March 13

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

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State House Watch March 13
2015 Issue 9

We applaud our readers for being attentive and diligent. Last week we made a couple of mistakes, brought to our attention by sharp-eyed readers. Your close reading of our newsletter shows us how deeply you care, which is both humbling and gratifying. Thank you. See corrections below.

The House and Senate had full agendas this week.  We were pleased with some votes, disappointed with others. As always, we pull up our metaphorical socks and keep moving forward.  Read on for information on minimum wagelead paintE-Verifyright-to-work (for less),casino gamblingmilitarization of the police, and more.  

Committees have done most of their work on the hundreds of bills they were considering, which means that the pace of public hearings is slowing down.  But work on the budget is getting intense.  

The House will not be back in session until Wednesday, March 25, and if necessary, Thursday March 26. The Senate will be in session on Thursday, March 19. 

Corrections

SB 265, the ABLE savings account program, is about enabling people with disabilities and their families to save without losing benefits they need. The tax free savings accounts would cover expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training, and assistive technology. It would supplement benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, SSI, and other sources.  It is on next week’s Senate calendar with an OTP recommendation.  

The State Employees Association’s old contract does not expire until July.   

Glossary

Abbreviations
OTP – Ought to Pass
ITL – Inexpedient to Legislate (i.e. should be defeated)
OTP/A – Ought to Pass with Amendment
LOB - Legislative Office Building
SH - State House

Process Notes
Sometimes bills can be wounded without being killed.  House committees can "retain" bills, which takes them out of active consideration for the time being. The Senate term is "re-refer," which basically means the same thing.  Bills in either chamber can also be "tabled."  If they are not voted off the table and back onto the calendar, these bills will die at the end of the session.

Roll Call Votes
Votes can take place by voice, by "division," or by roll call.  Only in the case of roll calls are the votes of House or Senate members recorded.  But if they are, you can look up how your legislators (or any others) voted on a particular bill.  Here's how:  First, go to the Voting Recordspage on the General Court website.  Then, look on the left for the House and the right for the Senate.  Click the year of the vote you are looking up, then scroll to either the date or number of the bill in question.  You can also search by keyword or by member.  And you can find a link to any roll call votes from the "docket" of any bill.  That's the page we send you to if you click the hyperlink on any of the bills described below.  Be careful reading the tables; you need to know what was the motion they were voting on in order to understand the meaning of the vote.  If you're having trouble, contact Arnie for help. 

Let’s start with good news:

HB 267
, the anti-immigrant e-verify bill, was voted ITL in a division vote of 271-64.

HCR 2, a resolution "applying to Congress to hold a convention under Article V of the US Constitution for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution in order to address concerns raised by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United," passed the House, as we reported last week.  Representative Pam Tucker’s motion to reconsider came to the House this week and failed in a division vote of 135-224. 

SB 135, the bill aimed at providing stronger tools to fight child lead poisoning, passed as amended in the Senate unanimously, and has been referred to Finance. Unfortunately the amendment weakens the enforcement measures that were originally included to hold landlords, removal contractors, and child care facilities accountable. The screening commission was altered to add additional landlord interests and remove NH Legal Assistance. When capillary blood tests are administered and yield a positive result, a fact sheet will be sent to parents/guardians by DHHS. DHHS will notify landlords of venous blood tests that show a BLL (blood lead level) of 5-9.9 mcg/dl and requires DHHS to provide materials to parents/guardians in cases of BLL of 5 or higher. The amendment does not include notice for BLLs less than 5. We are unhappy with the changes, but we are in favor of any action to eliminate the serious problem in our state of child lead poisoning. 

HB 448, the bill to establish February 6 as Ronald Reagan Day in NH, failed on a vote of 196-103. Here's a interesting historical note:  In 2003, the legislature voted to rename Mt. Clay, a peak in the Presidential Range, after Ronald Reagan.  In 2010, the US Board of Geographic Names voted to continue to use the historic name of Mt. Clay, and not change all the maps. 

In disappointing news, HB 163HB 370, and HB 392, the three House minimum wage bills, were all voted down, as we predicted.  The Senate minimum wage bill, SB 261, was defeated in vote of 14-10, along party lines. We will continue to support legislation to raise wages so that all workers can meet their basic needs from their paychecks. 

The right to work (for less) bill, HB 658, prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union, except in the case of police and firefighters. The bill passed, in a roll call vote of 149-146. This bill had been special ordered to the end of the calendar, at the end of a long day – this bill didn’t even come up for consideration until after 8 pm, when many members had left for the day.  We are disappointed by the passage of this bill, but note the slim margin by which it passed. 

Another right-to-work (for less) bill, HB 402, sponsored by Representative William O’Brien, was defeated after a revealing process.  The majority of the House Labor Committee, which supports the right-to-work (for less) concept, opted to go with HB 658 and put defeat of O’Brien’s bill on the consent calendar.  But O’Brien had HB 402 pulled from the consent calendar and brought to the floor, where it was defeated 184-74. 

As we reported earlier, the Senate appears to be deadlocked 12-12 on the issue.  If the 12 opponents of right-to-work (for less) hold firm, HB 658 will die in the Senate.  

House updates

HB 263 , prohibiting residency requirements on sex offenders, was tabled. 

HB 551, relative to preventing diversion of business income to tax havens, was special ordered to the end of the regular calendar and then tabled, following a motion by Representative Susan Almy. 

In both the House and Senate a motion to table or to take from the table is not debatable or amendable, and requires a majority vote. 

HB 609, relative to hydraulic fracturing. This bill generated a fairly lengthy debate.  Opponents insisted that there’s nothing to frack in NH and that fracking waste will never come here.  The bill’s supporters weren’t as certain that fracking waste will never come to the state. The bill was defeated in a roll call vote of 254-81.

HB 461, prohibiting the use or application of foreign laws in the state court, was tabled on a division vote of 187-140.

HB 600 would have given paid sick leave to employees. We thought this was a good idea, that no one should have to work when they’re sick, but it was seen as “unfriendly to business,” and voted ITL in a roll call vote of 219-122. 

HB 113, designating the mastodon as the official state fossil was defeated in a division vote of 207-109.  HB 373, establishing the red-tailed hawk as the state raptor was also defeated, in a voice vote.

Militarization of the Police

HB 669, requiring law enforcement agencies to report on the receipt of certain equipment and grants from the federal government and on the deployment of tactical teams. This bill, which we supported, was aimed at creating transparency – asking for reportage on what kind of equipment police departments have, and how it’s being used. The bill was defeated in a roll call vote of 245-110. 

On that same subject, HB 407 began as a bill to prohibit the state and municipalities from purchasing military vehicles and weapons. It was headed for an ITL, when it was amended into a committee to study the classifications of military vehicles and equipment that may be purchased by the state and municipalities. The amendment passed on a voice vote. 

Many NH residents are concerned about the increasing militarization of our police, and with good reason.  On Wednesday, the Dover City Council approved the purchase of a Lenco BearCat.  The proposal by the Dover Police to acquire an armored vehicle had received no public attention in the community until Maggie found out about it the day before the vote.   She was able to mobilize a significant turnout of Dover citizens calling for a vote to be delayed, but to no avail.  The City Council voted 7-1 to accept a federal grant to acquire the vehicle.  (See this article for more.)

Senate updates

SB 169 would prohibit the use of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards or cash obtained from EBT cards to be used to gamble, purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets, firearms, or adult entertainment. Also included are branding, piercing, or tattooing.  At last week's public hearing, only the prime sponsor Senator Forrester spoke in favor of the bill, but given that all of her fellow Republican senators (plus one Democrat, Senator David Watters) are co-sponsors, this bill is likely to pass the Senate. There were a number of speakers in opposition, including Elliott Berry of NH Legal Assistance, who was quoted in the Union Leader as saying the EBT restriction's result will be "a cloud of suspicion on anyone who looks poor.”  Meanwhile, HB 219, a somewhat less offensive bill on the same topic, has passed the House and is headed for consideration in the Senate.  

SB 52 establishes a committee to study residential tenancies in foreclosed properties. It was amended to clarify the makeup of the committee and the deadline for the committee report, and passed on a voice vote. 

SB 185, extending the NH Health Protection Program (expanded Medicaid), came out of committee with a recommendation of ITL.  Instead, Senator Bradley, the Senator Majority Leader, moved to table the bill and his motion carried.  Our interpretation is that Senators are in agreement that this matter should be a subject of discussion next year.  The program will expire at the end of 2016 unless it is re-authorized.  

SB 146, relative to accessory dwelling units, was amended in committee and on the floor, and passed on a voice vote. 

SB 198, the bill to allow all voters to vote with absentee ballots, was re-referred back to committee. 

SB 113, would establish a gaming commission and allow for two casinos, as well as stipulate where the proceeds from the gaming would be distributed. The bill was amended in committee to add provisions on how future additional gaming licenses would be handled and stipulate that there be a central computer system to oversee the slot machines and track the activities and financial details. The bill passed as amended, on a roll call vote of 13-11. It will now head to the House, which has never approved a casino bill.  

Coming up in House Committees – it’s all about the budget:

NH CARES reports that the House Finance Committee is likely to propose “extremist budget reductions,” at the level of hundreds of millions of dollars, including a $60 million cut in the Health and Human Services budget.

“Despite an improving economy, strong state revenues and low unemployment, the Finance Committee has apparently made the determination that not only does the Governor's proposed budget invest too much money, but also our current state budget needs to be slashed and burned. Yes, this is the current budget, which was nearly unanimously approved by a Republican State Senate and a Democratically controlled NH House in 2013,” says one of NH CARES’ insider sources.

More details will emerge in the coming weeks as the Finance Committee’s three “divisions” continue to develop details for the budget (HB 1) and the “budget trailer bill” (HB 2).  The Division II and III subcommittees are even meeting on Sunday, March 15.  Details of all the meetings are in the House Calendar.  

The Finance Committee will present its budget proposal to the full House on Monday March 30, from 10 am to noon in Representatives Hall.  Members of the public will be able to observe from the House Gallery.  The House will complete its initial action on the budget by Thursday, April 2, at which point it will cross over to the custody of the Senate Finance Committee.

NH Voices of Faith is planning a presence in the hallways of the State House at the time of the budget debate.  Stay in touch with Maggie or the NH Voices of Faith Facebook group to get the details as they emerge.   

Coming Up in the Senate

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, March 19. 

The Consent Calendar includes:

SB 255, establishing a low-wage service worker task force. The committee recommends OTP 5-0. The task force will study the growth and nature of the low wage service sector as opposed to other sectors, as well as the demographics and rate of poverty of workers in low-wage industries. They will also study the impact of low-wage jobs on children, families, and communities, and the cost of state services used by low-wage workers, and the effects of low-wage jobs on the local economy. 

The Regular Calendar includes:

SB 264, relative to tipped employees. This bill adds “employees of certain ballrooms” to RSA: 279:21, which defines who tipped employees are, and stipulates the minimum hourly rate paid to tipped employees. Anyone considered a tipped employee who earns more than $30 a month in tips must be paid no less than 45% of the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. 

SB 1, reducing the rate of the business profits tax. This bill would substantially (and dangerously) reduce state revenues, eliminating $10 million in 2016, and some $20 million in revenue in 2017 and 2018. It was amended in committee to spread the rate reductions out over a three year period. It already passed the full Senate in a party line vote of 14-10 and was referred to the Finance Committee for a second opinion. Finance recommends that it be passed.  

SB 2, reducing the rate of the business enterprise tax. This bill would also eliminate millions of dollars in state revenue. It was amended to spread the rate reduction over a three year period. It has already passed the House on the familiar vote of 14-10, and was sent to Finance. Finance recommends passage.  

SB 265, establishing a better life experience (ABLE) savings account. (We described ABLE in the earlier mea culpa.) It comes out of committee with an OTP recommendation. 

Coming up in Senate Committees

Wednesday March 18 

Public and Municipal Affairs, Room 102, LOB 

9:00 AM SB 179, relative to eligibility to vote. This bill might be better titled "relative to ineligibility to vote."  It requires that a voter be a resident of the state and county for at least 30 days. This is yet another attempt to redefine the term 'domicile' to limit access to voting. One wonders, if an established resident of the state moves to a new county two weeks before the election if he or she would be allowed to vote. The bill does not specify. 

Rules, Enrolled Bills, and Internal Affairs  Room 100, SH

2:30 PM  SCR 1, recognizing the contribution of Bhutanese refugees to New Hampshire, and requesting the United States government to work diligently on resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis, reaching an agreement to allow the option of repatriation, and promoting human rights and democracy in Bhutan. 

SB 136, the bill to study proposed amendments to the US Constitution that would override the Citizens United decision, is expected to come up in executive session.   We are aware of two amendments that might be proposed.  One would make it explicit that the legislature favors a Constitutional Amendment, but would delete the original bill’s call for four public hearings in geographically diverse locations on the matter.  The other version calls for one public hearing and says the study committee’s report “may include recommended wording for a constitutional amendment.”  Click here to see members of this committee.  Click on their names for contact information.  

Next week on "State House Watch" Radio

Our show airs on Monday from 5 to 6 pm and re-broadcasts on Tuesdays from 8 to 9 am.  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 Senator Dan Feltes from Concord and Adam Mason of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Governing Under the Influence


Rick Perry and Jeb Bush are in the state right now, campaigning for president.  Scott Walker arrives in the morning and Ted Cruz lands here on Sunday.  If you want to meet them for conversations about taking power from the corporations and putting it in the hands of real people, check out the Candidate Calendar on our website.  There you can also read Arnie's report on his encounter last week with Senator Lindsay Graham.   

Events Coming Up

Saturday, March 14, "Stop Scott Walker: Stand up for America's Middle Class," from 8:30-10:30am on the sidewalk outside Concord High School (Warren Street Between N. Fruit Street and Westbourne Road). On-street parking is available in the area. We'll have signs to share, or bring your own.

Wednesday, March 18, Stamping Party with the Stamp Stampede, stamping money out of politics! 6-8 PM at the Place Studio and Gallery, 9 North Main Street, Concord.  Potluck munchies, BYOB, music, and ice cream.  Email David for info.

Friday, March 20, Free screening of "Selma," 7 PM at Robert Frost Hall, Walker Auditorium, Southern NH University, 2500 North River Road, Hooksett.  Discussion to follow.  Send an emailto get more info.

Friday,March 27, Friday Family Fun Night hosted by New American Africans at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, 180 Loudon Road, Concord.  Join us for drumming, dance and ice cream. $10 suggested donation. You can find more information here.

Saturday, March 28, Haymarket People’s Fund book launching of The Courage to Change, the journey towards transformation and anti-racism in philanthropy at Haymarket People’s Fund, 12 noon to 2 pm at New England College, 62 N. Main Street, Concord. Free and open to the public.

Saturday, March 28, SouperFest fundraiser for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness.  Join us for an all day celebration with games, music, soup and an opportunity to thank the many people who have supported the Concord Cold Weather Shelter over the past ten years.  You can find more details here

Saturday, March 28, "Wake Up, Learn, Reflect, Teach, Act" is an opportunity for New Hampshire People of Color and their Allies to create a movement in the state where we can explore the impact of race on the quality of life for everyone (especially people of color) and transition into actions that will facilitate change.  9 am to 3 pm at the Discover Portsmouth Center.  Registration required. Click here to register. Direct questions to Dottie Morris or Yemi Mahoney .

Saturday, March 28, "An Afternoon of Serious Fun," including bird dog training, a showing of "Pay 2 Play," and a potluck lunch in Jefferson NH.  Contact Olivia for more information. 

Sunday, March 29, "Race Between Us" book release party with Brenda Lett and LaurieLee Woodlock Roy, at the YWCA, 72 Concord Street, Manchester, 2 pm-4pm. 

-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.  Addy Simwerayi produces the radio show.  

"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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