NH State House Watch

NH State House Watch, the American Friends Service Committee

State House Watch April 17
2015 Issue 14

Big news:  budgets, guns, casinos, and voting rights

Last week the Senate Finance Committee continued to hear agency presentations on the budget, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 11 to 10 to authorize two gambling casinos, and the NH Supreme Court heard oral arguments on voting rights.  Next week we’ll see additional deliberations on the budget, a vote on casino gambling by the full House, more deliberations on voting procedures, and yet another vote on legislation to weaken collective bargaining (i.e. right-to-work-for-less).  Read on, or click on the links, to get the details that follow, including the topics of discussion for meetings of Senate Finance.

The Budget

NH Voices of Faith will conduct vigils during every Finance Committee meeting.  Please contact Maggie or join the Facebook group to sign up for a shift.

But first, please take note that the Senate Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the state budget on Tuesday, May 5, starting at 3 pm, in Representatives Hall at the State House.  This is the one formal opportunity for you, the public, to tell the members what you think about budgets for homeless services, mental health, energy conservation, state employee pay raises, why we should not reduce business taxes or privatize the Sununu Center, and more.

NH Voices of Faith will conduct a prayer service by the State House steps at 1:30 pm on May 5.  Everyone is welcome to participate.

Voting Rights at the Supreme Court

The NH Supreme Court heard arguments on a bill passed in 2012 that attempts to tie voter registration to motor vehicle registration. The legal debate is over whether there can be a relationship between the definition of “domicile” for voting purposes and “residency” for the purpose of automobile registration and driver licensing.  As the Concord Monitor reported,

“Originally brought against the state by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, the case centers on the question of whether such language is overly confusing and potentially unconstitutional. The lawyers challenging the state have argued that this language could amount to a ‘poll tax’ in the form of fees associated with driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registration, and that it would deter otherwise eligible voters from voting.
The Court has not said when it will issue a decision, but the outcome of this case is expected to impact other proposed voter bills in the legislature this session.”

One Casino, Two Casino

When the House Ways and Means Committee met on Tuesday to consider SB 113, State House watchers knew the vote would be 11-10.  The question on everyone’s mind was whether Rep. Paul Henle would side with backers or opponents of the 2-casino bill, which had already cleared the Senate.

Rep. Henle surprised opponents of expanded gambling with an amendment that delays licensing of the second casino until the first one has been licensed and a performance audit completed.  Casino supporters jumped on board with the amendment, Rep. Henle jumped on board with the casino crowd, and the bill came out of committee with an 11-10 OTP/A (ought to pass as amended) recommendation.

Speaker Shawn Jasper, who has opposed expanded gambling in previous sessions, said, “I don’t think we would be realizing any revenue very quickly, so it doesn’t solve any budget problems.”  WMUR’s Adam Sexton reported “It was initially believed that a vote would take place in two weeks, but Jasper said he doesn’t want to expose lawmakers to two weeks’ worth of calls from gambling lobbyists.”

The casino bill will be on the House agenda on Wednesday, April 29.  If it passes, it will go to the Finance Committee for review.  While casinos have been popular with Senators for years, a casino bill has never passed the House.

Governor Hassan still says she supports a single casino, but she doesn’t think the market will support a second casino. The NH Union Leader editorialized  today, “No governor can simply assert what the market is or will be, whether the topic is casinos or cattle.  If one casino is allowed, the market will demand more, and New Hampshire will be forever changed. The only way to prevent that is to prevent that first casino.”  We agree (this time) with the editor. High stakes gambling will change NH forever, and not for the better. (More on SB 113 in the House Regular Calendar section.)

We’ll talk more about gambling and state revenue with Representative Susan Almy on our next “State House Watch” radio show.

Coming Up Next Week in the House

The House will be in session on Wednesday, April 29 starting at 10:00 AM.

On the Consent Calendar

SB 92, establishing a committee to study public access to political campaign information. The bill was amended in committee to make it identical to HB 304, which had already passed the House. The committee will study the merits of an online campaign finance reporting system and a clearinghouse of information for voters. The committee voted 18-0 that the bill pass as amended. This is the bill championed by Open Democracy.

On the Regular Calendar

SB 116, repealing the license requirement for carrying a concealed pistol or revolver.  If this bill passes, any non-felon resident can buy a gun, load it up, and carry it concealed on their person whether they know how to use it or not.  However, one could still apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which would enable concealed gun-toting in states that do require such a permit and enable gun-toters from other states to carry a concealed firearm here.  The bill extends the license renewal period for a permit to carry a concealed revolver or pistol from 4 years to 5 years. State revenue would be reduced due to a drop in permit applications, but no one seems to know how many people currently apply each year for a concealed carry permit. Committee recommends OTP/A 10-6.

SB 113, relative to video lottery and table gaming. This is the two-casino bill described above.  In the minority report, Rep. David Hess wrote,

Yes a casino will bring some revenue to the state (albeit much less than predicted), but at what cost? The charitable gaming rooms will most likely cease to exist. Crime may increase. The social costs and more importantly the impact on our citizens who become problem and pathological gamblers and the negative impacts on our local businesses are too high a price to pay. Finally, the potential for undue influence on the integrity of our political process and government from just one licensee will be enormous. More than $2,000,000,000 in cash will have to pass through a casino each year to generate the revenue projected by gambling interests. That is more than all of the general fund expenditures throughout the state in a year. Put another way, a single casino will be the largest taxpayer to our state – sending more money to the state than the next largest 25 taxpayers combined! Can anyone doubt that the gambling industry will have incredible influence on future legislatures? And there is no turning back if this bill passes. Once casinos are in place, they will be here forever. That will change the culture and the brand of New Hampshire. Forever. And not for the better.

Coming Up Next Week in the Senate

The Senate session scheduled for April 23 was cancelled so that members could attend the funeral for Michael Downing.  He was the Rockingham County Sheriff, and served three terms in the NH House and two in the NH Senate. Our condolences to his family.

The Senate will be in session on Thursday, April 30, starting at 10 AM, and including all the bills that were on last week’s calendar.

On the Consent Calendar

HB 407, establishing a committee to study the classifications of military vehicles and equipment that may be purchased by the state and its political subdivisions. The bill was amended to add a separate committee to study honorary legislation, e.g. the bill to designate the red-tailed hawk as the state raptor or the one to name the LOB lobby after George Roberts. Committee recommends OTP/A on a vote of 5-0.

On the Regular Calendar

HB 411, prohibiting the payment of subminimum wages to persons with disabilities.

HB 151, establishing a committee to study end of life decisions.

HB 658, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union. This version of the so-called “right to work” bill exempts police and firefighter’s unions.

HB 423, designating the bobcat as the New Hampshire state wildcat.

Coming up in Senate Committees

Contact Maggie to sign up for a NH Voices of Faith vigil shift.

Monday, April 27

Finance, Room 103, SH
Agency Presentations on the budget as passed by the House
9:00 AM  Dept. of Resources and Economic Development
10:00 AM Dept. of Environmental Services
11:00 AM  Lottery Commission, Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission
1:00 PM  Dept. of Education
2:00 PM  Veterans Home
2:30 PM  Office of Veterans Services
3:00 PM Public Utilities Commission
3:30 PM   LCHIP

Tuesday, April 28

Finance, Room 103, SH
Agency Presentation on the budget as passed by the House
2:00 PM  Community College System

Ways and Means, Room 103, SH

Revenue Presentations
9:00 AM  Dept. of Revenue Administration
10:00 AM  Lottery Commission
10:30 AM  Insurance Dept.
11:00 AM  Dept. of Safety
11:30 AM  Liquor Commission

Friday, May 1

Finance, Room 103, SH
Agency Presentations on the budget as passed by the House
1:00 PM  Homeland Security
2:00 PM   Long-Term Care Services

Monday, May 4

Finance, Room 103, SH
Agency Presentations continue
9:00 AM  Dept. of Health and Human Services:  Division of Community Based Care Services (including BEAS): Elderly and Adult, Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse, Developmental Services, the New Hampshire Hospital, and the Glencliff Home.
1:00 PM  Dept. of Administrative Services
2:30 PM  Fish and Game

Tuesday, May 5

Finance, Representatives Hall
Public Hearing on HB 1-A,  the budget bill, and HB 2, the budget “trailer” bill.
3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
5:00 to 6:00 PM – break
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
(Two years ago the committee held a similar hearing, also scheduled to end at 8 pm, but the members kept going until 10 pm to enable more people to testify.)

Coming up in House Committees

Tuesday, April 28

Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Room 302, LOB
10:00 AM Executive session includes SB 105, relative to child resistant packaging for tobacco products and establishing a committee to study revising the indoor smoking act. The child resistant packaging would be required for liquid nicotine containers used in products like E-Cigarettes or Advanced Personal Vaporizers or Vape Pens. Given that nicotine is a drug that can cause overdose, the child resistant packaging seems like a good idea. The study committee would consider revising the indoor smoking act to include e-cigarettes and vaping.

1:15 PM subcommittee work session on bills including SB 219, relative to breastfeeding. This bill requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to women who are breastfeeding. It also exempts a nursing mother from jury duty.

Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs, Room 205, LOB
10:00 AM Executive session includes SB 135, relative to lead poisoning in children, and SB 169, the bill that expands restrictions on the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. The bill’s sponsor has admitted that it will be difficult if not impossible to enforce. We view it as another attempt to marginalize and demean low income people.

Transportation, Room 203, LOB
11:00 AM Executive session includes SB 62, relative to driver’s licenses for persons without a permanent address.

Wednesday, April 29

Election Law, Room 308, LOB
1:00 PM or immediately following the House session, executive session on SB 179, the bill that would stipulate that a voter must be a resident of NH for 30 days before registering to vote. That the determining factors include business pursuits, employment, income sources, and motor vehicle registration implies that those who are not employed and do not own property would have a harder time establishing domicile.  We cry foul on this attempt to limit voter participation.

State Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs, Room 303, LOB
10:00 AM  Continued public hearing on SCR 1, recognizing the contribution of Bhutanese refugees to New Hampshire, and requesting the United States government to work diligently on resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis, reaching an agreement to allow the option of repatriation, and promoting human rights and democracy in Bhutan.

Events Coming Up 

Sunday, April 26

Dr. Gershon Baskin, an Israeli peace activist currently affiliated with the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum, will speak on “The Chances for Israeli/Palestinian Peace Post-Israeli Election” at 3S Artspaces in Portsmouth at 5 pm.  The event is sponsored by the World Affairs Council of NH and Kids4Peace.  The event is free but tickets should be reserved via the 3S Artspaces website.

Friday, May 1

Rally for Immigrants and Workers Rights – This year’s rally will be at Market Square in Portsmouth at 5 PM.  You can find more information here.

NHCA Community Conversations on NH Budget – NH Citizens Alliance is holding discussions with Jeff McLynch of the NH Fiscal Policy Institute to help us understand the state budget debate.  Each event will feature a presentation, followed by questions and comments. Light refreshments will be provided. These gatherings will last from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Please be sure to record your selection time and location.  Sign up here.

•    Manchester – Monday April 27 at 5:30 PM – Manchester City Library, 405 Pine Street, Winchell Room.
•    Keene – Tuesday April 28 at 5:30 PM – Keene Public Library, 60 Winter Street.
•    Franklin – Tuesday May 12 at 5:30 PM – Franklin Public Library, 310 Central Street.

Also coming up in May

When Opportunity Stops Knocking  – New Hampshire’s Kids and the American Dream

Join a statewide conversation to share ideas with neighbors, hear the latest research, and inform the presidential primary campaigns about the increasing barriers our state’s children face in achieving their dreams.

NH Listens, a project of the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH, is hosting 12 local conversations around the state. For more information and registration here.

Wednesday May 6 –   Berlin, Laconia, Nashua
Thursday, May 7 –  Manchester, Pittsfield, Plymouth
Tuesday May 12 – Keene, Lancaster, Portsmouth
Wednesday May 13 – Concord, West Lebanon, Rochester

We encourage those concerned about the “opportunity gap” faced by children to consider research by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.  In a paper they wrote last fall, they concluded that “wealth inequality has considerably increased at the top over the last three decades.  By our estimates almost all of the increase is due to the rise of the share of wealth owned by the 0.1% richest families, from 7% in 1978 to 22% in 2012.”  The key factors driving the wealth gap, they said, is a surge in labor income among those at the tippy top and a decline in savings for those in the middle class.  That led the authors to a set of recommendations.  First and perhaps most obvious, they recommended progressive income taxes and estate taxes.

“Yet tax policy is not the only channel,” Saez and Zucman wrote.  “Other policies can directly support middle class incomes—such as access to quality and affordable education, health benefits, cost controls, minimum wage policies, or more generally policies shifting bargaining power away from shareholders and management toward workers.”

To those giving important attention to the “opportunity gap” affecting children, we encourage attention to the inequality gap affecting their parents.  And that has to include policies that shift bargaining power toward workers and away from shareholders/management and the owners of capital.

Next week on “State House Watch/White House Watch” Radio

Our first guest next week will be Representative Susan Almy, a member of the Ways and Means Committee.  For the second half hour, we’ll be talking with Bethany Carson of Grassroots Leadership about her recent report, “Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota.”  You can hear us on Monday from 5 to 6 pm and Tuesday from 8 to 9 am at 94.7 FM in the Concord area and at wnhnfm.org anywhere you can get an internet signal.  You can also download podcasts of past shows, including last week’s with Kate Frey from New Futures and Olivia’s interview with William Hartung.

Governing Under the Influence

There were 19 Republican would-be Presidents in the state last weekend, and Hillary Clinton made her first official campaign stop Monday and Tuesday.  If you met any of them, we’d love to know what you said and what they said so we can post a bird dog report on our GUI web site.  We also organized a 3-day speaking tour with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who has gone from State Department insider to foreign policy critic.  (Arnie will soon have an article recounting Col. Wilkerson’s message.)  Next week Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump return to New Hampshire, and Martin O’Malley follows the week after.  Bookmark our candidate calendar and return often to find out where the candidates will be.

-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty

PS – Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook.  Search for “American Friends Service Committee-NH” to “like” us.  After all, we are your Friends.

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.  Click here for back issues.

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 direct the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM.  Susan Bruce helps with research and writing.  Addy Simwerayi produces the radio show.  We also thank Eric Zulaski for help with proofreading.

“State House Watch” is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.

Your donations make our work possible.  Click the “DONATE NOW” button on our web page to send a secure donation to support the work of the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program.  Thanks!

American Friends Service Committee
4 Park Street
Concord, NH 03301

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