Feb. 7 - NH State House Watch #6

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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AFSC-NH State House Watch, February 7
2014 Issue 6

Before we describe events of the past week we want to call your attention to two meetings coming up on Tuesday, February 11.

First, the House Labor Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 1403, re-establishing and raising the state’s minimum wage, at 10:15 am.  This will be preceded by an Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at 8 am.  Please see 
below for details, including how to RSVP for the breakfast.

The minimum wage and other bills affecting workers will be the focus of our
 radio show next week, with guests Representative Sally Kelly and Mark MacKenzie of the NH AFL-CIO.   

Second, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold an 
Executive Session on HB 1170, repealing the state’s death penalty, at 1 pm.  If any of your Representatives serve on this committee, please contact them now.  The bill is likely to be debated by the full House on February 19, making the next ten days crucial for outreach to all House members.     

A Deal on Medicaid?

In her 
“State of the State” speech yesterday, Governor Maggie Hassan commended Republican and Democratic Senators for reaching a compromise proposal that would expand access to health insurance in line with the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program.  At this time we expect the proposal to be turned into a bill which will come before the Senate and if passed move to the House, which has already approved its own version of Medicaid expansion.  Support for this proposal from Senate President Chuck Morse, Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, and Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen means Senate passage is likely.  The details will be complicated but at this time we are optimistic that health insurance will be made available for more than 50,000 adults who are currently shut out of the market.   


Guide to Abbreviations and Process

LOB - Legislative Office Building, where most House Committee hearings are held
SH - State House

Each bill gets referred to a committee which conducts a public hearing, debates it in “executive session,” and sends it to the full House or Senate with a recommendation.  It is the committee recommendation (see below) that starts the debate on the House or Senate floor.   

OTP - Ought to Pass
OTP/A - Ought to Pass with Amendment
ITL - Inexpedient to Legislation (i.e. defeat this bill)

Last Week on the Senate Floor

SB 120, requiring political groups advocating for or against specific candidates to be responsible for disclosing receipts and expenditures, arrived on the Senate floor with a 3-2 ITL recommendation from the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee.  The ITL motion was overturned.  Then an amendment from Senator David Pierce was adopted and the amended bill passed 19 - 4!  Passage of this bill, which now goes to the House, is a major priority of the

Coalition for Open Democracy

Last Week in House Committees

On Tuesday, February 4, House Judiciary held an executive session on three landlord/tenant bills.  The committee voted two bills "ought to pass:" 
HB 1409, which would prohibit housing discrimination against section 8 voucher holders and against those who are victims of domestic violence; and HB 1336, which restores the fine for landlords who fail to register with the municipality where their rental housing is located. The committee approved an amendment to make this "enabling" legislation which means that towns and cities have the option of applying this penalty.  The committee also found HB 1214 "inexpedient to legislate," which is good news since this bill would have added the termination of a lease as a justification for eviction, and seriously eroded tenant protections in current law. We are hopeful the full House will concur with all three of these decisions.

The Education Committee had a public hearing on 
HB 1321, a bill concerning the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. Every year thousands of NH high school students under the age of 18 take the ASVAB tests, usually in their junior Emily Spencer Testifiesyear. The tests, which are administered by military recruiters, are used to peddle military service as a career option for students.  Typically, recruiters get access to test scores without knowledge or permission from parents.  HB 1321 would mandate that parental permission be obtained before ASVAB test scores can be turned over to recruiters.  Strong testimony in support of the bill came from Representatives Joel Winters and Chuck Weed, Will Hopkins of NH Peace Action, Will Thomas of Veterans for Peace, three Concord High School students, and the NH Department of Education.    

Last Week in Senate Committees

The Senate Finance Committee had a public hearing on 
SB 203,  a bill intended to limit the way EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards can be used by recipients of several cash assistance programs.  In addition to limiting what such funds can be spent on (e.g. barring purchase of lottery tickets or tattoos), the bill as written would limit recipients to withdrawing $25 at a time.  Even though Senator Jeanne Forrester, the bill’s prime sponsor, brought an amendment to raise the limit to $40 a day when she realized ATMs give out money in multiples of $20, several speakers explained the requirement would be impractical and costly for people who need to pay rent and other major expenses in cash.  There was strong opposition to the bill in testimony from NH Legal Assistance, Every Child Matters, a landlord, and from Maggie, whose statement is available on our web page. 

Next Week on the House Floor

The House will be in session on Wednesday, February 12.  Its agenda includes:

HB 1589 requires background checks for all firearm sales. The bill extends background checks to all commercial sales within the state, including gun shows. Background checks are not required for sales or transfers between people who know each other. It comes out of committee with a recommendation of OTP/A. It squeaked through, on a vote of 10-8. 

HB 1287 would require a deposit on refundable beverage containers. From the committee report: “Rather than a bottle bill, the committee will instead review and research a comprehensive recycling bill which would include all extended producer responsibility programs for possible future legislation.”  This bill comes out of committee with a unanimous vote of ITL, 18-0. 

Next Week on the Senate Floor

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, February 13, starting at 10 AM.  Its agenda includes:

SB 318 establishes domestic violence as a crime. Committee recommendation, OTP/A 5-0. The amendment adds stalking to the statute. 

Next Week in House Committees


Tuesday, February 11

Day of Action for a Higher Minimum Wage

HB 1403, the bill to raise the minimum wage in NH, will have a public hearing before the Labor Committee at 10:15 AM, in Room 305-307 at the LOB.  This bill would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 (same as the federal rate) to $9.00 an hour in two increments. The first step would begin on January 1, 2015 with an increase to $8.25, going up to $9.00 in 2016. Thereafter the wage would be adjusted for increases in the cost of living.  This measure would provide some relief to the low income families in our state, and it is one that we strongly support. 

The morning begins at 8:00 AM with an 
interfaith prayer breakfast at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 21 Centre St, followed by a press conference at the State House at 9:30 AM, and then the hearing at 10:15 AM. If you plan to attend the breakfast, please RSVP, so they know how much food to prepare, either by email or call Reverend Gail Kinney at  603-381-7324.

NH Citizens Alliance is also coordinating a Lobby Day, gathering at 8:30 am at 4 Park Street, 3rd floor.  Click here to sign up.  You can also add your name to a petition supporting the minimum wage proposal.   

Also Tuesday in the Labor Committee:

1:30 PM  Public hearing on 
HB 1599, which offers employment protection for victims of domestic violence – they can take paid or unpaid leave to seek medical or psychological care, to relocate, or go to court. 

An executive session starting at 2:45 PM includes consideration of 
HB 1188, paycheck equity; HB 1404, adding requirements for the use of payroll cards; HB 1405, which prohibits an employer from using credit history in employment decisions; HB 1407, which prohibits an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose social media or email passwords; and HB 1592, requiring prevailing wages on state funded public works projects. 

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204 LOB

1:00 PM  Executive session on the death penalty repeal bill, 
HB 1170.  Please let the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty know if you plan to attend.   

Election Law, Room 308 LOB

11:00 AM  Executive session on 
HB 1506.  This bill eliminates student ID cards issued by career schools from the list of acceptable forms of voter ID.  It’s another bill designed to disenfranchise students.   

Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs, Room 205 LOB

10:00 AM Subcommittee work on

HB 1213, prohibiting the purchase of alcohol or tobacco products with EBT cards.

Judiciary, Room 208 LOB

1:00 PM  Full Committee work session on HB 1379, a bill to exclude firearms records from public records subject to disclosure under the right-to-know law. 

Municipal and County Government, Room 301 LOB

10:00 AM  Executive Session on 
HB 1297, this year’s bill to weaken the workforce housing law.

Wednesday, February 12 

Legislative Administration, Room 104 LOB

12:00 PM or at the lunch break from session, an executive session on
 HB 1207, which requires the identification of a private organization responsible for writing a model bill used by a legislator to propose legislation, and HB 1440, which requires registration as a lobbyist for a partnership, firm, or corporation who pays scholarship funds, money, or other financial support to an elected official to attend an event whose purpose is promote or distribute model legislation, and requires the elected official to report any such funds received.

Thursday, February 13

Executive Departments and Administration, Room 306 LOB

2:00 PM  
HB 1444, recognizing April as Genocide Awareness Month. 

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

1:00 PM   Executive Session on 
HB 1299, establishing a committee to study the cost and feasibility of requiring photo ID on EBT cards. 

State Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs, Room 203 LOB

1:00 PM Executive session on 
HCR 10.  This resolution applies to the Congress of the United States to call for a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution to establish that money is not speech and corporations are not people.  

Next Week in Senate Committees

Tuesday, February 11


Judiciary, Room 100 SH

9:15 AM  
SB 390, prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and harassment. The bill requires employers to provide reasonable safety accommodations.

Wednesday, February 12

Energy and Natural Resources, Room 101 LOB


9:45 AM 

SB 411, requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods and agricultural commodities. 

Announcements

Sunday, February 9 - The Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail will celebrate Black history month with a series of participatory lectures and film to honor the tradition started in 1915 by Carter G Woodson.  This year's celebration is offered in collaboration with the Seacoast African American Cultural Center.  There are two events: "Being Black in New Hampshire: Two Hundred Years of African American Writers in the Granite State" with Professor Jeff Bolster, from 2 to 4 PM, folllowed by a reception announcing the formation of the Valerie Cunningham Society for the Preservation of African American History.  Both events take place at the Discover Portsmouth Center, 10 Middle Street Portsmouth, NH 03801.

Sunday, February 9 - Readers of the NH Union Leader may have noticed articles appearing of late without bylines.  That's because union members in the newsroom are in the middle of a 10-day byline strike, and are withholding their bylines and credits from their stories and photographs to protest and bring attention to a contract proposal they believe is unfair.  At 11:15 AM Sunday they'll be picketing the newspaper's annual sports banquet at the Radisson in Manchester.  They've created a web page where the potential effects of the proposal are explained and where people may send an email or tweet to the Union Leader's publisher.

Tuesday, February 11 - Carol Foss of the NH Audubon Society will give a presentation on “Tar Sands – a synopsis of the issues for New Hampshire,” for Speaker of the House Terie Norelli’s Continuing Education Series.  This program is at 2 pm in LOB Room 301-303.  

Monday, February 17 - The Building a Culture of Peace Film Series presents "At The Death House Door," at 7 pm at Temple Beth Jacob, 67 Broadway in Concord.  The film follows the transformation of Caroll Pickett who served 15 years as the death house chaplain at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas.  Click 
here for more details.  

Tuesday, February 18, a talk by former Senator Mark Fernald on "Imperiling New Hampshire's Future: 25 years of Public Disinvestment," at the Concord Unitarian Universalist Church, 274 Pleasant Street in Concord.  Sponsored by Granite State Priorities.  
Contact David Weber for more information.  

State House Watch Radio

Our guests Monday will be Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO, and Representative Sally Kelly, a member of the House Labor Committee and prime sponsor of the bill raising the state’s minimum wage.   You can listen live from 5 to 6 pm on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over the 
internet.  The show re-broadcasts Tuesday from 7 to 8 am.  You can download apodcast of any of our earlier shows.

-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.  Click 
here for back issues.

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!




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