NH State House Watch
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. Click here for back issues.
We also have a weekly radio show on Mondays from 5 to 6 pm, re-broadcast Tuesdays from 7 to 8 am. You can listen live on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over the internet. You can download a podcast of any of our earlier shows.
AFSC-NH State House Watch, March 7
2014 Issue 9
“Medicaid” Moves Forward in Senate
The Senate voted 18-5 to approve the NH version of Medicaid expansion, SB 413. Governor Maggie Hassan responded immediately, saying “"Today's overwhelming bipartisan vote in favor of health care expansion represents a critical step forward for our economy and for the health and financial well-being of our families. This fiscally responsible, bipartisan plan is a uniquely New Hampshire solution that will boost our economy, reduce cost-shifting on businesses and improve the lives of 50,000 hard-working people who deserve the security of health insurance.”
The bill is now on a fast track for consideration in the House, where Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, who has been a key leader for Medicaid expansion, has already expressed support. The proposal requires the state toapply to the federal government for a waiver at the end of March. If the waiver is granted, some 38,000 people would be eligible in May to enroll for coverage from the state’s Medicaid managed care program. Another 12,000 people would be covered by a state program that subsidizes employer-based coverage. The expansion program would end if federal funding dropped below 100%. The entire program would also be discontinued in 2016 if the legislature failed to reauthorize it.
See this Concord Monitor article for a look at the debate on the Senate floor:
HB 1170, repealing the death penalty, came out of the Criminal Justice Committee with a 14-3 “ought to pass” vote and without a “minority report.” However, a floor amendment -- which would expand the death penalty to add the murder of a child to the list of crimes punishable by execution -- has been placed on the Calendar by Rep. Keith Murphy.
TAKE ACTION - Contact your Representatives today. If they are supporters of repeal, urge them to attend the session on Wednesday. If they are still on the fence, this is your last chance to persuade them that the death penalty does nothing for public safety and conflicts with our socieity's highest moral values.
Members of the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will be gathering at the State House at 8:30 AM to greet House members. To RSVP, please use this link or visit the Coalition’s web site for more information.
The campaign for death penalty repeal will be one of the topics we address on our radio show Monday, with guest John-Michael Dumais of the NH Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty.
HB 1403, which would re-establish the state’s authority to set a minimum wage and raise it to $9 in two annual steps. Going forward it would be indexed according to the Consumer Price Index. NH currently has the lowest minimum wage in New England. The bill will come to the House floor with a 10-8 “ought to pass” recommendation. The vote could come on Wednesday, but that will depend on the pace of action on bills higher up on the calendar.
TAKE ACTION - Contact your Representatives today.
HB 1409 expands the law against housing discrimination to prohibit discrimination against recipients of rental assistance and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This bill was set for a vote in the full House on Thursday, with an amendment that would address some concerns about the protection for victims of domestic violence. When it came up for a vote late in the day, the amendment passed 230-30. Supporters of the bill realized that the number of legislators present had fallen to 260. If even one more legislator had departed the chamber, all remaining bills would have needed a 2/3 vote for approval, instead of a simple majority. For this reason, the bill was tabled. Supporters will have to move that it be taken off the table and brought back to the floor, perhaps next week. Bills can be taken off the “table” by a simple majority until “crossover,” after which the measure would require a 2/3 vote. AFSC has joined Housing Action NH, NH Legal Assistance and Granite State Organizing Project to advocate in favor of this bill. (Click here for an excellent March 2 Concord Monitor column by Keith Thibault and William Caselden.)
OTP - Ought to Pass
OTP/A - Ought to Pass with Amended
ITL - Inexpedient to Legislation (i.e. defeat this bill)
"Inteim Study" - The words mean the bill will be studied between the end of the session and the beginning of the next one. But in reality, referring a bill to interim study is often a polite way to kill it.
Last week in Senate Committees
SB 203, relative to permissible uses of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, passed out of Senate Finance with an "ought to pass, as amended" recommendation, on a unanimous vote of 5-0. The amendment deleted the section that would have limited cash withdrawals to $25/transaction, following testimony that this restriction would force a low-income person to pay a substantial amount in senseless fees simply to withdraw enough money to pay her rent or child care bill. We are disappointed, however, that the committee kept the provision that prohibits the use of cash obtained from the EBT card from being used for the lottery, tobacco products and other things. We wonder how anyone will be able to prove that a $5 bill used to buy cigarettes is from the household's EBT cash assistance rather than from earned wages or any other source. The bill as approved by Senate Finance is unenforceable and in our opinion insulting to low-income households.
SB 307, as written, called for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the US Supreme Court’s decision in the “Citizens United” case and to create a study committee on proposed amendments. The hearing was well attended with 14 people speaking in favor of the bill and no one in opposition. (Click here for a video of the hearing, courtesy of Dick Pollock.) After the hearing, the 3 Senators present agreed to make two minor changes to the bill. However, when the committee met Thursday in Executive Session, Senator Jeb Bradley brought in an amendment that removed from the bill references to overturning Citizens United. We hope to see an amendment restoring the bill's intent when it hits the Senate floor. This resolution and upcoming Town Meeting votes will be one of the topics we discuss on our radio show Monday, with guest Olivia Zink.
Last Week in House Committees
HB 1189, relative to temporary workers’ rights, was amended in executive session to clarify some sections related to workers compensation coverage and transportation reimbursement. The amendment also satisfied concerns that AFSC had raised in our testimony, that workers should have access, without cost, to their payroll and employment records for a 12 month period. After the committee approved the amendment, there arose other concerns which could not be resolved at that time, so the bill goes to the full House with a recommendation for "interim study." We are hopeful that a floor amendment will enable the bill to move forward in the full House. Temporary staffing agencies are a growing segment of the economy; the three-way arrangement between a staffing agency, a worksite employer and an employee merits some additional regulation to ensure that worker rights are protected.
In Casino/Gambling news, the Ways and Means Committee voted all four casino bills (two 1-casino bills and two 6-casino bills) ITL. HB 1633, the bill to establish one "high-end" casino was recommended ITL by the House Ways and Means Committee, on a vote of 11-9. This bill, seen as the major vehicle for casino backers this year, will get a full debate on the House floor next week or the week after. See this Union Leader article for a look at what supporters and opponents of the bill had to say:
Next Week on the Senate Floor
SB 207 - The senate version of the pay equity bill comes out of committee with an OTP/A recommendation of 5-0.
SB 295, prohibiting employers from using credit history in employment decisions, comes out of committee with a recommendation of OTP/A on a vote of 5-0.
SB 368, raising the maximum fine for violations of the lead paint remediation statutes from $2000 to $5000. This bill comes out of committee with a recommendation of OTP on a vote of 4-1.
Next Week on the House Floor
The House will be in session on Wednesday, March 12 at 10 AM and Thursday, March 13 at 9 AM. Given the slow pace of voting this year, we do not expect all the items on next week’s Calendar to reach the floor by close of business Thursday. They House plans to be in session each Wednesday and Thursday until the end of the month, and possibly also on Tuesday, March 25.
There is no legislative activity scheduled on Tuesday, March 11 because it’s Town Meeting Day. There isn’t any real committee action next week; it’s all about the session.
HB 1580 , repealing mandatory minimum sentences. The committee finds this is a large undertaking, and refers the bill to interim study, on a vote of 14-0.
HB 1207 - This bill would require the identification of a private organization responsible for distributing a model act used by a legislator to propose legislation. The committee supports the concept of full disclosure and transparency, but feels this is better addressed through House Rules. The committee recommends ITL, but urges the House to adopt a rule next session to require the disclosure of all sources of proposed legislation being offered by a member. Vote 12-0.
HB 1195, establishing a commission to study the impacts of the property tax on NH’s residents, businesses, municipalities, and the economy. Committee recommends OTP/A on a vote of 14-1.
HB 1620 - This bill regulates the use of drones by government agencies and individuals. It establishes criminal penalties and civil remedies for violations of the law. The committee recommends OTP/A 12-5.
HB 1625, decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, comes out of committee with a 12-5 OTP/A vote.
HB 1444 - Recognizes the month of April as Genocide Awareness Month. OTP 14-1.
HB 1376, requiring the Department of Environmental Services to examine the potential harm to the public and the environment of NH by the proposed tar sands pipeline that would run from Montreal to Portland, through Coos County. The bill was amended (and strengthened) to include studying the safety of moving gas and oil by train, road, and pipeline, and would develop a plan to deal with spills, including clarifying financial obligations for cleanup. OTP/A on a vote of 14-1.
HB 1633 - This is the principal casino gambling bill under consideration this year. The majority found that while this is a better casino bill than those proposed in the past, the share of revenue the state is slated to receive has decreased from 55% ten years ago to 35% now. Essentially, the majority thinks that with this bill NH is giving the store away. Critics have also argued that claims of good jobs in the casino trade are without substance. Majority ITL vote 11-9,
HCR 10, calling for a convention under Article V of the US Constitution with the intention of amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. ITL 9-4.
HR 21, expressing support for the right of residents of the District of Colombia to be represented in Congress. OTP 9-4.
HB 1214, relative to grounds for termination of tenancy. The majority of the Judiciary Committee agreed that current law balances the interests of landlords and tenants and does not need fixing. We agree this bill should be rejected. ITL 14-4.
HB 1336, relative to the landlord’s agent requirement. This bill stems from a law that was backed by the Granite State Organizing Project to enable municipalities to more effectively enforce health and safety regulations in rental housing. Subsequently, penalties for violations were eliminated, rendering the law “toothless.” This bill strengthens the existing laws by replacing some of the “teeth” that had been removed. OTP/A 12-6.
HB 1411 would restore $7 million in funding cut from DHHS. OTP/A on a vote of 13-10.
HB 1362 , prohibiting enforcement of any federal law which bans certain firearms or limits firearm magazine size and establishing a criminal penalty for such enforcement. Committee recommends ITL on a vote of 15-1.
HB 1409, expanding the law against discrimination to prohibit housing discrimination against recipients of rental assistance and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This bill is currently “on the table.” We do not know when it will come up for a vote.
Next Week in Senate Committees
Public and Municipal Affairs, Room 102, LOB
10:30 AM HB 466 - This bill eliminates the qualified voter and domicile affidavits and permits voters to prove qualifications by swearing to a statement on the voter registration form.
Important Legislative Dates in March
March 20 – Reports are due on all remaining House bills.
March 27 – House and Senate must complete action on all bills that originated in their respective chambers. Bills approved by each body cross over to the other body. For that reason, this day is called “Crossover.”
State House Watch Radio
Olivia Zink of the NH Coalition for Open Democracy and Move To Amend will join us for a discussion about legislative and local actions calling for amendments to the US Constitution which make it clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech. John-Michael Dumais, Campaign Director for the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, will provide an update on the repeal campaign. You can listen live from 5 to 6 pm on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over the internet. The show re-broadcasts Tuesday from 7 to 8 am. You can download a podcast of any of our earlier shows.
Saturday, March 8 - Two evenings marking International Women's Day. 10 am to 4 pm at the YWCA, 72 Concord Street, Manchester, hosted by the Women for Women Coalition and the YWCA, and 1 pm to 5 pm at South Congregational Church, 27 Pleasant Street, Concord, hosted by New American Africans, Spark the Dream, and various churches. International Women's Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. International cuisine, lots of entertainment!
Sunday, March 9 - John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation, will speak at 2 pm at Portsmouth Public Library and 7 pm at the Christ Church Episcopal in Exeter. (And he'll speak at our AFSC dinner in Concord on September 27! Mark your calendar.) .
March 11, 13, 17 and 24 - Building Pathways New Hampshire is holding information sessions for New Hampshire women who are interested in careers as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and pipefitters. Attendance at one information session is mandatory, 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the AFL-CIO, 161 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett. For more information, contact Joe Gallagher or Liz Skidmore, (603)948-8161, email@example.com.
Saturday, March 29 – SoupFest! Mark your calendars for this annual celebration and fundraiser for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness and the Concord Homeless Resource Center. Two seatings, at 5 pm and 6:30 pm, at South Congregational Church, 27 Pleasant Street, Concord.
March 21-26 - David Cobb of Move to Amend will speak about the movement to abolish corporate personhood and expand democracy at events in Nashua, Peterborough, Manchester, Canterbury, Henniker, Durham, and Hanover. More details soon.
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty
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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 on WNHN-FM. Susan Bruce helps with research. Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.
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