May 2 - NH State House Watch #17

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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AFSC-NH State House Watch, May 2
2014 Issue 17

The big news of the week was the tie vote on casino gambling in the House on Wednesday.  More on that below.  There was also news on other issues we've been watching, including theminimum wage, access to in-state tuition, the bill to support amending the US Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision, and the use of EBT cards.  We'll be talking about gambling and money in politics on our radio show next week.

Representatives and Senators are working hard to consider remaining bills as they head toward their next deadline, May 15, the date by which the House has to act on all bills that already passed the Senate and the Senate has to act on all bills that already passed the House.  After that they will have until May 22 to form Committees of Conference to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the same bill, eight days for the Committees of Conference to do their work, and one more week to act on the Committee of Conference reports. In order for a bill to reach the Governor it has to be approved in both chambers with identical language. 

Casino Gambling to Be Re-Considered

SB 366, the two-casino bill, went to the full House Wednesday with an 11-9 ITL (inexpedient to legislate) recommendation from the Ways and Means Committee.  That meant the floor debate started with consideration of the motion for the bill to be rejected.  More than a dozen floor amendments had been prepared, but they could not be considered unless the ITL motion were defeated and an OTP (ought to pass) motion made.  Debate on the ITL motion went on for two hours. When the vote finally took place and the numbers came up on the screen above the Speaker's platform, there was a collective gasp--it was a tie vote of 172-172.

Deputy Speaker Naida Kaen, who was presiding over the session in the absence of Speaker Terie Norelli, cast the deciding vote in favor of ITL.

Representative Mario Ratzki has filed a motion to reconsider, which will come to the floor next Wednesday. Here's how we understand the parliamentary process:

A simple majority vote is required to re-open debate on SB 366. If it passes, the ITL motion will be re-considered.  If the majority again votes for ITL, the bill will die (again).  If a majority votes against ITL, then a substitute motion of OTP can be brought forward, followed by introduction and debate of all the floor amendments.  Eventually, another vote on the original bill (or the bill as amended) will take place.  If the House passes SB 366 in its current form it would go to the Governor for approval or veto.  If the House adopts an amended version of SB 366, it would return to the Senate, which could either "concur," "non-concur," or "non-concur and request a committee of conference."   

Hovering over the debate was the recent Superior Court decision that the Medicaid Enhancement Tax is unconstitutional.  Casino backers cite this as one more reason the revenue from two casinos is needed.  But as Representative Mary Jane Wallner said, “The MET is just the newest way of creating panic and promoting casinos as the answer to all our problems.  This is not the time to push the panic button.”

Last Week in the House

SB 318, establishing the crime of domestic violence, passed the House on a vote of 325-3.  We note that the bill drew criticism from the NH Firearms Coalition, which objected to the provision that an accusation of domestic violence will prohibit the accused from possessing firearms. 

SB 317, relative to trafficking in persons, passed on a roll call vote of 327-0. May Day Rally

SB 306, establishing a commission to study New Hampshire mortgage foreclosure law, new federal regulations, and fair foreclosure practices passed as amended on a division vote of 177-141.  The amendment was a clarification on the makeup of the commission.

CACR 17, providing that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited, was sent to interim study on a roll call vote of 234-94. A lack of clarity regarding definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity was problematic for this well-intentioned bill. 

SB 244, establishing a procedure for the annulment of a mental health record to make it easier for people with mental health records to acquire firearms, was.ITL'd on a voice vote. 

SB 394, recognizing out-of-state marriages, allows couples from other states that do not recognize marriage equality to marry in New Hampshire and changes the language in New Hampshire marital law to non-gender specific terms. OTP on a roll call vote of 217-119.

Last Week in the Senate

HB 1279, relative to compliance with the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which would prevent the Governor and the NH National Guard from participating in the enforcement of counter-terrorism provisions of the NDAA which include indefinite detention and "rendition." The bill came out of committee with an ITL recommendation and was killed by the full Senate.

HB 1444, recognizing the month of April as Genocide Awareness Month, passed on a voice vote.

HB 485, establishing Keno, was ITL'd on a voice vote. 

Next Week in the House 

The motion to reconsider the SB 366, the two-casino bill, will be taken up. (See above.)

SB 203, relative to permissible uses of EBT cards, was recommended for interim study by the Health and Human Services Committee on a vote of 12-4.  The majority report says "the use and management of EBT cards requires a collaborative effort between multiple state, federal and private entities to determine control policies that will reduce, with the goal of preventing, EBT card misuse. To meet this challenge, a total approach to involve the use issues requires in depth work to attain a long term resolution."  The committee had already voted to study two related bills, HB 1213, prohibiting the purchase of tobacco or alocohol products with EBT cards, 
and HB 1299, forming a committee to study the feasibility and cost of requiring photo ID on EBT cards. 

Representative Jim McKay, who chairs the HHS Committee, said he really does intend to set up a study committee to work on these proposals. Although it was widely acknowledged that the bill as written was unenforceable, the minority of the committee wanted to press forward on the EBT card limits anyway.     

Next Week in the Senate

Consent Calendar

HB 1312, establishing a committee to study offshore wind energy and the development of other ocean power technology, comes out of committee with a 5-0 OTP recommendation.

HB 1321, relative to the reporting of Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) scores, requires parental consent before military recruiters get their hands on the results of “vocational aptitude tests” given to minors. The bill comes out of committee with an OTP recommendation on a vote of 5-0. It already passed the House with little drama.

Regular Calendar

HB 1403, establishing a state minimum wage, would also increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour in a two-step process concluding in 2016. Sad to say, we were not surprised it came out of committee with a party-line 4-2 ITL recommendation. After all, these are the same Senators who, voting along party lines, last year rejected a bill that would have simply re-instated the state's authority to have a minimum wage without even raising it.  (The four "no" votes came from Senators Forrester, Morse, Odell, and Bragdon.  The two "yes" votes were Senators Larsen and D'Allesandro.)  Please contact your Senator now to urge passage.   

HB 474, relative to eligibility for in-state tuition rates, goes to the floor with a 4-2, party line recommendation of interim study.  Senator Molly Kelly had worked with the attorney for the University System of New Hampshire to fix the bill's confusing language and reduce what USNH had said were unreasonable administrative burdens.  But with the USNH lobbyist complaining that they still had concerns over unknown fiscal impacts, Senator Sanborn moved the bill be sent to interim study.  Senator Kelly said the financial impact would be minimal, and tried to return the debate to the reasons for the bill.  "Let's go back to the intent," she said, "for students who did everything we asked them to do, they are here, they are not legal citizens because of their parents, they have no way to take care of it, they decide they want to go to USNH, they're doing something about it, they are applying for legal residence, and they still have to meet the criteria to get in-state tuition.  If we don't pass this we are saying to these students, who are good students, that you can't go to school here without paying more money." Impatient to get to another meeting, Senator Sanborn called the question.  The three Republicans -- Senators Stiles, Reagan, and Sanborn -- voted for interim study. The two Democrats -- Senators Kelly and Gilmour -- voted no.  After many hours devoted to this bill by a bi-partisan subcommittee of the House Education Committee, this bill is likely to languish in interim studyland.  

Meanwhile in Florida, yesterday the State Senate voted 26-13 for a bill to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at the state's public colleges and universities.  A similar bill has already passed the House.  "I look forward to signing this bill," said Governor Rick Scott.  

Next Week in House Committees

Tuesday, May 6

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB 

10:30 AM - Executive Session includes 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; and SB 207, relative to paycheck equity. Both of these bills had passed the full House but were sent to Criminal Justice for review of proposed criminal penalties.   

Finance, Room 210, LOB

1 PM - Work Session on SB 415, transferring surplus revenues to the rainy day fund. This bill transfers all surplus to the rainy day fund. HB 1411, which was adopted by the House but killed in the Senate, would have returned some surplus funds to DHHS to replace funding cut from their budget last year. The House could put its favored language back into the bill, accept the Senate version, or simply defeat the Senate bill.   What happens to the surplus if both bills die?  We'll try to find out.

Judiciary, Room 208 

10 AM - Continued Executive Session on SB 319, establishing a buffer zone around women’s reproductive care facilities.

Death Penalty Update

HB 1170, the death penalty repeal bill, is still "on the table" in the Senate.  Horrifying news of the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma made a buzz around the State House this week.  Will this be the incident that gets a Senator to switch her/his vote? 

Arnie posted a blog story about International Workers Day (May 1) and its significance for labor activists and the anti-death penalty movement.  Check it out at InZaneTimes.

Health Care Update

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released state-by-state enrollment numbers yesterday from the first "Obamacare" enrollment period.  A total of 40,262 New Hampshire residents got coverage through the state's federally-facilitated Marketplace.  
"This is great news and higher than we even hoped for," said Lisa Kaplan Howe, Policy Director at NH Voices for Health.  She also noted the remarkable efforts of the state's enrollment assisters and outreach specialists, who worked diligently to help Granite Staters use the state's federally-facilitated Marketplace to enroll online.  "This is a success story, and they deserve a great deal of credit for making it so," Kaplan Howe said.

State House Watch Radio

Gordon Allen, a former State Representative who chairs the NH Coalition for Open Democracy, will be our guest on the radio for Monday's show with Arnie and Celebrity Guest Co-Host Laurel Redden.  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 8 to 9 am. You can download a podcast of any of our earlier shows, including last week's show with Representative Chris Andrews and Wayne Alterisio of the National Association of Letter Carriers.


Saturday, May 3 - "The Coloring of Law and Punishment: Exploring the Role of Race, Ethnicity and Class in Incarceration" is the theme of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail's 10th annual spring symposium, from  8 AM to 3 PM. at Discover Portsmouth, 10 Middle Street.  The symposium will explore the history of law and punishment in New Hampshire, the disproportionate incarceration of minorities and the range of social problems associated with incarceration. Presenters will examine the impact of incarceration on communities of color, the generalized criminalization of those communities most affected by poverty and racial discrimination and what a shift from punitive to restorative justice in the way our criminal system addresses crime would look like.

Sunday, May 4 - Margaret Hawthorn will speak on "Forgiveness as an Act of Self-Preservation" at the Henniker Peace Community's 30th annual Interfaith Peace Celebration at the Henniker Congregational Church.  The program, which will also feature music and readings from a variety of faith traditions, begins at 4 pm and is followed by a potluck meal.  The church is on Maple Street in Henniker.  For more information, contact Barbara French at (603) 428-3366 or visit the AFSC web page.  

Tuesday, May 6 - Trevor Potter, former Chair of the Federal Election Commission and an advisor to comic Stephen Colbert's faux presidential campaign, will be the guest speaker at a benefit for the NH Coalition for Open Democracy, 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. 

Saturday, May 10 - Conference on "Building a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence" at Brookside Church in Manchester.  See AFSC web calendar for details. 

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 - 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.    

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