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August 3 - Marriage License Fees Go Up $5

This Article Appeared in the E-Ticker News August 3, 2015

NH House Happenings

By Rep. John Cloutier
Marriage License Fees Go Up $5

Couples getting married in our state will now have to pay five dollars more for the marriage license because of legislation approved by New Hampshireʼs House of Representatives.

On June 24 the House by a 203-144 roll call vote adopted a compromise version of House Bill 681 which was adopted after brief debate on the House floor, and a recommendation by the billʼs House-Senate Committee of Conference to adopt the compromise. Earlier the same day, the New Hampshire Senate had also adopted the compromise that as of July 1 increased from $45 to $50 the fee for a New Hampshire Marriage License and designated the extra $5 to fund state programs to deal with the problem of domestic violence. The compromise also sets a $50 fine for the crime of domestic violence, a new crime established by the previous New Hampshire Legislature in 2014. But the compromise also allows a sentencing judge to totally defer the fine or allow for periodic payments.

Manchester Rep. Joe LaChance stated in his written Committee of Conference Report on House Bill 681 that the last-mentioned provision was inserted into the compromise version at the insistence of House members who were concerned that the “indigent or folks having financial difficulty would possibly be imprisoned for contempt of court for failure to pay the $50 fine”, members who otherwise would have refused to approve any compromise version of House Bill 681. A refusal which would have resulted in defeat of the entire measure, despite what the committeeʼs Senate members wanted to do. 

House Bill 681 as adopted was signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan on July 13. The billʼs original version was sponsored by a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Hampton Rep. Robert Cushing. 

For readersʼ information, I voted for House Bill 681ʼs compromise version. I also had voted for the billʼs original version on March 11 which passed the House by a 223-146 roll call vote after a bipartisan majority of the House Ways & Means Committee had recommended its passage. I believe a five dollar increase in New Hampshireʼs Marriage License Fee is a reasonable and appropriate method of helping to fund programs to prevent and deal with the problem of domestic violence. Especially since little money has been appropriated in recent state budgets for such programs from existing revenues. Additionally, I believe some domestic violence programs, such as those offered in Sullivan County by Claremontʼs Turning Points Network have been especially effective, and am glad Sullivan County is also helping to fund some of these programs with a $65,000 grant this year. Finally, establishing a $50 fine for the crime of domestic violence with some allowances made for low-income offenders convicted of the crime, underlines an important message that domestic violence shouldnʼt be tolerated in our state. 

Also on June 24, the House by a 306-45 division vote approved a compromise version of House Bill 421. The billʼs compromise version returns to its original version as passed by the House in March just authorizing the University of New Hampshire at Durham to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. But the Senate later amended the bill to include additional language proclaiming Sept. 25 as Ataxia Awareness Day. By the way, Ataxia is a basically a hereditary and sporadic nervous disorder which is an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements. 

However, during House Bill 421ʼs Committee of Conference, the House members of the committee insisted that the non-germane language of Ataxia Awareness Day be removed, or the bill would be entirely rejected this year. Luckily, the Senate members of the billʼs conference committee complied with the House position because the billʼs original version was worthwhile, and the Senate amendment should have been removed, in my opinion. Nothing against an Ataxia Awareness Day, but it should have been introduced as separate legislation. But allowing the University of New Hampshire to grow hemp, a plant that can be converted into many useful products, is important for research, especially since hemp is controversial because it looks like marijuana. 

House Bill 421 was then signed into law by Gov. Hassan, on July 13. It was sponsored by a trio of Democratic representatives led by Dummerʼs Wayne Moynihan and including Claremontʼs Raymond Gagnon as well as Sunapeeʼs Suzanne Gottling. 

Finally, the House by voice vote on June 24 approved another compromise version of a House bill, which was simply a return to the version as originally passed by the House, after the billʼs House-Senate Committee of Conference agreed to return to the original version. This compromise was on House Bill 219, relative to the use of EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) Cards. EBT Cards are similar to checking account debit cards, and are used by citizens to help access their government benefits such as food stamps. Under House Bill 219 as approved by both House and Senate, EBT Cards could not be used in body piercing and tattoo parlors as well as marijuana dispensaries, cigar stores, and smoke shops. Also the bill would require the New Hampshire Dept. of Health & Human Services to develop an education program on the proper use of EBT Cards. 

House Bill 219 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators led by Windham Rep. Charles McMahon, a Republican, and was signed into law by the Governor on July 13. For the record, I did vote for this reasonable measure. I strongly believe that citizens shouldnʼt be using EBT Cards to buy any type of tobacco products as well as get tattoos or body piercing, because these products and services arenʼt necessities.

Email: jocloutier@comcast.net.

Editorʼs Note: Rep. Cloutier will be taking a few weeks off from his column as he does every summer.