Legislative Update from January 5 & 6, 2022 House Session 

 

Motion to amend House Rule 67: permitting remote participation by House members

This is the House Democrats FOURTH attempt to change this rule and allow for remote participation. We have the technology, have already used it successfully and have a not insignificant number of Representatives who will not take any COVID-19 virus mitigation strategies seriously, thus endangering their colleagues and the public. 

In December of 2020, the NH Supreme Court ruled that virtual meetings of the

legislature are permissible under the NH Constitution.

Effort FAILED in a Roll Call vote: 186-169

 

Children & Families:

HB 60 raising the minimum age of marriage. 

GOP recommendation was INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE. 

The US State Department classifies child marriage is a human rights violation.

Forced child marriage has declined in NH but has not been eradicated. 

This age of marriage of 16 is only for heterosexual couples not same sex couples who must be 18. The majority of NH forced child marriages are young girls with much older men. 

This effort to ban child marriage FAILED in a 192-165 division vote 

Commerce and Consumer Affairs

HB 65, requiring food service establishments to establish food allergy awareness procedures. “Rachel’s Law”  

This consumer protection bill makes two small requirements of restaurants: training of restaurant employees and placing a notice on menus stating that it is the obligation of the customer to inform the server about their food allergy.

Supported by the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association this bill would have put the responsibility of food allergy safety on both sides — the restaurant

and the customer.

Republicans sent it back for yet another study committee in a 194-164 vote.


 

HB 166 – relative to safety requirements for pools on foreclosed residential property.

Banks that are foreclosing on a residential property with a pool would be required to cover the pool to prevent accidental drownings. 

GOP recommended this bill be killed and the House agreed in a 186-160 roll call vote. Rep. Abrami voted against his own bill, I voted in favor of it.

 

HB 191, relative to prior authorizations and patient transfers under managed care group health insurance policies. 

This bill would have extended the period that medical prior authorizations are valid from 3 to 6 months. The NH Hospital Association asked for this change to reduce the level of frustration, amount of wasted time patients have to spend getting this authorization renewed. Group healthcare providers have increased the use of prior authorizations and it has resulted in long delays in inpatient care. This bill would have also facilitated the transfer of a patient to one business day.

HB 191 was killed in a 190-162 Division vote. I voted to save this bill

 

HB 473, establishing a renter’s insurance notification requirement. 

This would have required landlords to add a notice to a standard rental agreement to let renters know that the landlord does not have insurance on the renter’s belongings and the renter may want to consider rental insurance. This was an education effort only. 

This bill was killed in a 190-166 Division vote. I voted to save it. 


 

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

HB 238, 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 manslaughter cases. 

This bill will prohibit defendants from using the so-called “LGBTQ+ panic

defense.” This legal strategy asks a judge or jury to find that the actual or perceived

gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation of a victim — and that alone — was

to blame for their killing. Typically, defendants admit guilt but introduce a “panic”

defense to justify or mitigate their violent actions against an LGBTQ+ person.

The goal of this defense is to secure a lesser conviction, such as manslaughter, or a

lesser sentence. It has been used effectively dozens of times in the United States.

A person’s gender, gender iidentity or sexual orientation should not be allowed to justify, explain or mitigate their homicide.

PASSED in a 223-118 roll call vote 

I voted in favor of this legislation.

 

HB 620-FN-LOCAL, requiring law enforcement agencies to gather and analyze certain demographic information. 

As a recommendation from the LEACT (NH Commission on Law Enforcement, Accountability, Community, and Transparency) this bill would have required police departments and law enforcement agencies to gather and analyze certain demographic information ( including gender and race)  and make it available to the public, at least annually. This data shall be provided for arrests,citations, motor vehicle and subject stops and searches including, frisks, container

searches, and searches of cars and residences, regardless of the disposition of the

case.The rationale for stops and searches would have been required to be provided by the participating law enforcement personnel. Having demographic data would have  helped in determining if there are any problems with racial profiling in NH, and if so offer hard data to inform future legislation or internal policy changes. 

This bill was killed on a voice vote, I vote for it.


 

HB 629-FN, relative to the home cultivation of cannabis plants and the possession of certain cannabis-infused products.

This bill will allow adults, 21 years and older, to possess and/or cultivate up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis, five grams of hashish, 300 milligrams of edible cannabis products, and up to six cannabis plants for home cultivation for personal use. Cannabis could be traded or given away to legal adults under this bill, but it could not be sold. This bill imposes no taxes of any kind.

After some partisan wrangling, we passed this bill in a 241-113 division vote. I voted yes. 

 

Education

Fortunately, we were able to table a lot of really bad education legislation: 

HB 225: relative to limited liability for institutions of higher education and businesses.

This bill had  a last-minute, non-germane amendment from the anti-vaccine and virus deniers (mostly Free Staters) of the extreme right and endorsed by GOP leadership which stops any NH organization, business, hospital,healthcare clinic, church, club or societies from demanding COVID vaccines. Tabled in a division vote of 213-142, I voted to table.

HB 607-FN, establishing local education savings accounts for students. 

The Education Committee was wrapping up a 5 hour hearing day for other bills when at the end of the day an 11 page surprise amendment, was introduced to circumvent having to have a noticed public hearing. The amendment was a substantial change to the original bill and the Chair forced a vote on a major educational policy change.The change would have allowed local school districts to enact local educational freedom accounts (EFA) funded totally by the locally collected property tax. Any student currently enrolled in a public school, charter school, homeschooling would be eligible with no family income qualifier cap and estimates on costs per student were anywhere from $4,800 to $11,400. 

Tabled in a 187-170 division vote, I voted to table. 


 

Election Law

HB 87, relative to the definition of electioneering. 

This bill will allow anyone except election oficials to wear clothing or

paraphernalia inside the polling place advocating for and against candidates,

political parties, or ballot measures.It emboldens campaign activists to congregate inside the polling place and attempt to influence voters, and weakens the intent of

existing law which protects the “safety, welfare, and rights of voters” in a polling

place.

This passed in a 186-164 Division vote, I voted against it. 

 

HB 514, relative to ballot column rotation. 

Current law requires party columns to be rotated on ballots to minimize the advantage one party has over another based on the party’s position on the ballot (aka: “the primary effect”)

This bill doubles the allowable range of deviation on column rotation,increasing the likelihood that the primacy effect will influence the outcome of elections.

This PASSED on a 186-165 roll call vote, I vote against this. 

 

Executive Departments and Administration

HB 84, declaring May 21 as Ona “Oney” Judge Day and naming the new terminal at Portsmouth international airport at Pease in her honor.

This bill honors Ona “Oney” Judge Staines, an enslaved woman who escaped

from George Washington’s family. She eventually made her way to Portsmouth,

New Hampshire, where she married and lived the twilight of her life in freedom.

This PASSED on a voice vote, I voted in favor.

 

HB 204, proclaiming January 24 as “Granny D” day. 

This bill would proclaim January 24 as “Granny D” (Doris Haddock) Day honoring her indefatigable work in raising awareness and promoting legislation to remove the influence of big money in politics.

This FAILED in a 229-118 division vote, I voted to pass this. 

 

Health and Human Services

HB 103-FN, establishing a dental benefit under the state Medicaid program.

The amendment provides for a (limited) dental benefit to start in April of 2023;

this will mean that negotiations for the program’s continuance will be a part of the

Department’s budget for the next biennium, rather than being an add-on.

The bill as amended provides for routine preventive care and treatment, but

requires a co-pay to the extent allowed by CMS for some patients, and limits the

denture benefit to certain groups.

This PASSED in a 225-127 roll call vote, I voted in favor.

 

Judiciary

HB 622-FN, protecting nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. 

This was a retained bill from last year that Democratic members negotiated an amendment with Free Staters to at least remove the ultrasound requirement. The amendment completely replaces the bill and removes one section of the fetal protection act requiring ultrasound examination. This small step is part of a larger effort to remove the entire section of HB 2 (that established an abortion ban with criminal penalties for physicians and no exceptions for the life and health of the preganant person).

On the floor of the House, 3 minutes before this bill was to be debated, Speaker Packard informed the sponsor of the amendment, Rep Marjorie Smith of Durham that he had ruled the amendment non-germaine (despite having had the amendment for nearly one month). The anti-choice activists forced this issue and the kerfuffle on the floor.

The House then voted to table this bill. 

 

Labor

HB 517-FN, relative to the state minimum hourly rate of $15 per hour. 

This was tabled by the GOP majority in a 191-158 vote, I voted against tabling. 

 

HB 589, requiring workers' compensation to cover prophylactic treatment for critical exposure.

This bill provides Workers Compensation coverage for first

responders if they are exposed to saliva and need prophylactic testing.  It no longer requires an indication that the saliva contained blood.

This PASSED on a 211-133 division vote.


 

Science and Technology 

HB 558, establishing a committee to study the use of information technology in the legislative process.

This bill would have provided an official framework to study any rule or statutory

changes needed as technology is implemented into the legislative process.

The Speaker of the House is adamantly against using technology in conducting legislative business and this was killed in a 183-162 division vote, I voted against killing this effort. 

 

HB 153, establishing a committee to study universal Internet access for New Hampshire.

This would have created a study committee for Universal Internet access in NH. While everyone agrees internet access is important, as highlighted during the pandemic, there are no specific action plans for educational, municipal or economic use.

This was unfortunately tabled in a 194-151 vote, I voted against tabling. 

 

HB 167-FN, relative to net energy metering limits for customer generators and the purchase of output of limited electrical energy producers.  

This bill would have allowed businesses and organizations to do what municipalities already can do, get compensated for net-metering of renewable energy up to 5 megawatts of capacity versus the current 1 megawatt.

The GOP opposes this effort and tabled it in a 185-153 division vote, I voted against the tabling. 

 

HB 172, establishing greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for the state and establishing a climate action plan. 

This would have allowed for us to begin planning for the impacts of climate change so that NH can make use of economic opportunities involved with reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and mitigate negative impacts. NH needs a climate action plan, which most neighboring states already have. The GOP tabled this in a 180-159 division vote, I voted against tabling. 

 

HB 376, establishing a committee to study applications of microgrids in electricity supply.

After the passage of HB 315, which enables Community Power to move forward in

our municipal entities, this study committee to identify new opportunities for the use

of microgrids would have explored network energy production and energy

demand for municipalities individually or as collectives. 

Sadly, this was tabled in a 184-152 division vote, I voted against tabling.

 

Ways and Means 

HB 614-FN, exempting the state and political subdivisions from payment of the costs of compliance with the renewable portfolio standard.

This bill weakens our renewable energy targets set by the Renewable Portfolio

Standard (RPS). It is crucial for the state and other municipal entities to help fund RPS.

The RPS returns significant long-term financial benefits to the State of NH, municipalities and all residents by way of energy efficiency programs.

This bill was originally heard in the Science Technology and Energy Committee and had passed the House 198-150. The Ways and Means is the second committee and they weakened it. This weaker version passed on a 177-158 division vote, I voted against this watered-down version. 

Education: SB 193

School Vouchers 

This bill would have provided taxpayer funded vouchers to parents who choose to enroll their children in private or religious schools or opted to home school their children.  

Schools & home school families receiving taxpayer funded vouchers would not be bound by the same rules applied to public schools with regard to accepting students into their schools, providing special education needs nor would they have any academic oversight by the NH Dept of Education.  This bill provides a scholarship for each eligible student equal to the base cost of an adequate education (about $3,600) plus differentiated aid ($1,800) if the child is entitled to such aid.  There is no requirement nor expectation that the services covered by differentiated aid will be delivered outside of the public schools. To compensate a school district for the loss of adequacy funds when a pupil participates in the education savings account program, the state will continue to provide adequacy aid for the first year plus a $1,500 per child stipend for the second year to help meet the school’s fixed costs. However, those fixed costs are far higher than these amounts and last far longer than two years, imposing a significant financial burden that increases over time. Ultimately, this burden will be borne by local property taxpayers. The taxpayer funded "education freedom savings accounts" will be managed by a private, non-governmental entity that will receive up to 5% of the total funds transferred from school districts. The cost of these vouchers would downshift over $99 million to local school districts during the program’s 11 year-ramp up period, most likely resulting in an increase in local property taxes. It is estimated that about 500 children will participate in the program’s first year, increasing to about 2,000 per year in the ninth year and beyond. While the average downshift is about $9 million per year, it begins at about $2 million per year for the first year, reaches $10 million in the sixth year and nearly $12 million in the tenth year and beyond.

This bill was “referred for interim study” which is a polite way to kill a piece of legislation. The roll call vote was 170-159

Altschiller: YES to send to study

Lovejoy: YES to send to study

Abrami: NO to send to study

Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program

HB 628 

This bill (20 years in the making) passed the House on February 8th and then was sent to a second hearing before the House Finance Committee. Currently, Family Medical Leave is an UNPAID leave of absence from employment to tend to emergencies at home. The NH Family Medical Leave Insurance program would have required employees to contribute 0.67% of their wages to the NH run program and after a qualifying time frame be able to collect 60% of their wages (with a minimum benefit of $125 p/week) for six weeks. Qualifying events to access this insurance benefit would include birth, adoption or fostering of a child; serious illness of a spouse, child, parent, grandparent or in-law and also treatment for addiction recovery. The program is an automatic enroll for all. If anyone does not want to participate they can opt out.

This passed in a 186-164 roll call vote.

Altschiller: YES

Lovejoy: YES

Abrami: NO

While the bill was in the House Finance Committee an opponent Family & Medical Leave Insurance idea (Rep. Lynn Ober of Hudson) crafted an amendment to HB 628 that gutted what the House passed (two times aready) to create a poison pill and ultimately crush this legislation. Rep Lovejoy, a member of the House Finance Committee, spoke from the Well in favor of defeating the Ober amendment and returning the bill back to its original form.

The Ober Amendment FAILED in a 175-176 roll call vote.

Altschiller: AGAINST AMENDMENT

Lovejoy: AGAINST AMENDMENT

Abrami: FOR AMENDMENT

After more lengthy debate on the floor of the House, the Family Medical Leave Insurance program PASSED (again) in a 171-162 roll call vote and now moves onto the Senate.

Altschiller: YES

Lovejoy: YES

Abrami: NO

Renewable Energy 

HB 1554

Establishing a committee to identify the requirements needed to commit NH to a goal of 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2040. This was an attempt to set up a road map for us to have more energy independence & a greener more sustainable energy future. The NH 10 Year Energy Strategy provides little details and this committee would have been able to offer researched options in energy efficiencies, micro-grid development & use, battery storage, wind & solar energy production. This attempt at forming a study committee FAILED in a 175-150 roll call vote.

Altschiller: YES

Lovejoy: YES

Abrami: NO

Workers Rights

HB 1393

The most common complaint made to the NH Dept of Labor is when an employee is denied their earned vacation time benefit. This bill was an effort to end this type of wage theft by providing statutory language to codify employees rights to earned benefits.

This FAILED in a 169-161 roll call vote.

Altschiller: YES

Lovejoy: YES

Abrami: NO

Job Creation

HB 1716

This bill was an effort to include union craft-apprenticeship programs to the many other programs supported by the state. It FAILED in a 172-162 roll call vote.

Altschiller: YES

Lovejoy: YES

Abrami: NO

HB 1541

Currently funding for maintenance for roads & bridges comes mostly from the gas (& diesel) tax. This bill would create a special fee by singling out NH owners of electric & hybrid vehicles. They would begin to pay this fee each time they renewed their car registration (the first year would be waived). The majority of the House felt that this set up a disincentive to the purchase of these vehicles and worked against what should be a goal of reducing the use of petroleum products & reducing emissions of pollutants. Recognizing we all need to share in the costs of maintaining our roads & bridges but not by penalizing hybrid & electric vehicle owners.

This bill FAILED in roll call vote of 178-158.

Altschiller: NO

Lovejoy: NO

Abrami: YES