AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published weekly 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. For an email subscription, visit our main page and click on <get our newsletter>.
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State House Watch July 13
2015 Issue 25
The legislative session has come to an end, and that means the “State House Watch” newsletter and radio show will go into hibernation for a bit.
There were over a thousand bills filed this year, which kept us pretty busy. We followed bills concerned with health, environment, voting rights, housing, minimum wage, workers’ rights, immigration, and other social justice issues. We also followed the budget process, from the Governor’s budget proposal through the House and Senate revisions and ultimately the Governor’s veto.
If you appreciated this newsletter, please consider making a donation in support of AFSC's NH Program. Go to our website and click on the green "Donate Now" button.
We’ve completed a report on many of the bills we tracked this session, and posted it on our website.
In good news this session, all right-to-work (for less) bills were defeated or tabled without a lot of fanfare. The same was true of the gambling bills (with a bit more drama). Bills that would have hurt tenants failed. A bill to strengthen reporting on child lead poisoning passed. The latest attempt to make employers use the federal E-Verify system to verify an employee’s immigration status failed. A bill that would limit voter participation passed but, thankfully, was vetoed by Governor Hassan.
But on the whole it was a tough year for social justice. The state still has no minimum wage, adhering to the federal minimum of $7.25. Every other state in New England has a higher minimum wage, leaving low-wage workers in New Hampshire struggling harder than our neighbors to get by. The NH Health Protection Program (expanded Medicaid) has not yet been extended, neither in a stand-alone bill nor in the budget. Two bills were passed that limit the use of EBT cards by people receiving public benefits. Governor Hassan has vetoed the more offensive of the two (SB 169) but announced she will sign the other, HB 219. Bills to allow all voters to vote absentee failed.
As we go to press, more bills are still making their way to the desk of Governor Maggie Hassan for her to sign, veto, or allow to become law. She has been posting regular updates on her web page.
Legislators will return to Concord on September 16 to vote on veto overrides.
Then there was the budget.
Governor Hassan’s budget proposal made no bold steps but was generally well received by advocates for human services, education, and public sector workers. The House Finance Committee, however, slashed funds for important programs, ignored the negotiated state employee pay raise, and followed through on its pledge to raise no taxes or fees. Instead, they voted to raid dedicated funds and strip the state’s reserves. After the House Finance budget was approved, mostly along party lines, it went to the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee used a higher estimate of revenue to put funds back into services, such as shelters for people who are homeless, which had been slashed by the House. But like the House, the Senate majority refused to re-authorize or fund the NH Health Protection Program, refused to open reasonable, new sources of revenue, and ignored the results of the state employee collective bargaining process. Instead, they voted to cut the Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax, and at the last minute approved a new tax cut requested by the well-connected owners and managers of Planet Fitness. As she had signaled, Governor Hassan vetoed the budget, but then signed a “continuing resolution” to keep the state running under terms of the budget that expired June 30. Negotiations, sometimes in the back rooms and sometimes out in public, will continue until the end of the year, when the continuing resolution is due to expire.
Throughout the year, members of NH Voices of Faith brought prayers for just and humane policies into the corridors of power, usually in conjunction with key hearings or votes. Clearly, our work is not done.
We would like to thank you, our State House Watchers, for reading, for following, for giving us your thoughts on SHW and for supporting us. We couldn’t do it without you.
Please watch for a survey to help us learn how to improve the newsletter.
In the meantime, please mark your calendars for our celebration of AFSC-NH's 40th anniversary! The event will be Saturday, October 24 at Concord High School, in the evening.
And please check out our Year in Review.
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty, with Susan Bruce
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.