State House Watch 2013
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AFSC-NH State House Watch, June 7
2013 Issue 22
Budget Battle & State House Games Intensify
Following a Senate vote yesterday for a budget that excludes Medicaid expansion and calls for $50 million in unspecified personnel cuts, a soon-to-be-convened Committee of Conference will be the next arena for debate on the state’s priorities. Both chambers took pet proposals that had been defeated in the other chamber and added them as amendments to the other side’s pet bills. These matters, too, are destined for conference committees which need to conclude their work by June 20 in order to get voted upon before the session’s scheduled wrap-up at the end of the month. In particular, legislators and the governor will be eager to have a new budget in place in time for the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
So the pressure is on.
The Senate vote on Medicaid expansion followed a lengthy debate. In the end, to the surprise of no State House Watchers, the 11 Senate Democrats voted in unison for Medicaid expansion and the 13 Senate Republicans voted “no.”
According to the Lewin Group, which performed a detailed study for the Department of Health and Human Services, Medicaid expansion would make health coverage available for 58,000 people who are currently left out of the system. But Senate Republican leaders argued that the federal government cannot be trusted to keep its promise to fully fund the expanded coverage for three years and 90% of it thereafter. Instead, their version of HB 2, known as the “Budget Trailer Bill,” calls for yet another commission to study the Medicaid issue.
The matter will no doubt be an area of contention in the budget conference committee, which has not yet been appointed. In the end, the issue again will be whether any Republican senators break ranks in order to take advantage of a proven program that will create jobs, make health care more accessible, and bring federal funds to New Hampshire.
Governor Maggie Hassan, who made Medicaid expansion a key component of her budget proposal in February, said “As the process moves forward, legislators will need to take a bipartisan approach, set ideology aside, and listen to the people of New Hampshire in order to reach a final balanced budget that reinvests in the priorities needed to build a more innovative economic future."
Dozens of Medicaid supporters thronged the halls on Thursday morning. You can be part of the throng when the budget conference committee gets going. Contact Jillian Andrews Dubois at NH Citizens Alliance for information, or listen in when she joins us next week on “State House Watch Radio.”
The budget itself is described in HB 1. The version passed by the Senate spends $400 million less than the budget proposed by Governor Hassan, and $300 million less than the budget passed by the House. The Senate cuts include $50 million in personnel, which would be determined by the governor. If these so-called “back of the budget” cuts survive the conference committee process, up to 700 state workers are likely to lose jobs, and New Hampshire residents will lose the services those workers now provide.
“If this all seems familiar, there's good reason why. It's the same thing legislators did in 2009 due to the Great Recession,” commented the State Employees Association. But in that case, the union added, “they did it with the Governor’s help and months of work with state agencies and employees to minimize harm wherever it could be reduced. This proposed budget should have been soundly rejected.”
Senate consideration of the capital budget was far less contentious. The $125 million plan includes funds for construction of a new facility to replace the women’s prison, which has been considered inadequate for years and is the subject of a lawsuit over access to services. The House can vote to adopt the Senate plan or call for a conference committee to resolve differences.
Also yesterday, the Senate attached the substance of four bills that had passed the Senate but failed in the House as amendments to other legislation. These include the marriages of two Senate-passed proposals we considered anti-worker to two House-passed measures we considered pro-worker.
The text of SB 100, a bill authorizing electronic payroll cards as substitutes for paper checks, has now been attached to HB 357, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.
HB 414, the bill that would prohibit employers from requiring employees or prospective employees to give them their social media passwords, has now been supplemented with the substance of SB 153, which would give the legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee veto authority over monetary aspects of collective bargaining agreements with state workers.
The House could vote to go along, let the amended bills die, or ask for a committee of conference. But time is running out. The House deadline to set up conference committees is June 13 and they are not scheduled to meet again until June 26.
On the other side, the House voted Wednesday to tack HB 668, a Senate-rejected proposal to allow the Insurance Department to help set up health exchanges, onto an unrelated bill dealing with renewable energy. In a helpful article on this confusing matter, the Union Leader’s John Distaso pointed out that “current state law prohibits the state from setting up its own state-based insurance exchange but does allow the state to cooperate with the federal government in the creation of a federal exchange.”
“The issue of whether the state should move toward a state-based partnership or allow a federally-run partnership remains an ideological battleground for the divided state leadership,” he added. The dispute is likely to be the subject of another committee of conference.
Committees of Conference
Several COCs have already been set up, including ones dealing with matters we’ve been tracking. These include:
HB 472, relative to residential units in rooming houses. The Senate amended the bill, and on June 5 the House voted not to concur, on a voice vote. The Speaker appointed Representatives Butler, Schlachman, Muns, and Hammond to the committee of conference.
HB 573, relative to the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The Senate heavily amended this bill, and on June 5, the House voted not to concur, on a Division vote of 292 to 47. The Speaker appointed Representatives J. MacKay, S. Schmidt, Sherman, and Adams-Ahearn to the committee of conference.
HB 595, relative to photo identification of voters. The Senate weakened this bill by limiting the use of student ID as a valid form of identification for voting and delaying instead of eliminating the requirement that poll-workers photograph voters without picture ID. On June 5, the House voted not to concur on a division vote of 286 to 52, and the Speaker appointed Representatives G. Richardson, Knowles, Perry, and Cote to the committee of conference.
You can follow the formation and progress of all the Committees of Conference on the General Court web site.
Other House Matters
Also Wednesday, the House voted 190 to 100 to approve SB 146, relative to aid to the totally and permanently disabled and old age assistance. Prior to the final vote, the measure survived an attempt to have it tabled (124 to 159) and one to have it killed (126 to 163). This bill will make additional support possible for some recipients of public assistance.
HB 562, relative to the interest on title loans, will be the subject of a sub-committee work session in the Commerce Committee on Tuesday, June 11 at 11 am in LOB Room 302. This bill would cap the interest on title loans at 36%.
Also on June 11, at 1 pm in LOB Rooms 210-211, the House Finance Committee will get a presentation from the Legislative Budget Assistant regarding Senate changes to the budget bills, HB 1 and HB 2, followed by a Ways and Means Committee presentation on revised revenue estimates. These will be live –streamed.
Good News from Other States!
John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado, signed into law a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver licenses, following a successful campaign led by AFSC and other pro-immigrant groups. “I have never participated in a more ethical, righteous, community-based and -led campaign then this one," commented Jennifer Piper of AFSC’s Denver office.
The state joins New Mexico, Illinois and Washington, which already follow this common sense practice that assures drivers know the rules of the road. According to the Associated Press, “Hickenlooper said immigrants should have licenses that allow them to drive to work, get insurance, and be identified in car accidents, while at the same time making clear they are not U.S. citizens.” Utah and Nevada also have measures that make it possible for people to drive lawfully regardless of their immigration status.
The Connecticut legislature’s Joint Committee on Judiciary voted 33 to 11 to approve the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act, which gives local and state police a way to distance themselves from federal immigration enforcement.
A bill calling for labeling of foods containing GMOs passed the Connecticut Senate by 35 to 1 and heads for the House.
The Manchester NAACP will host a discussion of “Occupying Privilege” on Saturday, June 8, from noon to 3 pm at the YWCA, 72 Concord Street in Manchester. The event will feature JLove Calderón, an author, educator, and producer of film and television. Sign up on Facebook or call Laurielee Roy at (603) 641-3426 for more information. A $10 donation will be requested.
The Granite State Organizing Project is holding its MICAH Awards Dinner on Saturday, June 8, from 6 to 9 pm at St. Augustin Church in Manchester. Tickets are $25 a person or $180 for a table of 8. Contact Sarah Jane Knoy or call 603-668-8250 for more information.
The Second Annual NH Women United Rally will be held on the State House lawn in Concord, from 11 am to 3 pm on Sunday, June 9. Susan Bruce will be the emcee! For more information, visit http://nhwomenunited.org.
New England Veterans for Immigration Reform will hold a panel discussion with immigrant veterans and policy experts on Monday, June 10 at 11 am at Harbor Homes, 45 High Street, Nashua NH 03060. Call (207) 370-5840 for more information.
AFSC and other groups will sponsor a Week of Action from June 24 to 28, protesting detention and deportation of immigrants with events in Dover, Durham, Manchester, Nashua, Concord, and Burlington MA. Check out our events calendar for details.
Coming up on “State House Watch Radio”
The Rev. Linda Lea Snyder, Interim Executive Director of the NH Council of Churches, will join us next week on “State House Watch” radio for a chat about guns, gambling, and other matters of concern to the state’s ecumenical Christian community. Then we’ll be joined by Jillian Andrews Dubois of NH Citizens Alliance for a Medicaid update.
“State House Watch” airs each Monday from 5 to 6 pm, with a re-broadcast on Tuesday at 7 am. If you are close to Concord, you can tune in at 94.7 FM. If you are further away, you can listen live over the internet or download podcasts at your convenience.
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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. 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 staff the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show. Susan Bruce helps with legislative research. Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.
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