April 3 - Issue #12

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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State House Watch April 3
2015 Is
sue 12

The big news is still the budget. 

Despite dramatic protests about the impact of budget cuts and powerful prayers for more humane policies, the House majority voted to cut funds for essential services, eliminate the NH Health Protection Program (NHHPP), divert funds dedicated to energy efficiency, approve Keno, and spend down the state’s reserves.  

Votes on a series of amendments to HB 1, the budget, and HB 2, the budget “trailer bill,” were mostly along party lines.  The final package closely tracked the Finance Committee proposal we described last week; the key amendment increased funds for “stabilization grants” to local school districts by reducing funds for personnel, community colleges, reserves (the “rainy day fund”), and other education accounts. 
Sr. Anastasia and Sr. Eileen

Governor Hassan had harsh words for the House: "In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse. Their wildly irresponsible budget includes drastic reductions to services that are critical to our people and businesses, further downshifting on local property taxpayers, the raiding of the dedicated Renewable Energy Fund, continued budget gimmicks that mislead people about what we actually are funding, and the depletion of our Rainy Day Fund, which threatens our state's financial outlook and bond rating.”

The NH Fiscal Policy Instituted commented"while changes may have been made to the budget, what hasn’t changed is its fundamental failure to recognize the source of the state’s fiscal problems — its revenue system — and to respond in kind with reasonable, sustainable reforms that would generate additional revenues. As a result, the budget approved by the House would curtail investments in education and infrastructure, imperil public services for vulnerable Granite Staters, and leave sizable gaps for future policymakers to fill.”

Action now shifts to the Senate, where Senate President Chuck Morse has already signaled that the upper chamber’s budget is likely to set different priorities, including big cuts in business taxes and deferral of a decision on expanded Medicaid.  With the Republican Senate majority solidly against new taxes or fees, the fate of casino gambling (which gets a hearing Tuesday in House Ways and Means) and projections for revenue from existing sources will have a big impact on the size of the budget.    

Garry Rayno had a good summary in today’s Union Leader

Find out more on next week's "State House Watch" radio show, when one of our guests will be Senator Andrew Hosmer, a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  

Prayers and Protests

More than 100 people from multiple faith traditions attended a prayer breakfast at St. Paul's Church in Concord on April 1 to express their shared belief that state budgets must promote the well-being and fair treatment of all people, especially those who are the most vulnerable and whose dignity is threatened by irresponsible public policy choices.  Following the breakfast, most of the participants crossed Park Street to the State House and continued their witness inside, where legislators began debating the state budget at 10 am.

Throughout the day, NH Voices of Faith added prayers and songs to the pleas of other groups for a budget that would provide enough resources to meet basic needs.  

“Our faith leads us to pay attention to the common good, not just to the interests of individuals. Our faith calls for a budget that is fair and just,” explained the Rev. Jonathan Hopkins, President of the NH Council of Churches and pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church.  (See more at AFSC-NH or NH Voices of Faith.)

New Futures turned out 300 people, representing people who died last year of drug related causes, for a “die-in” on the State House plaza before the House session began.  The repeal of the NHHPP, which doubled treatment capacity, combined with the $6 million in cuts to the governor’s budget, are serious blows to substance abuse treatment at a time when heroin overdoses are almost a daily occurrence.  NH ranks 49th in the nation for spending on substance abuse.  

According to New Futures, the state created a fund in 2002 to support the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery.  It was supposed to be supported with 5% of the gross profits from NH liquor sales, but it was fully funded for the first and only time in 2003. Since then a portion of the fund has gone to the Governor's Commission, but most has 
gone into the General Fund, leaving the state with the capacity to meet only 5% of treatment needs.

Members of the developmental disability community and their advocates also had a large presence. The DD portion of the governor’s budget was cut by $53 million; that’s well below the current level of underfunding. This will mean a return to the bad old days when the state had hundreds of people in need of services on a waiting list. 

You can read more about prayers and protests at Think Progress and the Concord Monitor.

Coming up in Senate Committees

As the Senate Finance Committee begins working on the budget, agency presentations will be going on all week. Rather than list them all (e.g. the presentation from the Boxing and Wrestling Commission), we’ve highlighted a few that might be of interest to our readers. You can see the whole schedule on the Senate Calendar.  There will be a public hearing on the budget, possibly on May 5. We’ll have more information about that as the date approaches. Contact Maggie if you can participate in a NH Voices of Faith vigil during any of these meetings.

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, April 9 but we don't see much on the calenar that would be of interest to State House Watch readers.

Monday April 6

Finance, Room 103, SH

10:00 AM  House Finance Committee Chair and Division Chairs presentation on the budget to Senate Finance Committee. 
1:00 PM Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant presentation on budget passed by the House to Senate Finance Committee. 

Tuesday, April 7

Health and Human Services, Room 101, LOB

1:00 PM  HB 219 -  An act relative to the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.  This bill prohibits the use of EBT cards in businesses that primarily engage in body piercing, branding, or tattooing; cigar stores and smoke shops; and marijuana dispensaries. The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish an education program relative to the use of EBT cards and requires the department to report on the effectiveness of electronic blocking of EBT cards at prohibited locations. This bill isn’t quite as egregious as the Senate version, SB 169, but it still promotes harmful stereotypes about people who use public assistance. 

Ways and Means, Room 103, SH

10:00 AM  HB 681, increasing the marriage license fee from $45 to $50. From the fee, $43 goes to help fund the state’s domestic violence program, and the town clerk’s office keeps $7 as their fee for services. 

Wednesday, April 8 Moral budget

Energy and Natural Resources, Room 100 SH

9:30 AM  HB 614, implementing the goals of the state 10-year energy strategy. 

Friday, April 10 

Finance, Room 103, SH

Agency presentations on the budget as passed by the House
11:00 AM: Executive Office, Governor’s Office, Office of Substance Abuse Disorders and Behavioral Health, Governor’s Commission on Disability, Office of Energy and Planning. 
11:45 Developmental Disabilities Council

Coming up in House Committees

The House will not be in session until April 15, but committees are actively considering bills that have already passed the Senate.

Tuesday, April 7

Election Law, Room 308, LOB

10:15 AM SB 92, establishing a committee to study public access to political campaign information. The committee would evaluate the merits of having an online campaign finance reporting system, and having an online clearinghouse of information for voters, including voter registration and polling place information. We like the idea of as much transparency as possible around campaign finance reporting and information for voters. This bill is backed by Open Democracy.

10:30 AM SB 179, relative to eligibility to vote, provides new definitions of domicile and qualified voter.  It prohibits "temporary" residents from voting and also requires that a voter be a resident of the state and county for at least 30 days before being allowed to register. It ties voting to automobile registrations through changes in the voter registration form.  A person’s business pursuits, employment, income sources, residence for income or tax purposes, and motor vehicle registration will all be taken into account for the purpose of establishing domicile, which means voters without wealth and property will have a harder time proving they are entitled to vote.  The
sunshine rally april 2, 2015House voted to table their version of a domicile bill, HB 112 in order to get an opinion on the constitutionality of the bill from the NH Supreme Court. Will they will take similar action on SB 179?

Executive Departments and Administration, Room 306, LOB

11:00 AM  SB 48, an act relative to the NH Commission on Native American Affairs. This bill expands the commission from 10 members to 11, and extends the life of the commission till July 1, 2020. 

Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services, Room 307, LOB

10:15 SB 255 Establishing a low-wage service worker task force. The task force will study the growth and nature of the low-wage service sector as compared to the growth of other sectors, the demographics and rate of poverty of workers in low wage industries, the impact of low-wage jobs on children, families, and communities, as well as the cost of state services used by low-wage workers, and the effect of low-wage jobs on the local economy. 

Legislative Administration, Room 104, LOB

10:15 AM SB 136, establishing a committee to review constitutional amendments pending in Congress regarding the Citizens United decision and related cases that have been introduced in the US Supreme Court. In its current form, the bill explicitly recognizes a need for such an amendment. 

Transportation, Room 203, LOB

2:30 PM SB 62, relative to driver’s licenses for persons without a permanent address. This would allow people who don’t have a permanent address to apply for driver’s licenses in the same way that they are allowed to apply to register a motor vehicle. 

Ways and Means, Rooms 202-204, LOB

10:00 AM SB 113 is this year's bill to enable casino gambling, calling for two casinos. It establishes a gaming commission and places the lottery commission, and the racing and charitable gaming commission under its jurisdiction as separate divisions. It allows for the selection and operation of two casinos in NH including video slot machines and table games. It establishes the gaming enforcement unit in the division of state police. The bill distributes proceeds from gross slot machine income and gross table game income to reimburse the gaming regulatory oversight authority for certain expenses and to pay for the operation of the gaming commission. It also distributes a percentage of gross slot machine revenue and gross table game revenue to the host community, those communities abutting the host community, the host county, the Department of Health and Human Services to support addiction programs to cities and towns under the revenue sharing agreement, and the gaming regulatory fund. Finally, the bill establishes a gaming regulatory fund. The House has never passed a casino bill. 

Wednesday, April 8 

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

11:00 AM SB 169, which is the Senate version of a bill to expand restrictions on EBT card users. 

Thursday, April 9 

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB 

11:00 AM  SB 53, repealing the interagency coordinating council for women offenders and transferring certain members and duties to the interbranch criminal and juvenile justice council. As originally proposed, a seat on the council would have been reserved for a female ex-prisoner. That seat was removed by the Senate. We would like to see an amendment offered to reserve a seat for an ex-prisoner of any gender.    

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

1:00 PM HB 135, relative to lead poisoning in children. 

Events Coming Up

William Hartung Speaking Tour - William Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington DC, will tour the state from April 8 to 11 to speak about “Profits of War: The Military-Industrial Complex and the High Price of Defense.”  He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.  The events are organized by AFSC's Governing Under the Influence Project and co-sponsored by NH Peace Action and NH Citizens Alliance.  For more information, contact Eric Zulaksi or look at our web page.  

Wednesday, April 8

  • 7pm at UNH Durham, Memorial Union Building, Theater 1, co-sponsored by UNH Peace and Justice League

Thursday, April 9

  • 11:45 am at New England College in Henniker, Simon Center Great Room, co-sponsored by NEC Division of Natural and Social Sciences
  • 7 pm at Keene State College, Morrison Hall Room 110, co-sponsored by KSC’s Department of Political Science

Friday, April 10

  • 10 am at Tad’s Place, Havenwood-Heritage Heights, 149 East Side Drive, Concord, co-sponsored by the World Concerns Forum
  • 6 pm at Concord Friends Meetinghouse, 11 Oxbow Pond Road, Canterbury, co-sponsored by Concord Friends Meeting (Quakers)

Saturday, April 11

  • 10 am at Don Quijote Restaurant, 333 Valley Street, Manchester

NHCA Community Conversations on NH Budget - NH Citizens Alliance is holding discussions with Jeff McLynch of the NH Fiscal Policy Institute to help us understand the state budget debate.   Each event will feature a presentation, followed by questions and comments. Light refreshments will be provided. These gatherings will last from 1.5 to 2 hours. Please be sure to record your selection time and location.  Sign up here.

•    Concord - Tuesday April 7 at 5:30 PM - NHCA Office, 4 Park Street, Concord
•    Rochester - Thursday April 9 at 5:30 PM - Rochester Public Library, 65 South Main Street 
•    Nashua - Monday April 13 at 5:30 PM - Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter, 2 Quincy Street. Use parking lot door #2.
•    Plymouth - Tuesday April 21 at 5:30 PM - Pease Public Library, 1 Russell Street, Community Room
•    Manchester - Monday April 27 at 5:30 PM - Manchester City Library, 405 Pine Street, Winchell Room
•    Keene - Tuesday April 28 at 5:30 PM - Keene Public Library, 60 Winter Street
•    Franklin - Tuesday May 12 at 5:30 PM - Franklin Public Library, 310 Central Street 

"Sankofa," Friday, April 9 - The Manchester NAACP will sponsor a showing of the movie, "Sankofa," at the Manchester Public Library Auditorium, at 405 Pine Street from 4:30 to 8:00 pm, with a discussion afterward. "Sankofa" tells the story of a young African-American woman who travels back in time where she is stripped, chained, beaten, and shipped to the United States as a slave. This film takes viewers to a different moral universe, one created by slavery. Admission is free. Sign up at the Sankofa Facebook event page.

The 7th Annual Building a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence Conference will take place at Plymouth State University on Saturday, April 18, with a focus on "Overcoming Money in Politics."  Workshops include bird dog training, money in politics, direct action, incarceration and for-profit prisons, global warming, and GMOs. Keynote speaker is Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an expert in foreign policy and offers honest criticism of America’s policies on war and militarism. This is free and open to the public, and runs from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Bring your own lunch. Boyd Science Center, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH. Registration required here or on Facebook. This conference is sponsored by NH Peace Action, Plymouth State University Peace & Social Justice Studies Council, PSU Office of Environment Sustainability, American Friends Service Committee-NH Program, League of Conservation Voters, Coalition for Open Democracy, People for the American Way, and Stamp Stampede.

Next week on "State House Watch/White House Watch" Radio

Our first guest next week will be Erin Polley of the AFSC office in Indianapolis, who will report on the controversy created by passage of a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate based on the sexual orientation or gender expression of their customers.  Then we'll have Senator Andrew Hosmer, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, to discuss the budget. The show airs on Monday from 5 to 6 pm and re-broadcasts on Tuesday from 8 to 9 am on WNHN-LP.  You can listen live at 94.7 FM in the Concord area and on wnhnfm.org anywhere you can get an internet signal.  You can also download podcasts of past shows, including last week's with Rich Gulla, President of the NH State Employees Association/SEIU Local 1984, and Ed Fallon, host of "The Fallon Forum."      

Governing Under the Influence

On April 1, Arnie posted a story on the GUI blog about the possibility that we'll see some prominent reality TV shows enter the race for president.  Will Kim Kardashian run?  If she does, we'll be ready to ask her about the military industrial complex. Speaking of TV stars, Eric's interaction with Donald Trump aired last week on WMUR's "Conversations with the Candidates," and you can see the clip here.  More candidates are coming next week.  Find out who and where on our candidate calendar, and contact Olivia if you plan to go see any of them.  

-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.  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 direct the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM.  Susan Bruce helps with research and writing.  Addy Simwerayi produces the radio show.  We also thank Judy Elliott for help with proofreading.  

"State House Watch" is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.

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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