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
September 12, 2020
Greetings State House Watchers!
We hope you’ve found rest and renewal during this odd pandemic summer, and that you and your families are safe and healthy.
We want to begin this newsletter with a special acknowledgment of our dear friend, former state Representative, and former member of our State House Watch news team, Sylvia Gale, who passed away in July. Friends, family and colleagues gathered in Nashua on September 6 – Sylvia’s birthday – to celebrate her life and her dedicated labor on behalf of women, immigrants, children and many others. You can read more about her here. Sylvia’s passion inspires us for the ongoing work for racial, social and economic justice in New Hampshire.
Veto Day in the legislature is coming up, so we’re back with a list of the vetoed bills that will be taken up. We’ll get to that in just a minute, after a few other news items of interest.
COVID-19 Impacts State Revenues
The NH Fiscal Policy Institute has a new report on the impact, so far, of the COVID-19 crisis on state revenues. It’s a sobering report.
Funding for New Hampshire’s State Budget relies on revenues generated from economic activity, which has been severely curtailed by the COVID-19 crisis. These State revenues pay for key services for Granite Staters, including supports and assistance designed to help those facing financial hardship. With nearly half of New Hampshire households reporting a loss in employment income since mid-March, the need for State services intended to aid families with low incomes, as well as support for education and health services, has increased during the pandemic and will likely remain elevated into the next State Budget biennium.
NHFPI predicts that we’ll be facing a budget crisis similar to the ones experienced during the Great Recession of 2007 -2009. It’s not uplifting, but it is important information. The new legislative biennium begins in 2021, and the first year of the biennium is the year the new state budget will be written.
School Funding Report
Another issue facing New Hampshire is the problem of how our system of funding education leads to unequal opportunities. This is not news – but a new comprehensive report was released in August. The report was prepared by the American Institutes for Research, a national firm that studies the financing of public education. The report was done at the request of the legislature’s Commission to Study School Funding. Michael Kitch has a summary of the report at NHBR. The actual report can be found here, at the Carsey Institute at UNH. There is a chart that shows that the distribution of spending across districts in NH is more regressive than all the other New England states. The report is easily read and understood, and we hope you’ll read it, and share it.
LEACT Releases Final Report
We also suggest that you read the final report of the NH Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency, which completed its work on August 31. The report includes recommendations from the Commission as well as from members of the public with regard to law enforcement training, transparency and investigations of police misconduct. Many of the recommendations would require legislation and funding, so we’ll be tracking these issues during the 2021 state legislative session. For additional information, you can find the commission’s meeting notes and all testimony here.
It's Time to #DefundHate
As Congress negotiates government funding for FY ’21, we urge our Members of Congress to cut funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and to ensure that there are strong guardrails to prevent unauthorized transfers from other agencies to fund detention and deportation. We think Rev. Jason Wells, from the NH Council of Churches said it well (in the Concord Monitor, September 4):
We call upon our members of Congress to cut funding for ICE and CBP for Fiscal Year 2021. On multiple occasions, our elected officials have expressed sadness and anger at the separation of families and the Trump administration’s human rights violations at the border. But they have continued, year after year, to approve increased funding for the very agencies that implement these cruel policies. If our budgets are an expression of our values, then continuing to invest billions of dollars for the president’s anti-immigrant agenda has got to stop.
If you agree, you can take this action today.
Veto Override Day, Deadlines, Other Legislative Activity
The House and Senate will both be in session on Wednesday, September 16, for Veto Day. The House session begins at 10 AM at the Whittemore Center at UNH. The Senate session begins at 12 noon in Representatives Hall. House Speaker Shurtleff is encouraging members to have a COVID test before the session. Both sessions will be streamed online. The General Court website will post the links for accessing the streams on the session day. Raise Up NH will be present outside (with masks and safe physical distancing) at both sessions, in support of better wages and family & medical leave insurance for New Hampshire workers. You can join them at 8 AM to 10 AM at the Whittemore Center at UNH (Facebook event), and at 11 AM at the State House in Concord (Facebook event).
Governor Sununu vetoed 57 bills in 2019. He’s vetoed 22 bills in 2020 (scroll down for the full list.) All of his veto statements can be found in the September 11 House Calendar.
A two-thirds vote by both House and Senate is required in order to override the governor’s veto. In 2019, there were only two successful veto overrides. On May 3, HB 455, the governor’s veto of the bill repealing the death penalty was overridden. On Veto Day only one veto was overridden - SB 88, which eliminated the three-month waiting period before a patient could get prescribed medical marijuana from a provider.
2020 House Deadlines:
September 8 – 18 is the period for incumbents to file LSRs for the 2021 session.
October 30 – Last day to file 2020 Interim Study Reports.
November 4 -20 – LSR filing period for all representatives.
November 20 – 30 – Sign-off period on all LSRs. After a bill goes through the drafting process some changes may be made by Legislative Services and a fiscal note may be added. This is the period when the sponsor of the bill and all co-sponsors sign off on the newly completed LSR. A bill may be withdrawn with the consent of all of its sponsors.
The September 11 House Calendar has a notice from the Office of Legislative Services regarding changes to the process of filing LSRs. (LSRs are future bills.) The State House and the Legislative Office Building are both closed, and so all filing and requesting help with research must be done online. The calendar has all the details.
The legislature is still on hiatus, but work continues. The Senate Calendar provides a listing of upcoming remote meetings of commissions and advisory councils, and how to join in.
In addition to commissions and advisory councils, the House Calendar lists committee work sessions on bills that were sent to interim study (IS). The committee meetings can also be remotely accessed.
For a list of all the bills sent to IS, go to Advanced Bill Status Search on the General Court website. On the left side of the page, go to “House Status” and choose Interim Study from the drop-down menu, click submit, and the list of all IS bills will come up.
Our usual reminder of State House abbreviations:
OTP – “Ought to Pass,” the recommendation for approving a bill or an amendment.
OTP/A – Ought to Pass with Amendment.
ITL – “Inexpedient to Legislate,” the recommendation for defeating a bill or an amendment. “ITL” can also be used as a verb.
IS – Interim Study
Bills Vetoed by Sununu
The following bills will be considered for override in the House and Senate on September 16:
SB 159 Relative to net energy metering limits for customer-generators. This bill raises the size limit on renewable customer-generators eligible for net metering rates, from 1 MW to 5 MW. It would also allow customer-generators to sell their excess energy back to the grid (making money in the process); allow businesses, towns, school districts, and other large electric consumers to produce their own power, thereby reducing energy bills; and allows municipalities to lower their tax rates by developing large renewable energy projects on municipally-owned land. The bill was vetoed by the governor in February. The Senate voted successfully in March to override the veto, but the House has not yet voted.
HB 712 Relative to a family and medical leave insurance program. The bill provided up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave insurance in any benefit year. A half-percent payroll deduction on all private employees would have paid for the mandatory program. Vetoed on July 10.
HB 1672 Relative to absentee voting. This Senate-amended omnibus bill would allow voters to vote by absentee ballot, with no excuses. Vetoed on July 10. Note that passing this bill would have eliminated all of the confusion around absentee voting during the state primary and would have eliminated the need for the Secretary of State to send out two different mailers on the subject.
HB 1247 Relative to mortgage defaults and nonpayment of rent during the novel coronavirus (COVID -19) outbreak state of emergency. The original House bill required landlords to give 90-day notice for rent increases of more than 5%. The House voted OTP/A by a roll call vote of 188- 108. As amended 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 during the COVID-19 outbreak state of emergency. As amended, there is still 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. Vetoed on July 10.
SB 122 Relative to expenditures from the energy efficiency fund. The bill ends the diversion of RGGI energy efficiency funds to rebates for residential customers, and instead allocates such funds toward energy efficiency programs. Vetoed on July 17.
HB 466 Relative to the capacity of electricity customer-generators for eligibility for net metering. The bill, as amended, increases the apportionment for net energy metering provisions from electrical facilities with total generating capacity of 100 kilowatts to 125 kilowatts. Vetoed on July 17.
HB 1246 Relative to reporting of health care-associated infections, establishing a COVID-19 nursing home and long-term care fund, relative to an independent COVID-19 nursing home and long-term care review, needs assessment, and recommendations, authorizing pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, and relative to the reimbursement of costs of training nursing assistants. Vetoed on July 17. *Given the high numbers of deaths in NH nursing homes and long term care facilities, and the fact that there are still open outbreaks in 2 nursing homes, there should be an independent review.
HB 1166 This Senate-amended omnibus bill deals with some COVID-related health and worker issues: Individuals quarantined by medical professionals or under government direction shall not be disqualified from unemployment benefits if their employer has instructed them to come back to work after quarantine is over. Individuals cannot be disqualified for benefits on the basis of being unavailable for work if they are in quarantine for COVID-19 as directed by a medical provider. Extends the provisions of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for certain COVID-19 protections. Requires employers to provide certain sanitation conditions relating to COVID-19. Waives cost-sharing for testing for COVID-19 under accident and health insurance policies. Employers would provide paid time off for COVID-19 testing upon the request of an employee. Vetoed on July 17.
HB 731 Relative to the minimum hourly rate. This bill would increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 in January 2021. In 2023 there would be an increase to $12. Tipped employees would be paid a base wage of $4.00, with the employer making up the difference to guarantee the $12 rate. At $10 NH would still be behind the minimum wage in all other New England states. Vetoed on July 24.
SB 124 Relative to the minimum electric renewable portfolio standards. The aim of the RPS is to encourage steady growth of the state’s production of electricity from renewable energy sources. This bill would revise the required minimum percentages of classes I to IV renewable energy in the electric renewable energy portfolio standards through the year 2040. Vetoed on July 24.
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. Vetoed on July 28.
HB 1660 Establishing a protective order for vulnerable adults. This would enable vulnerable adults to seek permanent and temporary relief from abuse, exploitation, and neglect. As amended, this bill very specifically does not include removing firearms from a defendant. Vetoed on July 28.
SB 311 Relative to annulment of criminal records. This bill eliminates the petitioning fee for any person whose case has resulted in a finding of not guilty, was dismissed or not prosecuted. A person may petition for annulment of the arrest record, court record or both, at any time, without payment of a fee. Vetoed on July 29.
SB 7 Establishing the secure modern registration act (SMART Act). This would require that a person automatically apply to register to vote any time the person applies for a driver’s license, or a nondriver photo ID, or records a change to a license or nondriver ID with the Department of Safety, unless they opt out. Vetoed on July 31.
HB 1665 Establishing an independent advisory commission on redistricting. Vetoed on July 31.
HB 687 Relative to extreme risk protection orders. The bill would allow family, household members, or law enforcement to petition for a court order to temporarily restrict access to firearms by individuals who pose an immediate risk to themselves or others. Vetoed on August 7.
HB 1494 This is a Senate-amended omnibus bill 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 bill also expands death benefits for public employees to include public works employees. Vetoed on August 7.
Black Lives Matter rally – Every Sunday, 1 PM to 2:30 PM at Calef’s Corner, the intersection of Routes 9 and 125 in Barrington.
Virtual Vigil for Breonna Taylor – 6 PM to 7:30 PM, hosted by Black Lives Matter Nashua. See the Facebook event for the Zoom link.
Interfaith Worship to #FreeThemAll – Online event, 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM. This is the concluding event of the national #FreeThemAll days of action, hosted by AFSC. September 13 marks the day when, in 1971, state troopers killed 39 people and injured hundreds as they retook the Attica prison following an uprising by prisoners who demanded humane treatment. We remember those who lost their lives at Attica, and all those who have helped to build the movement for a world without incarceration. Speakers include Siwatu Salama-Ra, Rev. Liz Theoharis of the PPC, Imam Mika’il DeVeaux, Rev. Jason Lydon, founder of Black and Pink, and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb with music by Alexis Joi and Elena Lacayo. Register here for the Zoom link. All are welcome.
Raise Up NH Calls for Veto Override of Minimum Wage and Family & Medical Leave Insurance – At the UNH Whittemore Center 8 AM to 10 AM (press conference at 9:15 AM), and at the State House at 11 AM. Facebook events here and here.
Pledge for Change – Black Lives Matter Seacoast will present demands for NH elected officials, at a rally in Henry Law Park (Dover), at 1 PM. More information at the Facebook event page.
Color of Law – Panel discussion about racial segregation and the implications it has for our communities, with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, 4 PM to 5:30 PM. Hosted by the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance at St. Anselm College. Register here. Additional information here.
Tenant Rights Series: Security Deposits, Rent Increases – Online presentation, 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM, hosted by Granite State Organizing Project, NH Legal Assistance, Manchester Housing Alliances and others. Register here.
September 25 and 26
Black New England Conference – Online event, hosted by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. This year’s theme is Black Women Rock: Leading the Charge for Social and Political Change. Find more information and register here.
Freedom Fund Banquet – Online event, 6:30 PM to 8 PM, with keynote speaker Judge Greg Mathis, Hosted by the greater Manchester NAACP. More information at the Facebook event page.
NH Peace Action Annual Event & Fall Fundraiser – Online event, 5:30 PM to 8 PM. More information at the Facebook event page.
* * * October 16 * * *
AFSC-NH Annual Celebration and Fundraiser – “I will not conform, I will transform: Finding joy in the journey towards justice,” with special guest Eroc Arroyo Montano (artist, organizer, movement leader). Join us for an evening of inspiration and community-building. Online event, 7 PM to 8:30 PM. Stay tuned for a registration link and other details, and let Maggie know if you would like to be one of our event sponsors. More info at our Facebook event page.
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. 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.