April 11 - State House Watch #14

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

View this message as a web page

AFSC-NH State House Watch, April 11
2014 Issue 14

After a couple weeks devoted to hearings the full House and Senate are back in session this week.   Our eyes are most firmly fixed on HB 1170, the bill to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty, which will be up for a vote in the Senate on Thursday.  We are also paying attention to a Senate vote on the car title lending (usury) bill, a hearing on the use of EBT cards, and the bill to allow municipalities to fine landlords who do not provide proper contact information.   

The bill to raise the minimum wage has been assigned to Senate Finance, but has not yet been assigned a date for a public hearing.  Likewise, House bills dealing with in-state tuition for immigrant students and disclosure of ASVAB test scores have not yet been scheduled either.  We'll let you know.

Death Penalty Update

HB 1170, the bill to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty, goes to the full Senate on Thursday with a 3-2 "ought to pass" recommendation from the Judiciary Committee.  The committee's OTP vote came two days after they had tied, 2-2, in the absence of Senator Donna Soucy, who had been unable to attend.  When she returned, the committee quickly voted to reconsider the issue and voted out a positive recommendation.  Leaders of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, in Concord this weekend for their quarterly meeting, were there to witness the vote.  Their presence is a good reminder to us that what happens in New Hampshire on this issue does not stay in New Hampshire; it matters to people far beyond our own borders.  In fact, we are expecting a crew from The Guardian in the UK to be in the Senate chamber on Thursday to video what we hope will be a historic vote.

With just a few days left before the vote, the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is pulling out all the stops to get repeal supporters to contact their Senators, write another letter to the editor, and plan to be present at the State House on Thursday. 

Click here for the Coalition's "Contact Your Senator" link or here for the "Who's My Senator" link on the General Court web site.

The Coalition is asking repeal supporters to "Ring the Capitol" on Thursday, both physically by forming a human ring around the State House from 9 to 10 AM and symbolically "by ringing our message loud and clear that it's time for New Hampshire to join the tide of history and abolish the death penalty from its statutes."  If you can attend, please register and plan to meet up at 4 Park Street between 8:30 and 9 AM.  

A component of the State House presence will be a prayer vigil organized by the NH Council of Churches, which notes that Thursday is Maundy Thursday, the date Christians commemorate the Last Supper.  "The vote coming during this most holy of weeks in the Christian calendar gives profound meaning to the prayer vigil and inspiration to those of us who will be present and to those not able to be present but who will be in prayerful support of repeal that day," says the Council.  

Abbreviations and Vocabulary

LOB - Legislative Office Building

SH - State House

OTP - Ought to Pass

OTP/A - Ought to Pass with Amendment

ITL - Inexpedient to Legislate (i.e. should be defeated)

Coming Up on the House Floor

The House will be in session on Wednesday, April 16 starting at 10 AM. The House will also be celebrating Tartan Day, a celebration of Scottish heritage.  See below for more on this, and wear your kilt.

SB 295, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions. The bill protects workers from unnecessary credit checks as a condition of employment or promotions. It allows companies for whom credit history would be substantially related to employment or promotion to do so. It comes out of committee OTP on a 10-8 vote. 

SB 390, prohibiting discrimination against employees who are victims of domestic violence and establishing a committee to study the protection of employees from domestic violence. This bill comes out of committee with a majority OTP on a vote of 10-8. The majority thinks this bill extends basic protections against discrimination to employees. The minority believes this is more government telling business what to do and creating an opportunity for disgruntled people to make claims of discrimination.

Coming Up on the Senate Floor

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, April 17, starting at 10 AM

Consent Calendar

HB 350, prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed. This bill would prohibit hiring discrimination by employers based upon an individual’s unemployment status. The Senate Commerce Committee recommended ITL on a vote of 5-0, based on a conclusion that this is a solution in search of a problem.  We encourage Senators to talk toa few more people who have experienced long-term unemployment and re-consider this idea next year.    

HB 1404, relative to payroll cards. The Commerce Committee says more time is needed to allow stakeholders to come together and agree on a PROPER balance that helps businesses use payroll cards and protects workers' rights.They recommend the bill go to Interim Study, which as we have noted before does not mean that anyone will actually devote any study to this issue.  We also note that this bill passed the House on a vote of 201-104. 

HB 1405, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions. The Commerce Committee voted to send this to Interim Study, too, but that's because they have passed a similar bill, SB 295, which will be on the House floor next week (see above).

HB 1195, establishing a committee to study the impact of the property tax on New Hampshire’s residents, municipalities, and the economy.  The Ways and Means Committee recommends ITL 5-0. Writing for the committee, Senator Rausch said, "The structure of the proposed committee coupled with the time constraints established in the bill as amended by the House are not conducive to effectively addressing the broad scope of the study, and would likely fail to yield a meaningful result."   Translation by Susan: "We will do anything to avoid a discussion of our regressive tax system and the problems it has created." 

Regular Calendar

HB 562, relative to title loans. The Commerce Committee recommended Interim Study on a vote of 3-2. We expect a floor amendment to be introduced which would restore reporting and disclosure requirements but make no changes to the 300% interest rates title loan companies can charge under current law.  Members of the United Valley Intefaith Project and Granite State Organizing Project will be there to tell Senators that our state should not allow usury.  

HB 1411, restoring money to DHHS from surplus funds, recommended ITL by 4-2. 

HB 1125, repealing the crime of adultery. This is recommended OTP by a 3-1 vote.  We note that in earlier days adultery was punishable by execution.   

HB 1170, repealing the death penalty in NH. OTP 3-2.

Next Week in House Committees

Tuesday, April 15 

Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Room 302, LOB

1:15 PM - Subcommittee work session on SB 306  establishing a commission to study NH mortgage foreclosure law, new federal regulations, and fair foreclosure practices. 

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB 

10:00 AM - SB 317, relative to trafficking in persons. 

1:00 PM - SB 318, establishing the crime of domestic violence. 

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

11:00 AM - SB 203, relative to permissible uses of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. This bill would prohibit the use of EBT cards or cash obtained with an EBT card to purchase tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, firearms, or adult entertainment. Also prohibited: gambling, body piercing, tattooing, or branding. Given that there is no way to determine where a person’s cash came from, this seems like a way to harass and demean poor people.  The House has already sent a similar bill to Interim Study.

Wednesday, April 16

Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services, Room 307, LOB

1:30 PM - Executive session includes SB 207, relative to paycheck equity. This bill prohibits employers from requiring that workers refrain from discussing and disclosing the amount of their wages. It also stipulates that an employer cannot retaliate (discharge or formally discipline) a worker for making those sorts of disclosures. 

Ways and Means, Room 202, LOB 

1:15 - Full committee work session on SB 366, Senator Lou D’Allesandro’s two-casino bill, which was considered at a public hearing on Thursday. The House recently shot down the idea of a single casino.  Whether two casinos are twice as good or twice as bad will be the subject of an executive session debate on Thursday, April 17, at 9:30 AM. 

Thursday, April 24

State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs, Room 203, LOB

SB 307, the bill to establish a committee to review proposed amendments to the US Constitution intended to redress issues raised by the Citizens United decision, gets a public hearing at 1 PM.

Next Week in Senate Committees

Tuesday, April 15

Finance, Room 103, SH 

1:45 PM - HB 1499.  This bill has a new description: "Increasing the maximum weekly benefit amount of unemployment benefits; amending the definitions of “full-time” and “part-time” work; and establishing a commission study (sic) the effect on the unemployment compensation trust fund of the contribution rate reduction trigger levels in RSA 282-A:82 and RSA 282-A:82-a and the elimination of some or all of the waiting periods required to be served pursuant to RSA 282-A:31, I(h)."  

Wednesday, April 16 

Public and Municipal Affairs, Room 102, LOB

9:50 AM - HB 1336, relative to the landlord’s agent requirement.  This bill enables municipalities to fine landlords who do not provide the city or town clerk with contact information for an agent authorized to accept service on behalf of the owner of the property.  

Tartan Day, aka Mad About Plaid, is April 16

Officially observed on April 6, the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, Tartan Day comes late to the State House this year. The day commemorates a declaration of Scottish independence, sent in the form of a letter to Pope John XXII, dated April 6, 1320. It is believed to have been written in the Arbroath Abbey by Bernard of Kilwinning who was the Chancellor of Scotland. This letter is one of four written at the time and the only one that survives. One of the missing letters was written by the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce, ancestor of our researcher Susan Bruce.

State House Watch Radio

Maggie's guest co-host next week will be Melissa Bernardin.  Guests will include Representative Candace Bouchard, who chairs the House Transportation Committee and serves on the Concord City Council.  You can listen live on Monday from 5 to 6 pm on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over the internet. The show now re-broadcasts Tuesday from 8 to 9 am. You can download apodcast of any of our earlier shows, including last week's show with Rick Wilson and Joan Ashwell.


Saturday, April 12 - Politics reporter John Distaso, formerly of the NH Union Leader and now with the NH Journal, calls this "Day One of the 2016 #FITN," in other words opening day of the NH Primary campaign.  The event is a "Freedom Summit" sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United (the organization, not the Supreme Court decision), at the Executive Court Banquet Facility, 1199 South Mammoth Road in Manchester.  Several likely presidential candidates are expected.  Summit participants will be greeted by activists concerned about saving Social Security and Medicare and the influence of the Koch brothers, who fund Americans for Prosperity and other right-wing advocacy groups.  The protest is from 8:30 to 10:30 AM.  The Summit itself is limited to ticket-holders. 

Saturday, April 12 - "We Will Not Back Down, Gun Violence Prevention Rally," noon to 1 pm, Nashua City Hall Plaza, 229 Main St. 

Tuesday, April 15 - Tax Day protest against War and Weapons Spending, noon at State House Plaza, sponsored by NH Peace Action.   Contact Doreen by email or at 603-228-0559.

Wednesday, April 16 - "Big Money and Politics," a forum with Olivia Zink of the Coalition for Open Democracy and Rob Werner of Americans for Campaign Reform. This talk is part of New England College’s education series taking place at the college’s new Concord facility, 62 North Main Street, from 12:30 - 2 pm.

Monday, April 21 - "Bidder 70," a film about Tim DeChristopher, who attended a Utah BLM Oil and Gas lease auction in 2008. Registering as bidder #70, he “bought” leases on land parcels that encompassed thousands of acres. He had no money. This act of civil disobedience caused him to spend some time in jail but protected the land from being exploited. 6:45 PM, Temple Beth Jacob, 67 Broadway, in Concord. 

September 27 - John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and co-author ofDollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America, will headline AFSC's annual fundraising dinner.  Mark your calendar and stay tuned for details.

-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty

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 staff the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM.  Susan Bruce helps with research.  Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.    

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!

American Friends Service Committee 
4 Park Street
Concord, NH 03301