State House Watch: June 18, 2023

By Maggie Fogarty and Grace Kindeke


Juneteenth flag

“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” — Coretta Scott King

June 18, 2023

Happy Juneteenth, State House Watchers!

We hope this weekend is bringing you opportunities for celebration, renewal, and reflection about the long and ongoing struggle for freedom. Find lots to do here in New Hampshire and read/listen to a little history:

Juneteenth: History of a Holiday (New York Times)
Juneteenth - Senses of Freedom: Exploring the Tastes, Sounds and Experiences of an African American Celebration (National Museum of African American History and Culture)
Juneteenth Observances Promote ‘Absolute Equality’ (SPLC Learning for Justice)
Reconstruction and Juneteenth (Zinn Education Project)
Civics 101: The True Story behind the Reconstruction Era (NH Public Radio)

On Juneteenth, we must honor the unfinished work of abolition, and conspire to build a world without prisons or cages.

We also want to acknowledge World Refugee Day this coming week, on Tuesday, June 20. The day is designated by the United Nations to “honor refugees around the globe…and celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.” The theme this year is “hope away from home.” Here are resources for learning more, taking advocacy actions and engaging faith communities.

The Home Stretch

Last week, the House and Senate met on June 15 to take action on all remaining bills that had passed both chambers but with differences that need to be resolved. The originating chamber could vote to ‘concur’ and accept the amended version, or ‘non-concur’ and defeat the bill, or non-concur and request a committee of conference. There are now 28 committees of conference meeting to resolve differences; their deadline is Thursday, June 22. You can see a list of all Committees of Conference (CoCs) and follow their progress here.

You can read some summaries of last week’s session days here and here. Here are a few updates on bills we’re tracking:

HB 315, which would eliminate the “LGBTQ+ panic defense,” a legal strategy for a defendant who says that their act of violence was prompted by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity, has gone to a CoC.

HB 610, a bill that, in its original form, relates to therapeutic cannabis but was amended by the Senate to include a harmful proposal to increase pretrial incarceration, has gone to a CoC. AFSC signed onto an ACLU letter urging legislators to defeat this bill so as not to undo recent progress related to bail reform: “Bail reform is…a racial justice priority because New Hampshire’s criminal laws are enforced with a staggering racial bias. For example, in 2020 Black people were 3.29 times more likely to be arrested compared with white people. For many low-level discretionary offenses, the disparities were even more troubling, including 4.8 times for marijuana possession (despite both groups using marijuana at roughly the same rate), 5.9 times for disorderly conduct, and 6.52 times for vagrancy. In the midst of a national reckoning around systemic racism and police violence, it is unconscionable that legislators would expand the already disproportionate incarceration of Black people in New Hampshire.”

SB 70, which would authorize the creation of an election information portal and pave the way for online voter registration, has gone to a CoC because a majority of senators didn’t approve of a common-sense amendment made in the House. Read more here and here.

The House voted to non-concur with the Senate version of HB 75 and created a CoC. The House-passed version dealt with competitive bidding, but it was amended in the Senate to turn Strafford County’s three at-large commissioner districts into gerrymandered districts.

A CoC has been created for SB 61, a bill that would require rules for surface water setbacks for landfills. Read more here.

The House concurred with Senate changes to HB 287, which removes fentanyl and xylazine testing paraphernalia in certain instances from the definition of drug paraphernalia in the controlled drug act. The bill heads to the governor.

The House concurred with the Senate version of HB 467 to mandate that materials used in playgrounds be accessible for those with walking disabilities. The bill heads to the governor.

The Senate agreed to changes the House made to SB 58, a bill that permits warrantless arrest of someone trying to interfere with "medically necessary" treatment in a hospital.  The bill heads to the governor.

And the House accepted minor changes to HB 25, the two-year public works budget bill, and sent the bill to the governor for signature.

In other news from last week’s session, the House Ethics Committee made a determination on a request from Rep. Jordan Ulery for an advisory opinion on whether soliciting funds directly from lobbyist groups to go into a scholarship fund to help pay for NH legislators to attend various events offered by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would be allowable. The committee determined that this activity would be unlawful. We applaud the committee’s decision. Learn more about how problematic ALEC is here (older article, gives broad overview) and here (more current, describes efforts to undermine ethical investing).

The State Budget

We’re still waiting for the governor to sign HB 1 and HB 2, the state budget bills which passed the legislature last week. We recommend this commentary from Garry Rayno at InDepthNH, Budget is a Beginning but More Needs to Be Done, which explains that while the recently passed budget makes important investments, there is still a significant divide between the “two New Hampshires.”  

“An example of the state being friendly to the wealthy was the repeal of the interest and dividends tax, the only state tax based on wealth. Repealing the tax does little for the majority of the state’s taxpayers, but adds considerably to the savings of the wealthy when they no longer have to pay it. The break that goes to the top 1 or 2 percent is far greater than any property tax relief to property owners the new budget provides.”

Beyond the Dome

In a victory for tribal sovereignty, the US Supreme Court has rejected constitutional challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brackeen v. Haaland. In response to a tragic history of forced separation and assimilation of Native children by federal and state governments, ICWA was passed by Congress in 1978 " protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture... "(25 U.S. C. 1902). Read more here and here.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has released its “Out of Reach” report for 2023, which outlines what a household’s hourly wage needs to be in order to sustainably afford rental housing. The report confirms what low-income families have known all along, that wages are too low and rents are too high. The “housing wage” for New Hampshire is $29.86. At the NH minimum wage ($7.25/hour), one would have to work 127 hours each week to afford a one-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. Find more NH data here.

Immigration News

Last week was the 11th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It’s an important occasion to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions that young immigrants have made to American life (read more here), and to recommit ourselves to ensuring permanent protections for these DREAMers and all immigrants who wish to live in the United States.

We are relieved to learn that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been extended for people from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Nepal and Venezuela. Unfortunately, however, the action only extends the benefit for current recipients but does not allow more people to apply. Read more here.

We’re happy to see a higher profile being given to the important issue of expanding access to driver licenses for immigrants in New Hampshire: Several NH mayors, police chiefs say it’s time to give undocumented immigrants access to IDs (NHPR).

We are encouraged by this recent report from the Refugee Advocacy Lab: Majority of U.S. Likely Voters Support Access to Asylum at the U.S. Southern Border. “[The data] confirms what I have seen at the border: Americans want to welcome,” said Refugees International’s Director for the Americas and Europe Yael Schacher. “Ensuring people can seek asylum is not only the right thing to do, it’s also popular. Policy makers— and certainly Democrats in Congress—should focus on improving asylum rather than undermining it.” “This poll makes clear that the loudest critics of asylum aren’t actually representative of the country at large—they are well outside the mainstream of U.S. public opinion,” said Refugees International President and former senior U.S. official Jeremy Konyndyk. “It is really disappointing that the current administration, with its new and sweeping asylum restrictions, is listening more to these minority voters than to the mainstream. As this research shows, a more humane asylum approach is both good policy and good politics.”

Coming up in the House and Senate

Committees of Conference (CoC) have been formed and will meet over the next week to try to reach agreement on a final version of bills; they will need to file reports no later than 4 PM on Thursday, June 22.

CoC meetings are open to the public, but without opportunity for input. See here for the full list of CoCs, including information about their meeting schedule and the status of their work. The CoC meetings will be streamed here for House bills and here for Senate bills.

The deadline for the House and the Senate to vote (up or down, no amendments) on the final CoC reports is on Thursday, June 29, the last day of the 2023 session.

Upcoming Events

Find a full list of Juneteenth events all around the state here and here.

Juneteenth Celebration 2023 - Reading the Bones: Celebrating the African Diaspora  – Hosted by the Black Heritage Trail NH. A weeklong Juneteenth celebration to honor these early African settlers and their descendants for their extraordinary contributions to the growth of this region. We honor the African traders who interacted with the Indigenous tribal nations long before European settlers landed on these shores. We honor the Africans who survived the Middle Passage and the successive generations of the African diaspora who continue to contribute to the development, wealth, and well-being of New England. The celebration includes a tour, a panel discussion (featuring AFSC staff members, Grace and Fisto), a Reggae festival, a gospel choir concert, African drumming, and more!

Tuesday, June 20

#NoWayToTreatAChild Global Advocacy for Palestinian Children – 12 PM. Hosted by the #nowaytotreatachild Campaign. Learn how you can get involved with global advocacy efforts standing up for Palestinian children's rights. This webinar will focus on ongoing advocacy efforts in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland to end the military detention of Palestinian children. We will also discuss Defense for Children International - Palestine's new report, "Arbitrary by Default," detailing the violations faced by Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.

Thursday, June 22

We Owe You Nothing: A Conversation on Debt Abolition – 4 PM. Hosted by Prism & The Debt Collective. We’ll be exploring four different kinds of major debt: student loan debt, medical debt, carceral debt, and renters’ debt. Our goal is to shift the narrative around debt and break the false idea that “easy” money management advice and a bootstrap mentality are the only solutions to financial freedom. Hear from Leonardo Vilchis-Zarate on renters’ debt, Manuel Galindo and Gabrielle Perry on carceral debt, and Lindsey Muniak on medical debt and the work of The Debt Collective, the country’s first debtors' union organizing for debt cancellation and abolition.  

Tuesday, June 27

A Rose Shoulders Up: Poetry and Culture in Gaza - 12 PM. Hosted by AFSC. Professor and Middle East expert Ann Lesch will talk with “Light in Gaza” contributor Mosab Abu Toha about his life and work in Gaza. Mosab is a poet, essayist, short story writer, and the founder of the Edward Said Library in Gaza. In August 2022, AFSC and Haymarket Books published Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire. This distinctive anthology imagines what the future of Gaza could be, while reaffirming the critical role of Gaza in Palestinian identity, history, and struggle for liberation. Ann Lesch is a member of the editorial team for Light in Gaza, and Mosab Abu Toha contributed poetry and an essay on cultural struggle in Gaza. Click here for more information about the anthology.

Spotlight On: No PRIDE in Detention - 7 PM. Hosted by Out Boulder County and AFSC & Coloradans For Immigrant Rights. Join us virtually for a deeper dive on LGBTQ Immigrant Detention. We'll examine the reasons people migrate, the dangers that LGBTQ people experience in ICE detention, with a specific call to action for Paul White and his fight for freedom from the GEO Aurora Detention Center.

Thursday, June 29

Reimagining Independence Day - 7 PM. Hosted by AFSC and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. Join us for a panel conversation on the meaning of Independence Day in today's global migration context. Who is Independence Day for? How does nationalism impact migration policy and the individual experiences of migrants? How has the United States lived and not lived into values of liberty and equality in its approach to migration? What is our vision for a U.S. immigration system that truly embodies these values? What is our vision for a decolonized global migration system?

Saturday, July 1

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

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!