Jan. 31 - State House Watch #5

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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AFSC-NH State House Watch, January 31
2014 Issue 5

Welcome to a new format for State House Watch.  We hope it has made it safely to your inbox.  Feel free to send us comments on its appearance.  

Ding dong, right-to-work (for less) is dead.  Again.  Yesterday the Senate voted 13 to 11 to defeat this year’s effort to dismantle collective bargaining.  But we will make a bold prediction that this issue will return next session.  (Maybe it's a zombie, not a witch.)

Meanwhile, the House is almost through with the bills retained from 2013.  House and Senate committees are hard at work on this year’s bills.

The bill to raise the state’s minimum wage, HB 1403, comes to the House Labor Committee at 10:15 am on Tuesday, February 11.  Please consider joining us at 8 am that morning for an Interfaith Prayer Breakfast in support of Dignity for All Workers.  See below for details.   

The House and Senate will meet in Joint Session on February 5, at 10 AM for the State of the State Address by Governor Maggie Hassan. A regular House session will follow.

Issues coming up in the next couple weeks include guns, military recruitment, welfare payments, and the minimum wage.  See the details below.  The House vote on the death penalty is likely to happen some time in February, so this is an important time to be talking to your Representatives.  Visit the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to find out how to reach them and what to say.   

Carol Foss from the NH Audubon Society and Jon Bresler from the Project for Safer Communities will be our radio show guests on Monday.  See below for details.  

Guide to Abbreviations and Process

LOB - Legislative Office Building, where most House Committee hearings are held
SH - State House, where the House and Senate meet and where many Senate committees hold hearings.

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 Amended
ITL - Inexpedient to Legislation (i.e. defeat this bill)

We include hyperlinks for the bills we describe.  These links should take you to the "docket" for each bill.  From that page you can see information about the progress of the bill and get links to other pages with the bill's text, roll call votes that have been taken, the wording of any amendments that have been approved, and more.   Let us know if you have questions.    

Last Week on the House Floor

The House passed HB 485 , the bill to allow keno, the electronic lottery game, in establishments that pour liquor, on a vote of 201-141.  An amendment proposed by Rep. Leigh Webb gives cities and towns the power to decide whether they want keno games in their towns. Eight percent of the revenue would go to the business offering the game, and the other 92% would go to the state’s education trust fund. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it may be opposed by proponents of casino gambling.  Go figure.

Last Week in Senate Committees

The latest Senate casino bill, SB 366, would allow two casino licenses, with proceeds going to road improvements, higher education, and economic development in the North Country. South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards pointed out in his testimony that the state has a poor track record for funding programs it promises to earmark money for. Other testimony from law enforcement addressed the increased crime and addiction problems that would result from casinos. The committee voted 4-1 in favor, with an amendment spelling out the terms of distributing the state portion of the profits.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted against SB 302, a bill that said that no employee criticism of employers – public or private 
– should be grounds for termination. There were a number of concerns raised about the reputation of a business and the committee voted ITL 4-1. 

NH Business Review had an informative write-up by Bob Sanders on other employer/employee related bills heard last week by Senate committees. 

Next Week on the House Floor

The House will be in session on Wednesday, February 5, following Governor Hassan’s speech.
 
HB 1275 would permit a landlord to tow a tenant’s vehicle under certain circumstances.  Majority vote 13-1 ITL.  This bill would allow landlords to tow cars without advance warning, forcing tenants to pay large sums to recover their vehicles. Some low-income tenants could even lose their cars in the process. 

HB 1174, establishing a commission to study the payment of higher wages to persons with disabilities. As amended, the bill establishes a study committee rather than a commission, which the committee believes can act more quickly. OTP/A on a vote of 16-0. 

HB 1279  concerns compliance with 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill requires that NH officials and the National Guard, while under command of the governor, refrain from detaining and holding any US citizen or other person lawfully in the US under the provisions of NDAA. Last year the House voted overwhelmingly to support a similar bill. Committee unanimously recommends OTP/A 13-0.

HB 1237, prohibiting residency restrictions for registered sex offenders and offenders against children, goes to the House with an 18-1 OTP recommendation.  The committee, which has considered this issue in previous years, concluded that restrictions deprive people of fundamental rights and make it harder for police to protect their communities.   The one contrary vote came from Rep. Al Baldasaro, a newly appointed member of the committee who was not present for the public hearing on the bill.   

HB 1375, permitting a municipal law enforcement agency to collect unwanted or illegal firearms. The committee was concerned about compliance with federal law and destroying potential evidence tied to a crime. Vote ITL 16-3. 

Next Week on the Senate Floor

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, February 6 at 10 AM.  Among the bills it will consider:

SB 302, a bill that said that no employee criticism – public or private 
– should be grounds for termination. There were a number of concerns raised about the reputation of a business and the committee voted ITL 4-1. 

SB 238, restoring funds to HHS and depositing the rest of the surplus in the revenue stabilizing account. The Finance Committee voted ITL 4-2.  (This is the Senate version of HB 1411, still pending in the House.)

SB 317, relative to trafficking in persons. Judiciary recommends OTP/A.

SB 366, authorizing 2 casinos, came out of Ways and Means with a OTP/A vote of 4-1. 

Next Week in House Committees

Tuesday, February 4

Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Room 302 LOB


The executive session starting at 2:30 pm will include consideration of HB 1589, requiring background checks for all firearm sales.  This discussion was postponed from last week.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204 LOB

10:00 AM -  Executive session on 11 bills, including HB 1580, repealing mandatory minimum sentences. It’s the 8th bill in the queue. 

Education, Room 207 LOB

11:00 AM - HB 1321, relative to reporting of Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) scores.  Every year high school juniors take the ASVAB test, which collects students’ demographic data and purports to evaluate their technical, mathematical, language, and mechanical aptitudes.   The information is given to military recruiters, usually without any parental approval. This bill bars high school superintendents from sending test scores to recruiters without explicit parental permission.   It has the backing of NH Peace Action, NH Veterans for Peace, NH Civil Liberties Union, the NEA, and AFSC.    

Judiciary, Room 208 LOB

10:00 AM - Executive sessions on HB 1214, permitting a landlord to terminate a tenancy at the end of the lease term or upon rescission of the lease agreement, and HB 1409, expanding the law against discrimination to prohibit housing discrimination against recipients of rental assistance and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

1:30 PM - HB1325, relative to death with dignity for certain persons suffering a terminal condition. 

Resources, Recreation, and Development, Room 305 LOB

1:30 PM - Subcommittee work session on HB 1383, relative to municipal monitoring of large groundwater withdrawals. 

Thursday, February 6

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 206 LOB

10:30 AM - HB 1362, prohibiting enforcement of any federal law which bans certain firearms or limits firearm magazine size and establishing a criminal penalty for such enforcement.

11:30 AM - HB 1264.  This bill permits a non-resident from a state that does not require a license to carry a loaded pistol or revolver in NH.

1:30 PM - HB 1438,  This bill shifts the burden of proof for an exception or exemption claimed in an action brought under the firearms laws of this state from the defendant to the state.

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

11:00 AM - HB 1501, requiring licensing of out-patient abortion facilities.

State Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs, Room 203 LOB

1:00 PM - Executive session on HCR 10, a resolution urging Congress to hold a constitutional convention to address issues raised by the Citizens United opinion. This resolution notes that “natural persons are endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while incorporated legal entities exist only under the revocable authority established by the people through Congress and the several state legislatures.”

Ways and Means, Room 202 LOB

9:00 AM - HB 1633, relative to expanded gaming in NH. This bill is seen as the major proposal for pro-casino forces this year.  It allows for the selection and operation of one casino, establishes a gaming enforcement unit under the division of the state police, distributes proceeds, allows the legislature to set the percentage of proceeds distributed to the host community, nearby communities, and for the costs of regulatory control. It also establishes a gaming regulatory fund. Other casino bills are on the committee’s afternoon agenda, starting at 2 pm.  Visit Casino Free NH for more information.  .

Tuesday, February 11

Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services, Room 307 LOB

10:15 AM - HB 1403, establishing a state minimum wage.  This is a heads up on an important bill to re-establish the state’s authority to set a minimum wage and raise it in two steps to $9.  If you currently are paid less than that and would like to testify in favor of this bill, please get in touch.  We’ll have more information on this proposal in next week’s newsletter.

Next Week in Senate Committees

Tuesday, February 4

Finance, Room 103 SH

1:45 PM -  SB 203, relative to permissible uses of EBT cards. This bill would impose restrictions on the use of EBT cards, and impose penalties for the use of the EBT card, or cash obtained with EBT cards – in the following areas: purchasing alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, adult entertainment, or body piercing, branding, or tattoos. The bill would limit cash withdrawals to $25 per transaction, and the recipient of the EBT card would be required to retain receipts and submit them to the department as part of the renewal of benefits process. This bill imposes unreasonable burdens on recipients of cash assistance as well as on the public workers who would have to examine piles of receipts to determine if the cash were being used improperly.  For example, most people use their entire EBT payment to pay rent.  If this bill were in effect, recipients would have to make multiple withdrawals and pay multiple fees each month, just to get cash to pay rent.  

Erratum

We thank the careful reader who pointed out an error in last week’s newsletter.  HB 660, the bill that would have required food labels to indicate the presence of GMOs, was defeated 185-162.  

State House Watch Radio

Our first guest Monday will be Carol Foss from the Audubon Society, telling us about NH legislation related to tar sands and climate.  She’ll be followed by Jon Bresler  from the Project for Safer Communities, with an update on proposals to reduce gun violence.  We’ll also pay our respects and give thanks to Pete Seeger.  You can listen live from 5 to 6 pm on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over theinternet.  The show re-broadcasts Tuesday King Day show on the death penalty from 7 to 8 am.  You can download a podcast of any of our earlier shows.

Announcements

Interfaith Prayer Breakfast - Calling for Dignity for ALL Workers - Join us Tuesday, February 11 at 8 am at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord to share food and our hopes for wages that allow all workers to live in dignity.    See our web calendar for more details.   Please RSVP.  


In his "State of the Union" speech, President Obama said he would take executive action on issues where Congress fails to act.  AFSC and other groups are calling on him to use his executive authority to halt deportations of immigrants, many of whom would qualify for the "pathway to citizenship" he has endorsed.  Click here to read our statement.  

"At the Death House Door" is the next film in our Culture of Peace and Nonviolence film series, Monday, February 17.  The film describes the journey of Carroll Pickett, who presided over executions in Texas for 15 years.  Get details here, and stay in touch with the NH Coalition to Aboilsh the Death Penalty by clicking here.

-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 
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http://afsc.org


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