June 9 - Issue #23

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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State House Watch June 19
2015 Issue 23

Greetings, State House Watchers – the end is in sight (or maybe not).  Forty-three Committees of Conference (CoCs) completed their work by yesterday’s deadline.  Nine of the CoCs failed to reach agreement, dooming the respective bills to death.  The others reached agreements, which means the CoC reports will get considered in the House and Senate when the two bodies meet on Wednesday.  See below for more news from the CoCs on bills we were watching.

The Budget

The House-Senate Committee of Conference considering HB1 and HB2 finished its work on the budget yesterday.  In general, the conferees accepted the Senate’s higher revenue estimates and higher levels of spending.  To the extent this can be called a “compromise,” it is a compromise between the Republican House majority and the Republican Senate majority.  Neither the Democrats nor Governor Hassan were part of the deal.    

The budget proposal will be considered on Wednesday, June 24.  But when the CoC filed its report, Governor Maggie Hassan was quick to say that she will veto the budget if it comes to her desk as it is currently written.  In her words, 

“Our families deserve better. Our businesses deserve better. And the hard-working people of the Granite State deserve better. Republicans need to join me in putting New Hampshire’s families, businesses and economic interests first, and to get back to work immediately, prepare a continuing resolution and negotiate in good faith to develop a fiscally responsible, balanced and bipartisan budget that builds on our progress of the last two years to keep our economy moving forward.”

The last governor to veto a budget was Craig Benson in 2003.    

From a procedural perspective, it’s possible for the budget to be amended on the House and Senate floors next week.  But from a political perspective, amendments are highly unlikely.  If Governor Hassan does veto the budget, legislators can consider a “continuing resolution” to keep the State government in operation after the fiscal year ends on June 30.  

According to the Concord Monitor, “Republicans are crafting a six-month resolution that would fund state government in the absence of a budget, said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican. That would give lawmakers until January to hammer out a compromise.”

Our prediction is that the House and Senate will adopt the CoC budget on June 24, legislative staff will rush the paperwork through “enrolled bills” and the Secretary of State’s office to get it to the governor’s desk, she will veto it, and legislators will be called back before July 1 to consider the continuing resolution.    

NH Voices of Faith will conduct a vigil during the House and Senate sessions on Wednesday, beginning at 9:30 am on the second floor of the State House. We hope to maintain this vigil throughout the day and we invite as many people as possible to join us so that we are a strong witness.  Please contact Maggie if you can participate.  Let her know what time you can be there.   

Read below for more budget details.

Other Committees of Conference

Both the House and Senate will be voting June 24 on Committee of Conference reports, including

SB 135, relative to lead poisoning in children. The House and the Senate concurred on the bill as amended. From the COC statement: The committee feels that this bill increases awareness of the dangers of lead paint for NH Children. This legislation provides yearly updates on the percentage of children 6 years and under being tested, and reports such findings to the appropriate committees. It adjusts the requirements of reporting to levels recommended by the CDC (6-9.9 to 5-9.9 micrograms).  

SB 169, relative to the use of electronic benefit cards. (EBT) This is the Senate bill to attempt to limit the use of EBT cards, and funds obtained from EBT cards through ATM withdrawals. The Senate has admitted that this bill is unenforceable. It seems intended just to demean people receiving public benefits, and create further suspicion of them. As SHW readers will recall, the House amended SB 169 to mirror their slightly less egregious bill, HB 219, and the Senate amended HB 219 to mirror SB 169. As it stands now, the original language of SB 169 has been restored and agreed to in CoC. It will head to both the House and the Senate to be voted on. 

While we’re on the topic of EBT cards, let’s move along to the House Bills that will be coming up for a vote, starting with HB 219, the House EBT card bill. The original language (less awful than the Senate bill, but still awful) has been restored and approved.  So it, too, will head to both chambers for a vote, even though it conflicts with SB 169.   

The outcome is rather Seussian: one bill, two bills, or no bills heading to the Governor’s desk. In the event that both bills are killed, there will be similar legislation filed next session. In the event that one (or both) passes, and is signed by the Governor, it is possible that new legislation could be filed to modify (translation: make even worse) the new law. There is no reason to think they’ll stop here. 

The legislature in Wisconsin is attempting to limit what kinds of foods can be purchased with EBT/SNAP (food stamps) cards. Here’s a look at their list.  White potatoes are not allowed. Dried fruit, nuts, seasonings, pie filling, spaghetti sauce, canned soup, ketchup, pickles, sauerkraut, baked beans, white rice, sharp or extra sharp cheddar (in WISCONSIN!) swiss, or fresh mozzarella, no shredded or sliced cheese other than American. The list goes on. We fear that NH is not immune from an attempt at this kind of legislative bullying. We hope that both of these EBT bills are killed, and that our legislators find other matters to occupy their time.   

HB 25 is the capital budget, which makes appropriations for capital improvements. Funding has been approved to complete the women’s prison and some renovation of state owned buildings. The DOT will be allowed to purchase some new equipment for maintaining our roads. The conferees acknowledge the DOT is “woefully behind” in making these purchases.  It also includes $800,000 for the affordable housing fund, 20% of which is designated for veterans’ housing.   

HB 407, establishing a committee to study the classifications of military vehicles and equipment that may be purchased by the state and its political subdivisions.  This bill began as an attempt to prohibit the state and political subdivisions from acquiring military equipped vehicles or equipment not available on the commercial market. It was headed for ITL, when a floor amendment turned it into a study committee. The Senate tacked on the non-germane amendment to also establish a committee to study honorary legislation. The Senate has agreed to the removal of the honorary legislation amendment. 

HB 550, relative to administration of the tobacco tax and relative to the sale or exchange of an interest in a business organization under the business profits tax.  This is the one that attracted an amendment intended to reduce taxes for former Governor Benson and other investors in Planet Fitness.  The “compromise” reached in the CoC expanded the scope of companies that could benefit from a new loophole.     

NH1 reported “state tax officials admit they could not estimate how much this would cost in the future.”  

Senator Dan Feltes, who fought the tax change until he was replaced on the CoC, said “What began as a special loophole for one former governor and one company has expanded into a significant loophole that will cost the state $8 million over the biennium.” 

Gov. Hassan may veto the bill, which is opposed by some Republican House members as well.  “I’ve been very concerned about the process behind that bill. It came in literally at the 11th hour in the legislative process,” she said. “What I am not hearing from supporters of that bill is how they plan to pay for the lost revenues that bill entails.”

HB 614, implementing the goals of the state 10-year energy strategy, modifying the uses of the site evaluation committee fund, establishing fees for energy facility evaluation, and relative to public information sessions on proposed energy siting. The Senate added the fees for energy facility evaluation, to be paid by developers to the site evaluation committee. The House conferees have agreed that the fees will reduce the burden on ratepayers and public funding sources to pay for the evaluations, and have agreed to the Senate position, while limiting the amount of future fee increases to no more than 20% per year. 

HB 681, establishing a fine for persons convicted of domestic violence and increasing the marriage license fee. The Senate added a $50 fine for persons convicted of domestic violence to the original bill, which called for an increase in the fees for marriage licenses to be used to fund the state domestic violence education program. The House CoC members were concerned that low income convicted abusers might be imprisoned for their inability to pay the fine. The compromise allows a judge the ability to defer the fine or set up a payment plan. 

The following bills died in conference:

SB 255, establishing a committee to study low-wage workers and their effect on the NH economy. The original Senate bill created a large and diverse task force to examine a variety of aspects of the low wage service sector, including the impact of low wage jobs on children, families, and communities, as well as the demographics and rate of poverty in low wage industries. The bill was amended by the House to instead convene a committee of legislators to study a narrower scope of issue.  House CoC members were willing to go with the tiny legislative committee with the same charge as the original Senate bill (including poverty) but the CoC Senators refused the compromise. 

SB 208, relative to allowance sales under the NH Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program. From the statement in the House Calendar:

“This bill sought to reduce electric rates by increasing the current rebate to ratepayers of RGGI auction proceeds from 80% - 100% (minus administrative costs). The senate amendment actually decreased the rebate amount to 66% while allocating more of it to commercial and industrial users. The senate proposed a compromise that added back in a small rebate to residential customers. The senate proposal used the other 33% of RGGI proceeds for municipal/county/school energy projects and low-income weatherization projects. House conferees have philosophical issues with RGGI, which led to an impasse.  For more clarity, Bob Sanders at the NHBR does a good job here

More Budget Details

The final version of the budget provided funding for elderly services such as meals on wheels and Service Link that had been cut by the House. Funding for treatment of the mentally ill was restored to a level that meets the requirements of a legal settlement that was required by the underfunding in the past. 

The NH Health Protection Program was not given any funding, and is still set to expire at the end of 2016, leaving at least 40,000 low wage workers in NH with no assurance of health insurance coverage. 

There was an increase in funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention, including a treatment benefit added to the traditional Medicaid program. No funds were appropriated for staffing the new women’s prison that is being built. 

The modest pay raise negotiated with state workers was not funded.  Funds for the the Sununu Youth Services Center were cut.  The budget trailer bill (HB2) also says, “the department of health and human services shall develop a plan to reduce the cost of providing existing services at the Sununu Youth Services Center.  The plan shall include privatization of services.”

NH Fiscal Policy Institute breakdown of key decisions made by the budget CoC is here.

NHPR has a useful infographic comparison of the House, Senate, and CoC budgets here.

When budgets aren’t adequately funded, municipalities may be forced to pick up the tab for essential services.  That’s called “downshifting.  NHPR provides a look at how those costs get passed down and what it may mean in your town here

Vetoes


According to the NH State Library’s “NH Almanac,” 

“If the legislature has not adjourned, the Governor has five days in which to sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow the measure to pass without signature. When the bill is signed, it becomes law; if it is neither signed nor vetoed, it becomes law without signature.

“If the bill is vetoed, it returns to the body where it originated, with a veto message. This veto, to be overturned, must have a two-thirds roll call vote in each body. It then becomes law without the Governor’s signature. Without the two-thirds affirmative vote in both bodies, the veto is upheld.

“If the Legislature has adjourned, the Governor has five days (excluding Sundays and holidays) in which to sign the bill. If it is not signed, the bill dies. This is the ‘pocket veto.’ Each bill carries in its final paragraphs the specific date that it is to go into effect.”

Typically, legislators return to Concord in the fall for override votes on any bills the governor has vetoed.  This year, they could be reconsidering the budget at the same time.   

AFSC Statement on the Killings in Charleston

"Arresting the perpetrator of this mass murder will arrest a person, but not the problem. We will make no progress as a society if we believe that justice is done simply by punishing one individual white supremacist. Racism is not just a historic problem or the work of a few individual 'bad apples.' Racism - whether by direct intent or deeply entrenched structural factors - is a problem in all aspects of American life, including economics, housing, health care, criminal justice, policing, education, media coverage, among others."
   

Click here for the full statement and suggestions for further reading.

Coming Up  

Friday, June 19

Family Fun Night hosted by New American Africans, starting at 6:30 pm.  A fun night of drumming, dancing, ice cream, and friendship. South Congregational Church, 27 Pleasant Street, Concord.  More info on Facebook

Tuesday, June 23


Michael Mazerov, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities an expert on state tax policy, in Concord to examine the relationship between taxes and economic growth, explore the impact business tax cuts have had in other states, and discuss the effect tax cuts can have on states’ ability to invest in education, infrastructure, and other areas vital to a vibrant economy.   Noon to 1:30 pm, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Ordway Hall, 21 Centre Street. A light lunch will be provided.  RSVP by 5 pm on Friday, June 19 NH Fiscal Policy Institute. To learn more, call 603-856-8337.
 
Wednesday, June 24

Concord Coalition to End Homelessness: Annual Meeting and Open House, 4 to 6:30 PM, Concord Homeless Resource Center, 238 N. Main Street, Concord.  More here

Thursday, June 25

AFSC Bird Dog training at Dover Friends Meetinghouse, 141 Central Ave, Dover NH, 6 pm.  Co-sponsored by NextGen and 350NH.  Contact Olivia for details.

June 25 to 28

US Social Forum, Philadelphia PA. More information here.  “Another World is Possible.”

Friday, June 26

Love Your Neighbor Community Potluck Dinner.  Share food, stories, and celebrate the diversity of our city. Bring food to share and come prepared to meet new people.  5:30 – 8:00 PM at Manchester Unitarian Universalist Church, 669 Union Street.  Send an email to get more info or volunteer to help.

Saturday, June 27

The N

H Progressive Summit, hosted by Granite State Progress and NH Citizens Alliance for Action, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, New England College, Henniker. Details here or on Facebook.  AFSC will offer two workshops at the summit, one on bird dogging and one on the Governing Under the Influence project.  

"State House Watch/White House Watch" Radio

We'll report on the previous week's doings on the budget, then we'll focus on presidential campaign developments and national issues.  You can hear us Monday from 5 to 6 pm and Tuesday from 8 to 9 am at 94.7 FM in the Concord area and at wnhnfm.org anywhere you can get an internet signal. You can also download podcasts of past shows, including last week's look at the budget, voting rights, and an Iowa perspective on immigration.   

Governing Under the Influence

Hillary Clinton visited Concord last week and had an important interaction with one of our GUI bird dogs.  Arnie was quoted in a Detroit News article about the influence of the military-industrial-complex.  Check out our website to find out what happened and where you can find Marco Rubio and Lincoln Chafee next week.     

-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.  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.  Fred Portnoy, WNHN Station Manager, produces the radio show. 

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


American Friends Service Committee 
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Concord, NH 03301
http://afsc.org

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