|State House Watch May 29
2015 Issue 20
Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee voted along party lines to a budget proposal that will go before the full Senate next Thursday, June 4. After the budget passes, the House will have to decide whether to just accept it or else appoint a Committee of Conference to resolve differences.
As we reported last week, the Senators were working with a more optimistic revenue forecast than the one employed by House budgeteers in March. That gave them resources to spend more on services that had been cut or axed by the House. But the Senate Finance Committee added a plan to cut business taxes, which would have a devastating impact on the future funding of priorities such as education and health care. It means that costs would continue to be shifted to local communities and property owners.
The Senate budget plan also fails to re-authorize or fund the NH Health Protection Program and fails to fund the negotiated pay raise for state employees. The preference of the Senators for cutting the taxes of profitable businesses over ensuring fair wages for state workers and the health of low income people is alarming.
Governor Hassan issued a strong statement shortly after the committee vote. “I have serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee’s partisan plan will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward while relying on gimmicks that will ultimately leave the budget unbalanced,” she said.
“Senate Republican leadership says that New Hampshire can’t afford to lower tuition at the community colleges, provide a modest cost-of-living increase to employees, fix our roads, fund mental health or even adequately staff our correctional institutions or our juvenile justice system. They even say that in the midst of a heroin epidemic, New Hampshire can’t afford to adequately fund substance misuse prevention and treatment. But instead of funding those priorities, Senate Republican leadership included large tax cuts that will create a hole in this budget and budgets well into the future,” Governor Hassan continued. Read the whole statement here
Writing in today’s Concord Monitor, Jeff McLynch of the NH Fiscal Policy Institute also warns about cutting taxes on profitable businesses. “Of course, while such back-loaded business tax cuts would have immediate and negative ramifications for New Hampshire’s ability to provide the public services central to the state’s high quality of life, they are also wholly at odds with the idea that we must live within our means. Phasing in business tax reductions over time or delaying their initial implementation until some later date simply puts off – for another day and onto future legislatures – the difficult choices and tough trade-offs that would have to be made to accommodate the revenue losses they would produce,” he says. Jeff will be our guest on the “State House Watch” radio show Monday.
After the Senate approves a budget Thursday, the House will decide whether to accept it or appoint a Committee of Conference to resolve differences. Rumors are that some House Republicans think the Senate is being too charitable to human services. Once the two chambers agree, Governor Hassan can decide to veto the budget, sign it, or let it become law without her signature.
Will the Sununu Center be Turned Over to Profiteers?
The Finance Committee budget includes a requirement for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to reduce the cost of providing services at the Sununu Youth Services Center by privatization.
Several years ago, NH decided against privatizing our prisons. States that have privatized their youth offender programs have found little in the way of savings, but a great deal of risk of abuse for juvenile offenders. We object strenuously to the idea of turning over the care of our children to profiteers.
More Giveaways to Business Owners
The CEO of Planet Fitness (a chain of health clubs) told the Senate Finance Committee that he would move his company headquarters to Massachusetts if the state doesn’t change its tax code. Planet Fitness began in Dover and now has some 950 locations nationwide. The company, now structured as a Limited Liability Corporation and controlled by TSG Consumer Partners, described by Reuters as “a buyout firm,” is planning on going public soon (i.e. selling shares on the stock market). That will require it to change its corporate structure, which would generate tax obligations under current state law. The owners are unhappy about this. According to NHPR, CEO Chris Rondeau says he wants to stay but the tax is too big a burden. “It would be cheaper to pay the raise to cover an income tax to move across the border. It’s that great of a tax that it’s hard as a CEO to recommend staying,” he told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
This may be the only time we ever hear a NH CEO praising an income tax.
The Planet Fitness amendment is now attached to HB 550, which was about administration of the tobacco tax. It will be considered by the full Senate on Thursday and then be the subject of additional discussion in the Ways and Means Committee on Friday.
Hurray for Nebraska!
On Wednesday, the Nebraska legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a bill to repeal the death penalty, making Nebraska the 19th state to repeal capital punishment.
State House Watch friend and victim’s rights advocate Representative Renny Cushing has a piece in Time Magazine titled, “Why the Death Penalty Should Die.”
Updates from Last Week
As we’d hoped, HB 315, the bill giving landlords even more power to evict tenants with only 7 days’ notice was voted ITL by the House on a voice vote.
HB 25 The capital budget, which was amended to include $1 million for the Affordable Housing Fund, passed the Senate unanimously.
Next Week in the Senate
The Senate will be in session on Thursday, June 4, starting at 10:00 AM.
HB 225, requiring the defendant to personally appear in the courtroom during a victim impact statement. Committee recommends OTP 5-0.
HB 208, relative to allowance sales under the NH regional greenhouse gas initiative program (RGGI). The bill was amended in committee to change the allocation of proceeds from allowance sales under RGGI. In the amendment, all proceeds would be allocated to commercial, industrial, and residential retail customers. Beginning in 2016, thirty percent of the remainder of those proceeds would go to the low-income core energy efficiency program. The remainder would go to municipal, school district, and local government energy efficiency programs. The committee recommends OTP/A on a vote of 3-2.
HB 614, implementing the goals of the state 10-year energy strategy, modifying uses of the site evaluation committee fund, establishing fees for energy evaluation, and relative to public information sessions on proposed energy siting. Committee recommends OTP on a vote of 6-0.
HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017. This is also known as the state budget. The details of the proposal as it has emerged from Senate Finance can be found here.
HB 2, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures. This is known as the budget “trailer” bill. It determines where the revenue sources for funding the budget actually come from. The Senate amendments to this bill can be found in this supplement. This is where you can find the language ordering privatization of juvenile corrections services.
HB 550, relative to administration of the tobacco tax, was amended by the Finance Committee to reduce the expected tax burden of Planet Fitness. Even before passage in the full Senate, the proposal is already scheduled for further consideration in the Ways and Means Committee next Friday.
Next Week in the House
After a couple weeks off, the House will be in session on June 3, starting at 10:00 AM.
SB 169, relative to permissible uses of EBT cards. Committee recommends OTP/A on a vote of 17-0. This is the Senate EBT bill that included an unenforceable ban on the use of cash obtained through EBT. The House had passed its own bill, HB 219. The Senate amended HB 219 to mirror their SB 169. The House did not concur with the amended bill, and have asked for a Committee of Conference. The House Health and Human Services Committee returned the favor by amending SB 169 to mirror their original version of HB 219. We are sorry this is so confusing, and are pinning our hopes on everyone getting mad and passing neither bill.
SCR 1, a resolution recognizing the contribution of Bhutanese refugees to New Hampshire, and requesting the United States government 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. The committee recommends OTP on a vote of 13-0.
SB 52, establishing a commission to study the issue of residential tenancies in foreclosed properties. The majority felt that there was nothing to study, and that the situation for renters in foreclosed properties was unfortunate, but could not be improved with state intervention. The minority believes that the study is needed to find a way to protect tenants from hasty evictions while taking into account the needs of new building owners in foreclosure situations. The committee voted ITL on a vote of 11-8.
SB 179, relative to eligibility to vote. This is the bill that originally attempted to tie voting to motor vehicle registration and proof of 30-day residency in the state. After the recent decision by the NH Supreme Court ruling that rules on auto registration can’t be mixed with voter registration, motor vehicle registration language was removed. The original bill stipulated that anyone moving from one part of the state to another within a 30 day period would have to vote in their former location. The amended version allows a voter to transfer their registration to their new location. There was an attempt to clarify the language around the terms “domicile” and “residence.” The amended bill also gives the legislature statistical data pertaining to registration forms and affidavits. The majority claims that this bill is necessary because of all of the stories about voter fraud that they heard in testimony.
From the minority report: “Anecdotes abound about “voter fraud,” “drive by voting,” “undeserving voters” and the like. However, the Committee received no verified or credible record that NH elections are tainted in such a way. Those angry about “students voting” must recognize that New Hampshire law expressly allows students enrolled at our New Hampshire colleges to declare our state as their domicile while they attend these New Hampshire ‘institutions of learning’ (RSA 654:1 I-a). SB 179, as amended, may still contain unconstitutional provisions, and puts our well managed, efficient, and wholly credible election system at risk. It is inexpedient to legislate.” If this bill becomes law, we expect it to be challenged in court.
SB 255, establishing a low-wage service worker task force. This bill was amended in committee to change the configuration of the study committee, which originally included one state senator, two state representatives, representatives from DRED, Deptartment of Labor, Department of Employment Security, Department of Health and Human Services, the Business and Industry Association, the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association, organized labor, someone from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and two members of the public. In the amended version, the committee consists of 3 members of the NH House and two state senators. The majority report offered no reason for this change. The minority is disappointed that a once diverse committee is now quite limited. The amendment also removes the original requirement that the committee study the demographics and rate of poverty of low wage workers and the impact of low wage jobs on children, families, and communities. The majority voted OTP/A. The minority voted OTP without the amendment. The vote was 9-8.
Coming up in House Committees
Tuesday, June 2
Ways and Means, Room 202, LOB
10:00 AM Full committee work session on revenue estimates.
1:30 PM Subcommitee work session on HB 386, reducing the rate of the business profits tax.
Coming up in Senate Committees
Tuesday, June 2
Finance, Room 103, SH
9:00 AM Senate Budget briefing on HB 1-A and HB 2 (the budget and the budget trailer bill).
Friday, June 5
10:00 AM HB 550
, Work Session on the Planet Fitness Giveaway, also known as “the sale or exchange of an interest in a business organization under the BPT.”
“State House Watch/White House Watch” Radio
Jeff McLynch from the NH Fiscal Policy Ins titute will walk us through the state budget, especially the proposals to reduce business taxes. We will also have a guest from Global Tradewatch talking about the Trans Pacific Partnership, “fast track” authority, and other corporate-led international economic agreements now being negotiated. You can hear us 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.
Governing Under the Influence
Check out our website to find out who’s coming to NH to campaign for President.
Events Coming Up
Wednesday, June 3
Author and peace activist Frida Berrigan will be speaking about her new book, “It Runs In the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood.” Hosted by Seacoast Peace Response. 7:00 PM at Portsmouth Public Library, 175 Parrot Ave. More on Facebook.
Saturday, June 6
Granite State Organizing Project MICAH Awards Dinner, 6:00 – 9:00 PM, St. Lawrence Community, 1 East Union St., Goffstown, honoring Sister Mary Elizabeth Leonard, Colonel Gail Prince, Jim and Yolande Walsh, John McAlister, Phyllis Appler, and Lawrence and Natalie Welch. More information and tickets here.
Wednesday, June 10
“Building a Sustainable Seacoast Economy with Offshore Wind Power,” with Paul Williamson, Director of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative (MOWII), 6:30-8:30 PM, Portsmouth Public Library, 175 Parrott Ave. This is the annual meeting of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League. (SAPL) A brief meeting will be held before the presentation. More on Facebook.
June 11 to 13
Michael McPhearson speaking tour on “Moving Away from Militarism: Ferguson, Baltimore, Baghdad, and Beyond.” Michael McPhearson is Executive Director of Veterans for Peace and Co-Chair of the St. Louis-based Don’t Shoot Coalition, which formed after the killing of Michael Brown.
Thursday, June 11 – Hanover Public Library, 7 pm, sponsored by AFSC’s Governing under the Influence project with NH Peace Action and Hanover Quaker Meeting. For more information, call 224-2407 or email Eric.
Friday, June 12 – Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, 7 pm, sponsored by AFSC’s Governing under the Influence project with NH Peace Action, the Greater Manchester NAACP, and the UUCM Social Responsibility Committee. For more information, call 224-2407 or email Eric.
Saturday, June 13 – Annual Membership Meeting of NH Peace Action, 10:00 AM, 34 Wadleigh Road, Sanbornton. More information and RSVP here and Facebook.
“The Last Call, The Untold Reasons of the Global Crisis,” a film asking, “Can the golden age of unlimited growth last forever?” and “Are there no actual physical limitations to growth on our planet?” 7:00 PM at the Concord UU Church, 274 Pleasant Street, Concord. Free and open to the public, with discussion afterwards. Contact John Warner for further details.
Friday, June 19
Friday Family Fun Night hosted by New American Africans, starting at 6:30 pm. A fun night of drumming, dancing, ice cream, and friendship. South Congregational Church, 27 Pleasant St. Concord. More info on Facebook.
Saturday, June 27
Progressive Summit, hosted by Granite State Progress and NH Citizens Alliance for Action, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, New England College, Henniker. Details here or on Facebook.
-Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty
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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
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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. Fred Portnoy, WNHN Station Manager, produces the radio show.
“State House Watch” is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.