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State House Watch May 22
2015 Issue 19
State Budget Starts to Take Shape
Senators continued their work on the budget last week. First, the Ways and Means Committee approved revenue projections $118 million higher than the estimate used by the House. That gave the Finance Committee room to approve restoration of millions of dollars (cut by the House) for elderly services, the developmentally disabled, emergency homeless shelters, and substance abuse treatment. The restored funds, however, still fall short of what the Governor proposed, let alone what is actually needed.
Like the House, Senate Finance voted against renewing the expanded Medicaid program (NH Health Protection Program), which is due to expire in December 2016. Read more here from NHPR. The full Senate also voted, along party lines, against extension of the Health Protection Program.
One question still hanging over the Senate deliberations is whether Republican Senators will follow through on their plan to cut business taxes. See more analysis from the NH Fiscal Policy Institute here. We have not heard whether language authorizing privatization of the Sununu Youth Center will be retained or deleted. Nor have we heard whether Senators will come up with funds for the state employee pay raise already approved through collective bargaining.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet next week on Tuesday and Wednesday, by which time they are expected to approve their budget proposal and send it on to the full Senate. NH Voices of Faith will be present outside the hearing room, continuing its witness for a budget that speaks to our highest moral values.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the budget on June 4. After that it goes back to the House, which can accept the Senate budget or call for a Committee of Conference (CoC) to resolve differences. Given that the Senate had the benefit of better revenue projections than the House did, we wonder if the House might just adopt the Senate budget and save the trouble of a Committee of Conference.
Speaking of Committees of Conference, the House lays out its 2015 CoC Procedures near the top of the House Calendar. Here’s a short version: If the House and Senate approve different versions of the same bill, each chamber can opt to a) “concur” with the other, i.e. accept the language of the other body, in which case it goes on to the governor; b) non-concur and call for a committee of conference (CoC); or c) non-concur and not accept a CoC, in which case the bill dies.
If CoCs are formed, members are appointed by leadership. The objective of the CoC is to reach agreement on new language that would be acceptable to both chambers. If it is unable to do so, the bill dies. COCs need to approve reports unanimously, but leadership can replace members at any time. CoCs would be formed between June 4 and June 11, and would need to complete their work by June 18. The House and Senate will vote on CoC reports during the week of June 22, with June 25 the final day for action.
Updates from Last Week
HB 614, implementing the goals of the state’s 10-year energy plan, was approved by the Senate and referred to the Finance Committee for further consideration. A floor amendment was added calling for shortfalls in funding to be met by transfers from the renewable energy fund. Any monies not expended would be returned back to the fund at the end of the biennium.
SB 219, the bill that would require employers to provide a clean, private space for nursing mothers to express breast milk, had already passed the Senate on a voice vote and seemed like the kind of bill that would sail through without difficulty. Employers with fewer than 50 employees whose businesses lacked sufficient space were exempted. Even with that sort of accommodation, the House Commerce Committee voted 13-8, along party lines, to retain the bill. We are disappointed that a bill aimed at helping working mothers breastfeed their babies turned into a partisan issue.
Dueling EBT Bills
Last week we reported that the Senate amended and passed HB 219, the House bill intended to limit how people receiving benefits via EBT cards can use them. The amendment included an unenforceable ban on the use of cash obtained through EBT to purchase goods and services that the Senators believe poor people should not spend money on. With the amendment, the bill became a mirror of SB 169, a bill already adopted by the Senate and sent to the House. You with us so far?
The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee took up SB 169 in executive session on Tuesday. Representative McMahon, the prime sponsor of HB 219, proposed an amendment that replaced the language of SB 169 with the text of the original version of HB 219, a bill which limits the sites where EBT cards can be used but does not try to regulate the use of cash. The amendment was approved, and the full committee voted OTP/A on the bill, with a vote of 17-0. The House committee also voted NOT to concur with the Senate on HB 219, the House EBT bill altered by the Senate. They’ve asked for a Committee of Conference on the bill.
If you're confused, try this: The House passed its bill, which was altered by the Senate to mirror its own. The House took umbrage, and altered the Senate bill to mirror its bill, and called for a CoC. If the Senate agrees, differences could be resolved. From the State House Watch perspective, the best possible outcome is that everyone will be so annoyed by all of these shenanigans that neither of the odious bills aimed at demonizing poor people will pass.
Coming Up in the Senate
The Senate will be in session on Thursday, May 28, starting at 10 AM.
HB 315, relative to termination of tenancy, is recommended for defeat. This bill would provide additional grounds for termination of tenancy with only 7 days’ notice. The committee recommended killing the bill on a vote of 4-1. We actively opposed this bill, and are pleased with the Senate Judiciary Committee's action. Landlords already have sufficient power to evict tenants with only 7 days’ notice.
HB 25, the capital budget. (Look at the Senate Calendar Addendum for the version approved by the Senate Capital Budget Committee.) We are pleased that it includes $1 million for the Affordable Housing Fund. We have to observe that Governor Hassan had proposed $2 million for this fund and housing advocates had suggested $5 million, but $1 million is $1 million more than the House approved. The Senate’s capital budget proposal includes additional funds for a new women’s prison and does not include funds for a commuter rail study supported by the governor.
Coming Up in the House
The House will be not be in session until Wednesday, June 3.
Coming up in House Committees
Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services, Room 307, LOB
10:00 AM Executive Session on SB 255, establishing a low-wage service worker task force. This task force would be charged with studying the growth of the low-wage service sector as compared to the growth of other job sectors; the demographics and rate of poverty of workers in low-wage industries; the impact on children, families and communities; the cost of state services used by low-wage workers; and the effects of low-wage jobs on the local economy. There is some fear afoot that the House will turn a serious task force into a legislative study committee that is less likely to look very deeply into the issue.
Coming up in Senate Committees
Tuesday, May 26
Finance, Room 103, SH
9:00 AM Executive Session on the Budget
Wednesday, May 27
Finance, Room 103, SH
9:00 AM HB 550, relative to the administration of the tobacco tax. This was a routine bill addressing how the tobacco tax is managed. The Senate already passed the bill and referred it to Finance. At this hearing Finance will consider "non-germane amendment" 2015-1906s that changes the title and limits the inclusion in the business profits tax of the net increase due to certain sales or exchanges of an interest or beneficial interest in a business organization. In other words, the taxes on profits from the sale of an interest in a business will be limited, which will mean less revenue for the state.
Following the public hearing on HB 550, the Finance Commitee is expected to complete its deliberations on the budget.
"State House Watch/White House Watch" Radio
We'll take a holiday break next week and replay last year's Memorial Day music special. 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 with Brenda Libby from Community Bridges and Michele Holt-Shannon of NH Listens.
Governing Under the Influence
Check out our website to find out why Arnie handed a plastic whistle to New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie, and to read about Senator Lindsey Graham's encounter with a band of peace activists in downtown Manchester. There's also a new post on the Obama administration's trillion dollar plan to "modernize" the US nuclear arsenal, all to the benefit of some likely suspects. Next week we'll see the return to the NH campaign trail of Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz (no joint appearances scheduled), as well as Carly Fiorina Check out the candidate calendar, and let us know if you plan to be at any of the events. As noted below, we're doing another "bird dog training" Thursday in Milford. No dogs and no birds will be harmed, and you'll have fun honing your political skills.
Events Coming Up
Friday, May 22 – Saturday, May 23
Ancestral Reburial - The Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail invites you to honor the dead who were found buried beneath a Portsmouth street as they are reinterred in sacred ground. Friday night, beginning at 7:00 pm, with an overnight vigil at the New Hope Baptist Church, 263 Peverly Hill Road, ending with a sunrise service at 6:00 am on Saturday morning. A motorcade will transfer the caskets to the State Street entrance of the African Burying Ground Memorial Park on Chestnut Street. At 8:30 AM there will be an unveiling of commissioned artwork, and at 9:00 am the reburial ceremonies will begin. Wearing white or traditional African attire is encouraged. More information is here and on Facebook.
Friday, May 22
"Who Am I Going To Be: African Youth Building Lives in NH," a documentary by Lynn Clowes, will be shown at 7:00 pm at the Concord Quaker Meeting Meetinghouse in Canterbury. Lynn Clowes will be on hand to lead a discussion and answer questions about the constellation of challenges that African youth face as they build new lives in NH. Click here for directions.
Saturday, May 23
Walk For Democracy in the Upper Valley with the NH Rebellion. 11:30 AM - Meet at Lebanon Green for rally and sign making. Noon - Walkers depart on 6 mile walk to Hanover. 2:00 PM - Arrive at Hanover Green, and celebrate with speakers, street theater, burgers, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Details and registration here. Sponsored by the NH Rebellion, AFSC/Governing Under the Influence, Open Democracy, Take Back Our Republic, NH Peace Action, and the Stamp Stampede. Contact Eric if you want to help carry AFSC banners.
March Against Monsanto to raise public awareness and bring political pressure to bear regarding Monsanto’s farming and business practices as well as the dangers of genetically modified food. An estimated 38 countries on 6 continents, and some 428 cities, will participate in this peaceful, informational protest. Noon to 2 PM in Portsmouth. Meet at the farmer’s market at Portsmouth City Hall, 1 Junkins Avenue at 12 noon for a march to Market Square. Visibility at Market Square from 1:00-2:00 PM. More information on Facebook.
Wednesday, May 27
Legislators and anyone else who supports affordable housing are invited to join Housing Action NH for a Home Matters in NH Week breakfast and award presentation Wednesday, May 27, from 8 to 9 AM in the State House cafeteria. Home Matters in NH Week will highlight policy solutions that help create housing matched to NH’s needs. The breakfast includes a presentation of five Home Matters in NH Awards, honoring outstanding work in three categories that help advance policies for more affordable housing and ending homelessness. Senators Jeb Bradley and Martha Fuller-Clark will receive this award for their legislative work, along with Concord resident Mike LaFontaine, formerly with the NH Community Loan Fund, for his long-time advocacy. Concord Monitor reporters Megan Doyle and Jeremy Blackman will be honored for their recent series covering the issue of homelessness in Concord. Encourage your Representatives to attend this important event, and please join us if you can. Please RSVP here.
Thursday, May 28
AFSC Bird Dog Training, Milford UU Church, 6 to 7:30 pm. Co-sponsored by 350NH, NextGen, UU Congregation of Milford. Contact Olivia for more information. (No dogs, no birds, just skills training for activists trying to affect the political discourse during NH Primary season.)
June 11 to 13
Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace and Co-Chair of the “Don’t Shoot” coalition, will speak at several events in New Hampshire about building peace at home and abroad. Events include NH Peace Action's annual membership meeting, June 3 in Sanbornton and events in Hanover and Manchester organized by AFSC's Governing under the Influence project. More details soon.
Saturday, June 13
"The Last Call, The Untold Reasons of the Global Crisis," a film asking, "Can the golden age of unlimited growth last forever?" and "Are there no actual physical limitations to growth on our planet?" 7:00 PM at the Concord UU Church, 274 Pleasant Street, Concord. Free and open to the public, with discussion afterwards. Contact John Warner for further details.
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty