s what takes place, SB 10 will be the vehicle for a state minimum wage.  We expect that a committee of conference will be required to resolve House and Senate differences on one or more provisions.  Only then would an actual proposal get to Governor Sununu's desk; he has not had a lot to say on the topic since the election. 

Guns, Elections, and COLAs

Yesterday, the Senate passed three bills aimed at gun violence prevention. HB 109requires background checks for all firearms transfers between sellers, dealers, and buyers. HB 514 would institute a three-day waiting period for firearms purchases.  HB 564 was initially written to ban firearms on school property but was amended to give school districts the power to create their own prohibitions on firearms – or not. Given the governor’s very first legislative priority was to eliminate the concealed carry license for gun owners, we do not have high hopes that he’ll sign any of these bills. More on this from Ethan DeWitt in the Concord Monitor.

While we’re on the subject, The Economist reports that “around half of Mexico’s 33,000 murder victims last year were killed by a gun manufactured in the United States, which had 14,542 gun homicides in 2017. An American-made gun is more likely to be used in a murder in Mexico than at home.”  Sig Sauer’s New Hampshire factory is the major legal provider of firearms in Mexico, where diversion of guns to illicit users is a well-documented problem.  

The bill to create an independent redistricting commission, HB 706, was passed by the Senate, after a bipartisan amendment was added to change how the commission would be configured. This means that the bill will now go back to the House for concurrence, or a committee of conference to work out any areas of disagreement before sending it to the governor. More on this from Todd Bookman at NHPR. Bills to undo last session's voter prevention bills are also moving forward in the House and Senate.

For the first time in a decade, retired public employees are close to receiving a cost of living increase, with the passage of HB 616. If signed by the governor, retired state workers will receive a 1.5% COLA. See NH Labor News for more.

More good news? You bet there is.

Governor Sununu signed SB 11, the bill to address the mental health boarding crisis. Dozens of mental health patients are trapped in emergency rooms around the state awaiting care, due to a shortage of beds in mental health facilities. This bill allocates funds to help alleviate that shortage and enable people to get the help they need. Ethan DeWitt gives the details in the Concord Monitor. The ACLU, however, believes a civil rights crisis exists as long as people are being held in hospitals against their will; they are pressing ahead with legal action.  

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute has published several new reports, including one on Medicaid Work Requirements describing how the work requirements have impacted low-wage workers in other states. The paper also digs deep into how the NH policy will affect low-wage workers in our state. NHFPI’s other brand new report on Funding the State Budget provides the latest on trends in business taxes and other revenue sources.

The NH State House Bicentennial Week celebration is coming up the week of June 2-8. NH has the oldest State House in which both houses of the legislature meet in their original chambers. More history and the schedule of celebratory events can be found at https://nhstatehouse200.com.

Last Week in the House

The House met on May 23.

SB 141 Establishing a committee to study violence against school personnel. OTP/A by a voice vote.

SB 282 Relative to suicide prevention in schools. OTP/A by a voice vote.

 SB 104 Relative to the postponement of city, town, village, and school district elections. Voted OTP by a voice vote.

SB 106 Relative to the definition of political advocacy organization. Voted OTP by a voice vote.

SB 67 Relative to the definition of resident and residency. Voted OTP by a roll call vote of 215-138.

SB 68 Relative to the centralized voter registration database. Voted OTP by a vote of 214-141.

SB 100 Relative to discrimination in employment based on criminal background checks. Voted OTP/A by a roll call vote of 217-130.

SB 165 Relative to net energy metering by low-moderate income community solar projects. Voted OTP/A by a roll call vote of 229-113.

The House will not be in session next week, but will meet again on Wednesday, June 5 at 1:00 PM and Thursday, June 6, at 10 AM.  June 6 is their deadline for action on all Senate bills. 

Last Week in the Senate

The Senate met on Thursday, May 23.

HB 156 Establishing a commission to study the establishment of a state department of energy. Voted OTP by a voice vote.  

HB 496 Establishing a committee to identify the requirements needed to commit New Hampshire to a goal of at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2040.  Re-referred to committee by a voice vote.

HB 175 Relative to the requirements for school building aid grants. A floor amendment added the requirement that for projects of $1,000,000 or more a project manager must be hired. Voted OTP/A by a voice vote.

HB 631 Establishing a deaf child’s bill of rights and an advisory council on the education of deaf children. Voted OTP/A by a voice vote.

HB 706 Establishing an independent redistricting commission. Voted OTP/A by a voice vote.

HB 616 Relative to a cost of living adjustment for retirees in the state retirement system. Voted OTP in a roll call vote of 12-11.

HB 628 Relative to universal changing stations in certain places of public accommodation. Voted OTP/A by a voice vote.

HB 109 Requiring background checks for commercial firearms sales. Voted OTP/A by a party line roll call vote of 13-10.

HB 514 Imposing a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm. The bill was amended in committee to decrease the waiting period from seven days to three. Voted OTP/A by a roll call vote of 13-10.

HB 564 Relative to possession of firearms on school property. The original bill would have prohibited guns on school property. A floor amendment was added that authorizes school districts to come up with their own policies regarding firearms on school property. Voted OTP/A by a roll call vote of 13-10.

Next Week in the Senate

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, May 30, starting at 10 AM.

The vote on overriding the governor’s veto of the death penalty repeal bill is expected to come up at the beginning of the session.  Please join members of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in the State House halls and the Senate Gallery for what we hope will be a historic moment.

Regular Calendar

HB 25 Making appropriations for capital improvement, otherwise known as the Capital Budget.  At a time of great partisan strife, locally and nationally, this bill stands apart as an example of bi-partisan consensus.  It came out of the House Public Works and Highways Committee with an 18-0 OTP recommendation and passed the House 362-5. After review by the Senate’s Capital Budget Committee, it is recommended OTPA by a 5-0 vote.  Assuming it is approved by the full Senate, the House will decide whether to concur with the Senate or ask for a Committee of Conference to work out the differences.    

HB 186 Establishing a minimum wage and providing for adjustments to the minimum wage. The committee recommends re-referral, by a vote of 3-2.

HB 211 Relative to inquiries by prospective employers concerning salary history. This bill would prohibit an employer from requiring a prospective employee to disclose his or her salary history prior to an offer of employment. Committee recommends ITL by a vote of 4-0.

HB 272 Relative to temporary workers. This bill would establish notification and disclosure provisions for the hiring of temporary workers that temporary staffing agencies would be required to follow. The committee recommends re-referral by a vote of 5-0.

HB 293 Relative to employee credit privacy. This bill would prohibit employers from using credit history in employment decisions. The committee makes no recommendation, by a vote of 2-2.

HB 105 Relative to domicile residency, voter registration, and investigation of voter verification letters. This bill modifies the definition of domicile, modifies the forms and procedures for voter registration, and removes the requirement that the Secretary of State conduct post-election voter registration inquiries. This would remove some of the more egregious aspects of SB 3, which was passed in 2017. The bill is being challenged, and the NH Supreme Court allowed it to stay in place for last year’s midterm elections. The committee recommends OTP by a vote of 3-2.

HB 315 Relative to the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. This bill would terminate New Hampshire’s participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, an operation begun by Kris Kobach, former Secretary of State in Kansas. An amendment has been proposed to require the Secretary of State to join some other unspecified organization of election officials whose purpose is to share and exchange information to improve the accuracy and efficiency of voter registration systems. The Secretary of State must enter into a membership with this organization by January 1, 2020 and remain in good standing with them. At that time the relationship with Interstate Voter Crosscheck will be terminated and no more data will be shared. Instead, the data from the statewide centralized database will be shared with the new, unnamed organization, along with data from the Department of Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles, the Secretary of State, and political subdivisions as necessary.  The Committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 3-2.

HB 611 Allowing voters to vote by absentee ballot. This would allow “no excuses” absentee voting. The committee recommends OTP by a vote of 3-2.

HB 651 Allowing the use of campaign funds for child care expenses. Committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 3-2.

HB 399 Relative to annulment of arrests or convictions for possession of a certain quantity of marijuana. This bill establishes an annulment procedure for arrests or convictions that occurred before September 16, 2017, when the decriminalization bill took effect. Committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 3-2.

HB 637 Relative to criminal history background checks by employers and public agencies. Committee recommends OTP/A by a vote of 5-0. This was removed from the May 23 consent calendar and special ordered to the May 30 session.

HB 481 Relative to the legalization and regulation of cannabis and making appropriations therefor. The committee recommends re-referral by a vote of 5-0.

HB 486 Relative to Department of Corrections procedures concerning the requirement for the restoration of the voting rights of felons. This would require the Department of Corrections to ensure that probation-parole officers receive instruction on the current statutes regarding the restoration of voting rights to people with felony convictions who have attained final discharge of their sentences. The Committee recommends OTP by a vote of 5-0.

Coming up in House Committees

Tuesday, May 28

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB

10:00 AM Subcommittee work session on SB 311, relative to the annulment of criminal records. This provides for annulment of a criminal record without payment of a fee in certain cases. It will be exec’d at 1:30 PM.

Judiciary, Room 208, LOB

10:00 AM Executive session on SB 263, relative to anti-discrimination protection for students in public schools. This bill already went through House Education and was approved once by the full House.   

Municipal and County Government, Room 301, LOB

10:00 AM Executive session on SB 204, relative to encouraging the development of electrical energy storage by both private market participants and regulated electric utility companies. This bill was voted OTP/A on May 8 and sent to the Municipal and Country Government Committee for additional attention.

Wednesday, May 29

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB

1:00 PM Full committee work session on retained bills.

Finance, Room 210-211, LOB

10:00 AM Executive session on bills that have passed the House and were referred to Finance for additional attention.  SB 82, relative to school food and nutrition programs; SB 290, relative to the New Hampshire Granite Advantage Health Care program; SB 292, relative to implementation of the new mental health 10-year plan; and SB 293, relative to federally-qualified health care centers and rural health centers reimbursement. 

Ways and Means, Room 202, LOB

1:00 PM Full committee work session on retained bills.

Coming up in Senate Committees

With a June 6 deadline for Senate action on House bills, Senate committees will hold executive sessions on any bills still remaining in their custody.  Since the Senate Calendar does not list the bills to be debated, it’s up to you to dig deeper and find out what’s up with any bills you are still watching.  The one exception is Finance, where budget deliberations continue on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Tuesday, May 28

Commerce, Room 100, SH, 1:00 PM
Energy and Natural Resources, Room 103, SH, 9:00 AM
Finance, Room 103, SH, 12:00 PM Budget Deliberations
Health and Human Services, Room 101, LOB 1:00 PM
Judiciary, Room 100, SH 10:00 AM

Wednesday, May 29

Election Law and Municipal Affairs, Room 102, LOB, 10:00 AM
Finance, Room 103, SH, 9:00 AM Budget deliberations

Friday, May 31

Finance, Room 103, SH

9:00 AM Budget deliberations. This could well be the wrap-up meeting.  

State House Watch Radio

Maggie and Arnie will observe the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, so Arnie has already produced the annual Memorial Day music show for next week with a musically diverse set of songs about war, soldiers, soldiering, and the impact of war on the loved ones of those who are sent to battle.    

State House Watch radio airs each Monday from 5 to 6 PM on WNHN-LP, with a re-broadcast Tuesday at 8 AM. You'll find us at 94.7 FM in the Concord area or live-streamed at wnhnfm.org on the internet.  You can also find recordings of past shows, including last week's program with Ken Norton of NAMI-NH at this link

Events Coming Up…

Friday, May 24

Green New Deal Town Hall hosted by RAD and Sunrise Movement, 7-8:30 PM at the RW Black Community Center, Hanover, NH.  Facebook event

Saturday, May 25

Fundraiser for Southern Sudan Hope.  Ageth Okeny, one of the founders of Southern Sudan Hope, will discuss her journey and the accomplishments of Southern Sudan Hope with their new school for refugee children in the Spotlight Room at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, 1:00 PM. Food will be provided.  Information and tickets

“What Pete Taught Woody,” with Nora Guthrie! To honor Pete Seeger’s 100th birthday, Nora Guthrie (Woody Guthrie’s daughter) will be at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough with a multimedia presentation – interviews, photos, and archival materials – providing insight into the working relationship between Pete and Woody.  3- 6 PM.  Admission $25; order tickets early as seating is limited.  Information and tickets

Sunday, May 26

Every Sunday is Civil Rights Sunday at Market Square in Portsmouth, 4 to 5 PM.  This week’s focus will be women’s reproductive rights.  

Wednesday, May 29

RAD’s workshop on Dynamic & Authentic Public Speaking at Pease Library, 1 Russell St, Plymouth, 6-8 PM.  Facebook event

RAD’s Birddogging 101 workshop, at the Center for Recovery Resources, 1 Pleasant Street, Suite 104, Claremont, 6-8 PM Facebook event

Friday, May 31

SEIU Movie Night features “The Hand that Feeds,” 5-9 PM at the SEA/SEIU office, 207 N. Main Street, Concord.  Popcorn provided.  Facebook event

Saturday, June 1

Brenda Bailey Lett will be the guest speaker at NH Peace Action’s annual membership meeting, 10 AM - 2 PM at the Audubon Center in Concord.  Ms. Lett, a Manchester resident and National Secretary of the National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), will lead a discussion centered on the three evils - the evil of racism, the evil of poverty, and the evil of war - spoken of by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967.  Register here

Wednesday, June 5

Governor’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion Listening session, 6-7:30 PM at Heights Community Center, 14 Canterbury Road, Concord.  

Saturday, June 8

Forum on the Homestead Child Detention Center, sponsored by Kent Street Coalition, Canterbury Citizens for Democracy, and others, 2 PM at Concord Friends Meeting House in Canterbury.  More details soon.

Granite State Organizing Project’s annual MICAH Dinner, honoring community activists, 6-8:30 PM at Holy Cross Manor, 357 Island Pond Road, Manchester.  Tickets $25.  Email to Sarah Jane Knoy to order yours or get more information.

June 9 – 16 Homestead Week of Action

See afsc.org/homestead for details.

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 WNHN-FM 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.