State House Watch: July 1, 2023

By Maggie Fogarty and Grace Kindeke


New Hampshire State House

“When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our 'colorblind' society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure - the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.” - Michelle Alexander

“To abandon affirmative action is to say there is nothing more to be done about discrimination.” - Coretta Scott King

July 1, 2023

Greetings State House Watchers,

We’ve made it! On Thursday, June 29, the House and Senate voted on the last bills of the year, so that’s a wrap for the 2023 session. While our legislators take a break, so will State House Watch. Let’s all try to enjoy some lazy days of summer! In just a few weeks, we’ll follow up with our end-of-year summary and the outcomes for the hundreds of bills we tracked this year.

There were 18 Committee of Conference (CoC) reports up for a vote last week. Seventeen of them received affirmative votes in both bodies and are on their way to the governor; he’ll either sign them, veto them, or let them become law without his signature. We are grateful that HB 315, which will eliminate the “gay panic defense,” passed by voice vote in the Senate and with a decisive vote of 271-98 in the House. Read more here.

Unfortunately HB 75, which was amended in the Senate to create gerrymandered districts for Strafford County commissioners, passed the House by a single vote, 186-185. Commissioner George Maglaras, whose seat will be impacted by the redistricting, threatened to take legal action if Governor Sununu does not veto the bill. Read more here.

Beyond the Dome

Christine King Farris, the sister of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and a dedicated activist and civil rights leader, died on Thursday at the age of 95. Her niece Bernice King tweeted several messages of gratitude, including this one: “An extraordinary educator. My father’s sister. One of the co-laborers with my mother in founding The King Center. Phenomenal Woman. Inspiring Human. She survived and thrived.” We pause in gratitude for her life and her spirit.

The US Supreme Court has dealt a devastating blow to racial justice in the United States with a ruling that essentially ends affirmative action based on race for university admissions decisions. Read more at SCOTUSblog. The ruling will have far-reaching implications with regard to access to higher education, but also signals that similar applications of affirmative action in hiring and other kinds of selection processes might be ruled invalid as well in subsequent cases. Read more from Nina Totenberg at NPR: Supreme Court guts affirmative action, effectively ending race-conscious admissions.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote a scathing dissent: "With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces 'colorblindness for all' by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country's actual past and present experiences, the court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America's real-world problems. No one benefits from ignorance. Although formal race linked legal barriers are gone, race still matters to the lived experiences of all Americans in innumerable ways, and today's ruling makes things worse, not better."

As Elie Mystal points out in The Nation, one of the most impactful forms of affirmative action – legacy admissions – remains untouched, perhaps because the primary beneficiaries are wealthy White applicants: The Supreme Court Has Killed Affirmative Action. Mediocre Whites Can Rest Easier.

It is truly a sad day.

Later in the week, SCOTUS ruled against President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. More on this from Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog: “By a vote of 6-3, the justices ruled that the Biden administration overstepped its authority last year when it announced that it would cancel up to $400 billion in student loans. The Biden administration had said that as many as 43 million Americans would have benefitted from the loan forgiveness program; almost half of those borrowers would have had all of their student loans forgiven.” The White House estimated that 121,000 New Hampshire people would have benefited from the program.

It is, however, worth mentioning that another of the SCOTUS rulings last week is a favorable one for democracy. The justices agreed, by a 6-3 vote, that state courts have the authority to limit the actions of state legislatures when it comes to preventing gerrymandering of federal electoral districts. Read more here: Supreme Court rejects GOP in North Carolina case that could have reshaped elections beyond the state (AP News).

Meanwhile in New Hampshire a process is underway to rewrite the minimum standards for public education, otherwise known as the 306 rules. This consequential process requires our robust participation as advocates for equitable and high-quality public education. Many thanks to our colleague Sarah Robinson for sounding the alarm last week in the Concord Monitor: Opinion: The fox is in the hen house on 306 rules draft. “The currently proposed harmful changes to the 306 rules would reduce the curriculum to a shell of itself by removing large quantities and subject topics, including eliminating art, music, and PE in our elementary schools. Any reference to equity, race, gender, or other protected classes has also been removed. The language that focuses on tailoring lessons to students’ talents and interests, in order to spur interest and encourage learning? Gone. Also, notably absent is any attempt to define an adequate and robust education, because Commissioner Edelblut knows that means that public education will have to be fully funded if so.” Read the proposed rule here. There is one more listening session planned; it’s in Concord on September 12. Find out more here.

Last Week at the State House

The House and Senate met on June 29, the last day of the 2023 session, to vote on the Committee of Conference reports. Seventeen of the 18 reports were approved by both bodies and are headed to the governor for his signature; the one report which was voted down in the House -  SB 61, relative to surface water setbacks for landfills - is defeated for the year. Read more here.

Bills That Passed and Advance to the Governor:

SB 15-FN, relative to the use of tree stands and observation blinds. The House acceded to the Senate position with an amendment that added dates to allow use of a temporary turkey hunting blind or stand and clarifying the language around the fines. Passed.

SB 78-FN, relative to subdivision regulations on the completion of improvements. A single word was changed from the amendment the House passed on the consent calendar, which was supported by the Municipal and County Government committee by a vote of 19-1. The word “may” was changed to “shall” making the new sentence read “A planning board shall allow road and utility construction to start without a bond.…” Passed.       

SB 147, relative to the board of dental examiners. The Senate concurred with the House position, agreeing that the policy of dental anesthesia for children will be settled in SB 91, retained in the Senate Health and Human Services committee. Passed.   

SB 166-FN, relative to electric grid modernization. The Senate agreed to recede from its position and concur with the House with the addition of an amendment. This amendment made a change to the advisory group member who represents the interests of community power aggregation suppliers, removed an unnecessary statutory reference, set the number of utility run pilot programs under RSA 362-A, and clarified language about avoided transmission charges for such pilot projects. Passed.

SB 207, relative to mental health critical incident intervention and management, and relative to mental health practice. The Senate concurred with the House amendment which revises the definition of critical incident stress management team to include members of a union of emergency response/public safety workers and allows for conditional licensing of clinical mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. The House and Senate also agreed to a new amendment to the bill as amended by the House which would allow the office of professional licensure and certification to issue a conditional license rather than the board of a profession. This makes the language consistent in the RSAs. Passed.

HB 119-FN, relative to homestead food operation licensure and making provisions for the sale of meat from uninspected bison, elk, or red deer. The Senate amended this homestead food license bill and added language regarding the slaughter and sale of uninspected bison, elk, or red deer. The House position desired to add language to the Senate amendment that offers additional protections for food safety. Conferees agreed on a new amendment (2023-2194h), which was added to: 1) make sure that any elk or red deer are propagated, raised, and kept on closed farms with appropriate enclosure infrastructure; 2) make sure that if there are any atypical deaths of animals on a farm, that the dead animal is tested for Chronic Wasting Disease, and that if the test is positive, remaining animals on that farm are not eligible for the on-farm slaughter program; 3) put a two-year sunset on the program in the expectation that the study committee we are doing this fall will result in a more thoroughly worked out program for farming and slaughtering cervids. The House accedes to the Senate position with new amendment. Passed.

HB 211-FN, relative to a report by the department of energy on the effectiveness of the system benefits charge and relative to surface water setbacks for landfills and relative to water quality. The committee of conference agreed that the amendments submitted by the Senate were no longer needed. The Senate agreed to recede from its position and concur with the House passed version of the bill. Passed.

HB 221-FN, relative to the acquisition of agricultural land development rights and relative to advanced deposit account wagering and relative to the use of game cameras. This bill originally went to the Senate with language that clarified the statutes for land acquisition and development rights in conservation making a change to RSA 432:22. The Senate added in amendments to include: 1) property owners rights with regard to define and regulate game camera use on private property for purposes of taking fur bearing animals (SB14 House approved language) and 2) advanced deposit wagering on pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and authorizes the lottery commission to adopt rules governing the license and regulation of such wagers (SB 190). The House did not concur with the Senate amendment added onto the bill having to do with advance deposit wagering, as our position called for the further study of SB 190 on its own and requested that the language be removed from HB 221. The Senate agreed, and the conferees adopted an amendment which strips that language from the bill. With this amendment in place, the House accedes to the Senate position with amendment. Passed.

HB 281-FN, relative to least cost integrated resource plans of utilities; municipal hosts for purposes of limited electrical energy producers; the cost of compliance with disclosure of electric renewable portfolio standards; repealing the energy efficiency and sustainable energy board; and procedures for energy facility siting by the site evaluation committee. House conferees receded from their position of non-concur and agreed to adopt the Senate amendments. All conferees acknowledged that the bill was a good example of a bipartisan compromise. All members agreed that the bill’s provisions ensured that everyone could get behind one of more solid policy proposal to move state energy policy forward. The conferees further pledged to work next year to refine and enhance the policy provisions implemented by this legislation. Passed.

HB 358, relative to the filing and adoption of proposed administrative rules and relative to overpayment of unemployment compensation and relative to policies relating to nursing mothers. The Senate amendment added some clarifying language, mostly about forms, which the conferees endorsed. The Senate amendment further added the text of SB 42, which was deleted by the conference, and language from SB 175. The committee agreed to the new section on nursing mothers with some clarifying language. Passed.

HB 442-FN, relative to the removal of derelict fishing gear. The House requested a Committee of Conference to see if the Senate had overlooked the fact that their schedule was sufficiently pushed into the future that many thousands of sea creatures would starve to death by the time the Fish and Game submitted their rules for approval in 2024. The House brought to the negotiating table two requests: the first one was to allow divers already in the same coastal waters this summer to locate, mark with buoys, and report to Fish and Game the location of all derelict fishing gear contamination the divers encounter. The second was to allow the divers the simple humanitarian response to release any live animals in derelict, lost, or abandoned lobster traps where those animals face certain starvation. The Senate instead countered only that they would require a written report be provided by the Executive Director of the Department of Fish and Game to the chairs of the respective House and Senate committees by September 30, 2023, of what the recommended clean-up process would look like, including the expected scope of the project, the projected cost, and any identified funding sources. The House members had no choice but to accede with the amendment so that something would move forward. The September 30th deadline for the report does allow time for stronger future legislation if the plan of action by the executive director is insufficient. Passed.

HB 75, relative to the election of Strafford county commissioners. The conferees met to discuss the amendment to HB 75 which had its contents removed by the Senate and replaced with a plan to place Strafford County commissioners into districts. There were no changes made during conference and the House conferees agreed to the Senate position Passed.

HB 275-L, relative to schools approved for a school tuition program by a school board. The House conferees agreed to the Senate position, with further amendment. The conference report states that in order to enroll a child in a tuition school approved by the local school board whose tuition cost is above the district’s established tuition cost per pupil as determined and approved by the board, the local board may require the parent to pay the tuition cost difference as long as at least one option is a public school or “public academy” that does not require additional tuition payment from the parent. The conferee report also deletes “anchor school” as this terminology is not found or defined anywhere in state law and is unnecessary as the sending district must make available at least one approved public school or public academy option providing the opportunity for an adequate education as defined in law. Passed.

HB 315, prohibiting provocations based on a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation from being used as a defense in a criminal case. The House and Senate Conferees we able to come to an agreement to the language that is the current bill before the House. This bill is very narrowed to specifically bar the use of the so called “Gay Panic Defense.” The use of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression cannot be used as a mitigating factor, or excuse, for murder. We ensured that the bill accomplished its original intent, without limiting in any way, a person’s ability to make a claim of self-defense. This bill would only bar a claim that a person should be able to argue for manslaughter vs. murder, based solely on the gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation of the victim. With this bill, the State of New Hampshire is sending a powerful message that being who you are is never an excuse for violence against you, and the citizens of the Granite State will not allow it. Passed.

HB 409-FN, relative to the organization of the office of professional licensure and certification and adoption of the interstate social work licensure compact. The House version of HB 409 was covered in HB 594, so this bill was used to attach the various other licensing changes. Temporary licenses, adding members to the board of nursing, and deleting obsolete references to administrative attachments were agreed by all conferees, with some minor technical corrections, except for the nursing education specialist. That position was felt, by the board and conferees, to invite conflicts of interest. The additional language on investigations and discipline had been removed from HB 655, worked on by House ED&A, and included in the Senate amendment. This amendment also includes adoption of the interstate compact on social workers which was removed from HB 409 as it is being addressed in the retained HB 428. Passed.

HB 536, relative to the chartered public school joint legislative oversight committee, and relative to chartered public school use of unused district facilities. The House conferees agreed to the Senate position, with further amendment. As amended, conferees agreed to established timelines for conducting good faith negotiations for the purchase or lease of an unused school district facility. Conferees further supported the engagement of an independent mediator who shall gather independent appraisals of the value of the property to determine a fair market price. Conferees, however, removed language that a fair market price, as determined by the mediator, would be provided for the offering chartered public school “to agree or reject.” The mediator shall simply provide a fair market price for the offering charter public school. Passed.

HB 611-FN, relative to eligibility criteria for the therapeutic cannabis program and establishing a commission to study state-controlled sales of cannabis and relative to the prohibition on the sale of hemp products containing certain levels of THC. All conferees saw great value in the bill as passed by the House. There was much debate over the makeup of a commission and its potential as a committee, with the final decision to change the makeup of the commission and charge it with drafting proposed legislation. Additionally, section 6 which now has a one-year sunset to enable hemp-derived products to find an appropriate balance of labeling and enforcement of these products. The conferees agreed to these changes so that a state-run model for cannabis legalization can be considered and introduced as legislation this biennium to finally make progress on an issue of importance to many of our constituents. Passed.   

Upcoming Events

Saturday, July 1

Healing Justice: Making the Case for Abolition - 10 AM to 12 PM. World Fellowship Center, 368 Drake Hill Road, Albany, NH. Join AFSC-NH staff Grace and Ophelia to explore a vision for and practice of abolition in our everyday lives. We will start by grounding ourselves in an understanding of how incarceration and criminalization have evolved in the US. We will learn how these systems of punishment do not address the root causes of the social problems people and communities experience and instead perpetuate violent cycles that don’t make us safer.

New Hampshire Communities Read Frederick Douglass – 12 PM. Statewide. As part of a growing tradition, the Black Heritage Trail of NH collaborates with community leaders across the state to bring people together to read and reflect on Douglass’ historic protest speech, "What to the Slave Is Your 4th of July?" Join a community near you on July 1 to attend or participate as a reader.

Saturday, July 8

2023 Seacoast Walk – 2:30 PM. Rock Street Park, 66 Rock Street, Portsmouth. Hosted by Seacoast Unit of the League of Women Voters-NH, NH Peace Action, Rights and Democracy, Black Lives Matter Seacoast, Occupy NH Seacoast and AFSC-NH. We will gather at the park to hear inspiring words from a variety of speakers; then we'll march through Portsmouth to Market Square where there will be music and street theater. Confirmed speakers include Sam Borne, Portsmouth High School Class of 2022. Ample parking is available at the 100 Foundry Street parking garage, which is immediately diagonal from Rock Street Park.

Friday, July 21

Beech & Maple Street: Creating a Vision for Safety Community Discussion - 3:30 PM & 6:30 PM. Central High School, Manchester. Hosted by James M. Vayo and Arnold Mikolo. Beech Street and Maple Street are urban highways which cut through Manchester's core neighborhoods. The streets as built pose significant risk to residents due to speeding and degradation of air quality and the environment. These streets can be redesigned to improve safety and quality of life for all users while also providing justice for the residents who are burdened with negative effects of the current highway design of a local street. This is an opportunity for you to have your voice heard. How do you think we can make Beech & Maple Street safer?

Friday, August 25 to Sunday, August 27

SeaChange Conference 2023 - Hosted by Theater for the People, Green Acre, and Kinship. Our community, country, and the world need artists’ contributions to heal and build something new. What would it look like to get working artists, arts administrators, activists, and the creative community to explore these questions? What would you like to see change? How can the arts & the creative process be a way to experience & grow empathy? How can we use the arts to build the community we dream of? Join us for a different kind of conference where we delve deep into our collective wisdom and explore together the answers to these questions through conversation and creating art—solo and together.

Saturday, September 16

10th Annual Indonesian Festival - 9 AM to 2 PM. Somersworth Plaza, Somersworth. Hosted by ICC - Indonesian Community Connect, Inc. This year, we look forward to a community celebration of our 10th Annual Indonesian Festival with various cultural music and traditional dance performances, traditional cuisines, local businesses, Indonesian SMEs (UMKM), and local community and business resources. Not to mention the fashion, arts, crafts, and souvenirs. This festival is a family fun, business networking event, open to all with free admission.

Saturday, September 23

CelebratED - 10 AM. Veteran’s Memorial Park, Manchester. Hosted by Manchester Proud. Join us for this day-long festival of Manchester's public schools that is free and open to everyone in the community.

Sunday, September 24

Concord Multicultural Festival  - 11 AM to 4 PM. Keach Park, Concord. Sponsored by the Concord Multicultural Festival Committee. Join us for this annual event to celebrate the beauty of diversity in the Capital Region, featuring foods, performances, art, activities, and parade of flags, all presented by our local community members.

New England BIPOC Fest - 12 PM. Vida Cantina Parking Lot, Rte. 1, Portsmouth. Hosted by Vida Cantina. As long as black and brown people are marginalized, ignored, regarded as second-class citizens, or blocked from the same rights and privileges enjoyed by white folks, our democracy cannot succeed. By bringing our community together under one sky we hope to initiate and perpetuate conversation about the important threads of equity and social justice that hold us all together. Through celebration and joy, BIPOC fest unites a wide array of community members to enjoy some of the foods, art & music that highlight the rich and diverse histories that make up this seacoast.

Be well,

Maggie Fogarty and Grace Kindeke 

AFSC’s New Hampshire "State House Watch" newsletter is published to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord which relate to racial, social, and economic justice. Bookmark: to read current and past newsletters. 

The AFSC is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who care about peace, social justice, humanitarian service, and nonviolent change. Maggie Fogarty and Grace Kindeke staff the New Hampshire Program which publishes this newsletter. You can support our work by donating to the NH Program online or by sending a check payable to: AFSC-NH, 4 Park Street #304, Concord NH 03301. Thank you!