May 30 - State House Watch Issue 21

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

2014 Issue 20View this message as a web page

AFSC-NH State House Watch, May 30
2014 Issue 21

The House and Senate will both be in session on Wednesday, June 4 at 10 AM to act on reports from the Committees of Conference (COC) which have been meeting to see if they could resolve differences between House and Senate versions of 74 bills.  Assuming they get through their agendas in a reasonable manner on Wednesday, that will wrap up this year's legislative session.  Read on for details of bills we've been watching.

We'll be back next week with our own wrap-up of the year.  We'll also be sending you an invitation to respond to an evaluation survey about "State House Watch."  Please watch for it.  Plus, we want to remind you that you can donate to support the work of the American Friends Service Committee at any time you feel like it.  Just go to our website and click on the greenDonate Now button.  It's a good way to let us know you appreciate this newsletter. 
 
Medicaid Enhancement Tax

Perhaps the most important COC was on SB 369, relative to the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET). As we reported last week, the MET has been ruled unconstitutional and Governor Maggie Hassan has been negotiating with the hospitals to come up with a new system.  Yesterday sheannounced a deal had been made.

“I am pleased that we have reached a settlement with hospitals that is fair to them and fair to other New Hampshire taxpayers," said Governor Hassan.  "This settlement agreement will provide critical stability to our state budget while bringing us nearly all the way back to the situation that existed before funding to hospitals was cut in 2011.  I am hopeful this settlement, combined with our efforts to expand access to health insurance coverage, will allow us to resume the important and productive partnership that existed between the state and our hospitals for so many years. Our joint efforts will help improve health care for all of our citizens and help reduce the cost shifting that increases costs for both consumers and businesses.”

Essentially, the hospitals (with the exception of St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua) agree to drop all lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the MET (even though it’s already been ruled unconstitutional twice) in return for guarantees of reimbursement for uncompensated care. As we go to press, the SB 369 COC has just announced an agreement after some members were replaced.  If you're still wondering what the heck is the MET you can find an explanation from the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

Other Committees of Conference 

HB 591, relative to an abusive work environment and the health and safety of public employees. House members have agreed to the Senate version. 

HB 1188, relative to paycheck equity, has been approved with language that simply states workers cannot be fired or disciplined for disclosing the amount of their pay. 

HB 1407, relative to privacy in the workplace. The committee has decided that the House will concur with changes the Senate made to the bill. The report has been signed and filed. 

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, died in the COC because House conferees were not willing to go along with Senators who called for more study of the issue instead of adopting a ban against these forms of discrimination.  We hope the Senators who want to give this issue additional study will do so on their own because the problem will not go away on its own before the next legislative session.  You can read more inNH Business Review..

HB 1499, regarding unemployment benefits, appears to have died in the COC.  House members wanted to raise unemployment compensation.  Senators wanted to study the matter.  Again, we encourage those Senators who want to study our inadequate levels of unemployment benefits to do so.   

SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United amendments to the US Constitution, started out as a proposal for a study committee.  The difference between the House and Senate was on the nature of the study.  Where the House wanted it to be explicit that the study would be based on the notion that there is a need for a Constitutional Amendment that would negate Citizens United and related decisions, Senate Republicans, led by Senator Jeb Bradley, would only go so far as saying an Amendment "may be" necessary.  On Wednesday it looked like House Democrats were ready to accept Senator Bradley's wording.  By Thursday they had decided they were going to stick by the House position.  With Republican Senators on the COC unwilling to move further than  the "may be" language, the bill died.  That means there will be no mandated study of the numerous Amendments that have been proposed.  But as noted above, noting can keep activists and leglslators from continuing to study the implications of Ctiizens United and continuing to advocate an Amendment which would make it clear to even the Supreme Court that money is not speech and that corporations are not people.

HB 1376, establishing a committee to study pipeline safety and development, was approved with the Senate's version and some clarifications.

Interim Studyland

As we have reported, bills consigned to "interim study" in the second year of the two-year session are generally considered dead.  But they do need to be reviewed by the relevant policy committees.  In some cases, such studies might contribute to legislation brought forward in future sessions.  To see a list of all the bills in Interim Study, go to the General Court web site and click on in the "State Legislation Dashboard" in the upper right corner.  From the Advanced Bill Search screen, click on in the "House status" or "Senate status" sections, then scroll down and click on "INTERIM STUDY."  

SB 203, relative to permissible uses of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, comes back to the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee at 2 PM on Tuesday, June 3 in LOB Room 205.

HB 1440, requiring disclosure of funds or other support from some organizations that help with the drafting of legislation, returns to the Legislative Administration Committee on June 2 at 10 AM in LOB Room 104.  This bill was aimed at the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national organization that drafts bills friendly to big business.  

State House Watch RadioRep. Shurtleff on SHW Radio

Our guest next week will be Representative Steve Shurtleff, the House Majority Leader, for a year-in-review conversation.  Melissa Bernardin of Investing in Communities will be Arnie's Celebrity Guest Co-Host.  You can hear us live on Mondays 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 Memorial Day music show with songs from Iris DeMent, Pete Seeger, Charlie King, Bess Klassen-Landis, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and more.

Upcoming events

May 31 - The Granite State Organizing Project will host its second annual Micah Award dinner from 6-9 pm at St. Lawrence Parish Community, 1 East Union Street in Goffstown.  Individual tickets to the dinner cost $25.00; a table of eight is $180.  Contact GSOP for more information by email or at 603-668-8250.

June 3 - "Who Am I Going to Be?," the premier of a film about African youth building new lives in New Hampshire, at the Henniker Congregational Church, 7pm.  Sponsored by Henniker Peace Community.  For information, call Barbara French at 428-3366.

June 3 -  “Is Granite State Government as Efficient, Transparent, and Innovative as It Can Be?”  NH Listens and the Governor's Commission on Innovation, Efficiency, and Transparency in State Government invite you to join a conversation in one of six locations around the state on June 3 to share ideas about what makes for a great state government, and how we can do better in the state of New Hampshire.  Contact NH Listens to register or for more information.  Refreshments and child care are provided.

June 7 - You won't want to miss the Progressive Summit, hosted by NH Citizens Alliance for Action and Granite State Progress, from 9 am to 5 pm at New England College in Henniker.  The theme of this year’s event is “Building the Progressive Movement.”  Workshops will include one led by Maggie on "Undoing Classism," and one on "Bird-Dogging Skills" with Arnie, AFSC intern Addy Simwerayi, and Olivia Zink of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.  Click here for more information and to register.
 
June 7 - NH Peace Action will hold its annual membership meeting with special guest Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, from 10 am to 2 pm at the Chong/Pearlman Residence, 34 Wadleigh Road in Sanbornton. The event includes a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm with BBQ by the Common Man Restaurant.  If your last name begins with A-P, please bring a dessert.  If it begins with Q-Z, please bring an appetizer or salad dish.  Suggested donation is $20 per person.  Please call the office (603-228-0559) or mail a check to NH Peace Action, 4 Park Street, Suite 210, Concord NH 03301 to reserve your space today.

Ongoing - Registration has begun for the summer programs at The World Fellowship Center in Albany, NH, a truly special place which “promotes peace and social justice through education and dialogue inspired by nature."  Check out their website and plan to spend some time there this summer!  Arnie and Maggie will be the speakers there on July 15.  
 
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

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.  AFSC's State House Watch projects are supported by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.    

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