March 14 - Issue #10 - Big Victories in House

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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AFSC-NH State House Watch, March 14
2014 Issue 10


Death Penalty Repeal Advances

By a wide margin -- 225 to 104 -- the NH House of Representatives approved the bill to repeal the state's death penalty on March 12.  The bill now heads to the State Senate, where the Judiciary Committee is expected to take it up in April. 

The measure passed after debate over an amendment to expand the death penalty instead of eliminating it, followed by an amendment which aimed to make the bill apply to Michael Addison, whose death sentence is early in its appeal process.  Since Governor Maggie Hassan has clearly indicated she would not sign a repeal bill that undoes the Addison sentence, repeal supporters said the direct path to death penalty abolition required the amendment's defeat and the approval of the bill as written. 

Fifty-nine Republicans joined the majority in favor of repeal.  The bi-partisan showing should help win support from the Senate majority.   

The vote was widely covered in the local media and also by the New York Times, which quoted Arnie as a spokesperson for the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  See below for information about plans for"moving vigils" taking place later this month in 5 NH communities.  

Minimum Wage, Housing Discrimination Bill Also Approved; Casino Plan Gets Thumbs Down

Later the same day, the House voted 173 - 118 for HB 1403 to increase the minimum wage.  This measure will increase the state minimum wage in two increments, from $7.25 to $8.25 in 2015, and from $8.25 to $9 In 2016.  After that, future increases will be tied to the consumer price index.   During the lengthy floor fight the bill survived 2 floor amendments and an attempt to table, but finally was passed on a roll call vote.  On to the Senate!

HB 1409, prohibiting housing discrimination against recipients of rental assistance and  victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, passed on a roll call vote of 147-141.  The bill had been tabled last week for tactical reasons. 

Yesterday the House debated and defeated this year's major attempt to establish casino gambling.  HB 1633, which would have paved the way for a single “destination” casino, went down on a  roll call vote of 173-144.  The House also discarded two other bills that would authorize up to 6 casinos.  A 2-casino bill is still alive in the Senate, but the House vote makes its survival unlikely.  Anyone think this is the last we'll hear about casino gambling? 

Voting Records and This Week's Glossary

"Division Vote" - There are 3 forms of House votes:  a "voice vote," in which the Speaker of the House determines which collection of voices represents more people; a "roll call" vote, in which each member votes "yes" or "no" and has their votes recorded for the public to see; and a "division" vote, in which members vote "yes" or "no" but only the totals, not the the votes of individual members, are recorded for posterity. 

To find out how members voted - The link from each bill takes you to that bill's "docket."  There, you can see what action was taken on the House or Senate floor.  If it says "RC," that means there was a roll call vote.  You should be able to click on it and see the record of which members voted which way on that bill.  Alternatively, you can go to the Voting Record page, scroll to the appropriate year, chamber, and bill, and click your way to the voting record you want to see.  In addition, the page for each House member has a link to her/his voting record for the current year.  You can find voting record from sessions going back to 1989 using theAdvanced Bill Search

"Crossover" - the deadline by which the House is supposed to complete action on all House bills and the Senate is supposed to complete action on all Senate bills.  This year's crossover date is March 27.   The next major deadline is May 15, by which time both chambers are supposed to complete action on bills that "crossed over" from the other side.  After that they will have 6 more weeks to resolve differences between the chambers on bills that are still alive. 

Other House Action

HB 1207, requiring lawmakers in some cases to identify the source of legislative language in an effort to create greater transparency, was defeated 268-57 on a "division" vote.   The Legislative Administration Committee reported that the goal of the bill would be better achieved through a House rule than through a law.  The measure had been backed by Granite State Progress, which has been working to expose the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization used by large corporations to generate pro-business policies.    

HB 1195, establishing a committee to study the impact of the property tax on NH residents, businesses, municipalities, and the economy, survived a tabling attempt and passed as amended on a roll call vote of 201-128. 

HB 1620 would limit the use of drones by government agencies and individuals, and establishes criminal penalties and civil remedies for violations of the law. The sponsor, Representative Neal Kurk, acknowledged that this is only a first step in dealing with the potential privacy problems that drone usage may create in the future. A floor amendment that clearly defined terms was added, and the bill passed on a voice vote. 

HB 1376 would have required the Department of Environmental Services to examine the harm that might be done to the public and environment by a pipeline that could be used to transport tar sands oil (also called "bitumen") from Montreal through Coos County to Portland.  With an amendment that shifted study responsibility from the DES to a legislative committee, the bill passed on a voice vote.

HR 21, a resolution expressing support for the right of residents of the District of Columbia to be fully represented in Congress, passed on a roll call vote of 145-143.   

HB 1214, relative to the grounds for termination of tenancy, was defeated on a 174-102 division vote.  The Judiciary Committee argued that current law already provides a fair process that balances the rights of landlords and tenants.  Defeat of this bill was a priority for AFSC, Granite State Organizing Project, NH Legal Assistance, and Housing Action NH. 

HB 1336, establishing the authority for municipalities to impose a civil fine for landlords who do not provide the city or town clerk with contact information for an agent authorized to accept service on behalf of the property owner, passed on a roll call vote of 155-122.  Passage of this bill is a priority for AFSC and GSOP.

HB 1362, prohibiting enforcement of any federal law which bans certain firearms or limits firearm magazine size, went down on a roll call vote of 202-67.

Last Week in the Senate

On the bad news side of the ledger, the Senate voted 20-3 to approve SB 203, the bill to limit the permissible uses of EBT cards, after the $25/transaction limit was removed from the bill.  In its current version it is still unenforceable and offensive.  It now moves on to the House. 

On the good news side, the Senate voted unanimously to approve CACR 17.  This calls for amending the State Constitution to include sexual orientation in the anti-discrimination clause.  It now goes to the House where it requires a 2/3 vote to pass, and then would be on the ballot in November, where 60% of the voters would need to vote for it in order for it to be added to the Constitution.

Senators also adopted SB 207, relative to paycheck equity, on a unanimous vote. 

Next Week in the House

The House will be in session on Wednesday, March 19 at 10 AM and Thursday, March 20, at 10 AM.  Crossover is March 27, and there’s a possibility of 3 session days that week.

A recommendation to kill HB 1379, excluding  firearms records from public records subject to disclosure under the right-to-know law, is on the Consent Calendar.

Coming Up in the Senate

Senate committees are already holding hearings on bills that passed the House.  Nothing we are closely tracking is coming up next week.  The Senate will not be in session again until March 27, which is also the Senate's "crossover" date.

Town Meetings and the US Constitution

Town Meeting is that occasion when residents of our towns come together as a community to vote on a budget, approve spending on town purchases large and small, and consider items placed on the "town warrant" by the petition of local voters. New Hampshire has a long history of using petitioned warrant articles to highlight issues beyond purely local concerns. This year some 60 towns have voted or will be voting on a petitioned warrant article calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and declare that the rights articulated in the US Constitution are meant for actual human beings, not corporations. Our latest tally is that 32 towns have voted in favor of these resolutions, 8 towns have voted against them, and 20 towns haven’t voted yet. The results indicate that people from all parts of our state are fed up with big money in politics and ready for changes that limit corporate influence over our political system.  We are impressed with the dedicated groups of citizens who brought this issue to the attention of their towns and thankful for the assistance of Public Citizen and Move to Amend in this project. 

At the state level, a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention was tabled in the House by a 181-97 Division vote.  Meanwhile, SB 307, which will create a committee to study proposed constitutional amendments, is still awaiting a vote in the Senate. 

Meanwhile, the towns of Alexandria, Hebron, and Danbury each passed a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance that asserts the right of these communities to ban unsustainable energy development and ensure community rights over corporate rights. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has been supporting these initiatives.

Discussion of challenging the legal power of corporations will continue during David Cobb's"Barnstorming Tour," March 21 to 26.

State House Watch Radio

Our guest next week will be Representative Bob Backus, a longtime advocate for safe, renewable energy policies and now a member of the Science, Technology, and Energy Committee.  We'll talk with Bob about energy-related bills on the legislative agenda this year, the 3rd anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, and probably the role of community-based media.  You can listen live on Monday 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 a podcast of any of our earlier shows.

Events Coming Up

March 17 - The statewide championship competition for the NH Poetry Out Loud program takes place at 7 PM in Representatives Hall at the State House. Twelve NH high school students will be reading poetry and competing for the chance to go to the national finals in Washington, DC in April. This is sponsored by the NH Council on the Arts.  

March 17 - The Building a Culture of Peace Film Series will begin its 5th year of monthly films, celebrating Women’s History Month with the documentary, "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs."  Boggs is a 98 year old Chinese American writer, activist, organizer and philosopher in Detroit. ”Revolution,” Boggs says, “is about something deeper within the human experience, the ability to transform oneself to transform the world.”  7 PM at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord.  Visit our web calendar for more details.

March 21 to 26 - David Cobb, a national spokesperson for Move to Amend will speak about ending corporate rule at events in Nashua, Manchester, Peterborough, Canterbury, Hanover, Durham, and Henniker.  Look for details on the AFSC web page.  

March 23-28 -  The Faith Initiative of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is planning five vigils in Hampton (March 23), Manchester (March 23), Concord (March 25), Berlin (March 28), and Dover (March 29) as part of its 2014 Road to Death Penalty Repeal Campaign.  Each vigil will be a visual, physical demonstration of citizen support for repeal and will also serve to inspire our supporters as they begin working for repeal within the Senate.  For more information and details on each vigil, visit the Coalition's web site.  

March 25 - "Inequality for All," the feature-length documentary featuring former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, will be shown at the Robert Frost Auditorium at Southern New Hampshire University at 5:30 PM.  Free and open to the public.  Contact Professor Christina Clamp for more information.

March 25 - "Imperiling NH's Future?: 25 Years of Public Disinvestment" is a talk by former Senator Mark Fernald, sponsored by Granite State Priorities at the Concord Unitarian Universalist Church, 7 pm.  Contact David Weber for info. 

-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty

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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!

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