State House Watch: June 24, 2023

By Maggie Fogarty and Grace Kindeke


“The function of freedom is to free someone else.” - Toni Morrison

June 24, 2023

Happy summer, State House Watchers!

We celebrate the solstice and the arrival of summer as well as the final days of the 2023 legislative session. The House and Senate will vote on the last bills of the year when they meet on Thursday, June 29. After that, dear readers, we all deserve a vacation. Next week’s issue of State House Watch news will be our last regular issue for the year. In a few weeks, we’ll send you a comprehensive summary of everything we tracked this year.

There will be some State House activity over the summer and fall months, as committees work on retained and rereferred bills in order to make a recommendation for the next session. And in mid-September, we’ll start to see the new (or not so new) bill proposals for 2024.

Last week was a busy one! The governor signed the state budget on Tuesday, as well as 26 other bills. And throughout the week, 28 Committees of Conference (CoCs) met to try to reconcile differences on bills that had passed both chambers. Ten of the CoCs failed to reach agreement, so those bills are defeated for the session. These include SB 70, which would have brought much-needed modernization to our election system (read more here), and HB 610, which had been amended to impose requirements that would increase incarceration in NH (read more here).

Next week, the House and Senate will have up or down votes on the CoC reports for the 18 remaining bills. If a report is defeated in either body, the bill is defeated for the year. If both bodies approve the report, the bills will go to the governor.

We are hopeful that the House and Senate will approve the CoC report for 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. And we hope for the defeat of HB 75, which was amended in the Senate to create gerrymandered districts for Strafford County commissioners, a move described by House Majority Leader Matt Wilhelm as “an abrupt, unnecessary redistricting effort…and a brazen attempt to rig elections in our state.” Read more here.

See below for all of the CoC report summaries.

Recommended Reading

The NH Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) offers the following presentations about the various components of the state budget:

Housing and Child Care in the Legislature’s State Budget (June 15, 2023)
The Legislature’s State Budget: Investments in Health (June 15, 2023)
Labor Force Trends in New Hampshire  (June 15, 2023)
The Legislature’s State Budget Proposal and Supports for Older Adults (June 19, 2023)

Beyond the Dome

We welcome the Golden Rule to Portsmouth! The peace ship, which first set sail in 1958, is a project of Veterans for Peace with a mission of disrupting the proliferation of nuclear weapons through creative, nonviolent direct action. Read more of this important history and purpose here, and in this article by Arnie Alpert: The first boat to protest nuclear weapons is back to inspire a new generation (Waging Nonviolence). The Golden Rule’s visit to Portsmouth, which was co-sponsored by Back from the Brink, NH Peace Action, Seacoast Peace Response, Dover Friends Meeting and others, included three days of events to demonstrate that a world without nuclear weapons is possible. Arnie was there to cover the story for InDepthNH.

Next Week at the State House

The House and Senate will meet on Thursday, June 29, the last day of the 2023 session, to vote (up or down, no amendments) on the 18 Committee of Conference reports.

Committee of Conference Reports

Senate Bills

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.

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…”.      

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.    

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.

SB 61, relative to surface water setbacks for landfills. As amended by the House the bill provides procedures for DES rulemaking on setbacks between new landfills and surface water bodies. The Senate has receded from its nonconcurrence with the House amendment, and the conferees agreed on an amendment that corrects typographical errors and clarifies the language for the one-time extension of the rulemaking deadline in the House version.

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.

House Bills

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

Committee of Conference Reports Not Signed Off

Senate Bills

SB 14-FN, relative to the use of game cameras and relative to penalties for controlled drug violations. The Senate refused to consider the House amendment to this bill.      

SB 47, establishing a commission to study barriers to increased density of residential development in New Hampshire. The House and Senate were unable to reach consensus regarding establishing a commission to study residential development. Much time, energy, committee work and taxpayer dollars have been, and continue to be, allocated to the housing issue. Yet another commission is therefore not needed in the view of the House.

SB 70-FN, relative to the establishment of an election information portal and relative to the purchase of election equipment. An amendment was brought late in the process that stripped much of the House position, and also appeared to cede authority from the legislature to the secretary of state to purchase and implement voting technology systems.

SB 88, relative to the annual dues paid by towns and cities to town officers’ associations. The House and Senate were divided on the interpretation of the amendment proffered by the House. The House believes the RSA specifically mandates that funds appropriated are to be used solely for the education of public officials. The amendment by the House added language to clarify that belief. The Senate disagreed. The House and Senate were unable to reach agreement.

SB 157-FN, relative to election audits. The Senate brought forward an amendment that presented changes that were neither in the House or Senate passed versions. This is a violation of House rules and the Senate refused to make any accommodations and thus the committee of conference was unable to come to an agreement.

House Bills

HB 461-FN, establishing a committee to study elimination by political subdivision employers of a retirement system position. The House and Senate were unable to come to agreement on HB 461. The Senate amendment replaced the House bill with a study committee and the House conferee position was another study committee was not needed.

HB 532-FN, relative to the licensure and regulation of music therapists and other occupations and professions. At the close of the committee of conference, there seemed to be agreement as the result of the discussion. However, the decision was made by some of the House members not to sign the report.      

HB 534-FN-A, relative to water assistance for natural disasters. Conferees met on June 20 to discuss the Senate amendment to put $500,000 in the bill, to lapse on June 30, 2025. The House version contained $2.5 million, and funds were non-lapsing. The committee could not agree on any change and conferees adjourned with no decision.

HB 607-FN, relative to the regulation of games of chance. The Senate position was to completely replace the original bill with a change to the maximum amount collected from players. The strong bipartisan House position included a 5-year moratorium on additional locations offering historical horse racing charitable gaming. The conferees could not agree.

HB 610-FN, expanding the definition of providers who can certify patients of the therapeutic cannabis program and relative to release of a defendant pending trial and relative to product labeling and information guide requirements for cannabis products and the prohibition of the sale of hemp products containing certain levels of THC. The House entered the Committee of Conference opposed to the bail reform language the Senate included, as there is bipartisan agreement in the House to work on the five bail reform bills retained in committee. There are constitutional law issues regarding unfunded mandates and significant concern that a rush to completely address flaws in current law would create new problems. Despite willingness to create and fund a transition to an electronic bail system, the Senate conferees were unwilling to take a small but meaningful win and the conference failed to reach agreement. The original HB 610 was never in dispute and unfortunately was lost due to the amendments on bail reform.

Upcoming Events

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.

Wednesday, June 28

Solidarity with NHPR Programming Staff! – 8:15 AM in Concord. Please join Voices of Faith and community allies for an important worker support visibility on the morning Wednesday, June 28 at 2 Pillsbury Street in Concord. The NH Public Radio content creators (reporters, program hosts, producers, podcasters) unionized in August of 2021. Now, after bargaining with management for almost a year and a half, they still don't have a first contract. Therefore, on the date of the next NHPR Board of Trustees meeting, supporters of the NHPR staff are gathering for a solidarity visibility at their offices, 2 Pillsbury Street, Concord.

Run For Something: Running for Office as a BIPOC Candidate – 6 PM to 7 PM. Hosted by Millennials of Color & Equity Leaders Fellowship. Join us for a panel discussion with current elected leaders who will share their experience running for office as a BIPOC candidate and answer questions from attendees.

Tenant Rights Information Session – 6 PM. Manchester City Library, Winchell Room, Manchester. Hosted by 603 Legal Aid. When you rent housing, there are many laws that affect your relationship as a tenant with your landlord. Marta Hurgin, Legal Director for 603 Legal Aid, will present on the topic of Tenant Rights and go over some of the fundamental laws that all renters should know, followed by a Q&A. Following the presentation, renters who need legal assistance can complete an intake with a 603 Legal Aid staff member. For questions, call Sue Harmon at 603-624-6550 x7620 or email
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.

New Hampshire Communities Read Frederick Douglass – 12 noon, 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 St., 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. 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. (We'll update you as more details become available!). Confirmed speakers include Sam Borne, Portsmouth High School Class of 2022 (Top 10). Ample parking is available at the 100 Foundry St. parking garage, which is immediately diagonal from Rock St. Park.

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!