Notes from Concord, April 2017

By Mary Anne Broshek and David Karrick

Here’s our latest edition of Notes from Concord, what’s been happening in the New Hampshire Legislature. We are also trying to show how the Representatives you elected, Anne Copp and Natalie Wells, voted in Roll Call votes. In March and early April there were more than 50 bills with roll call votes recorded. There were 30 roll call votes on March 8, Natalie Wells voted on all of these bills, Anne Copp was only present for five of these roll call votes. March 9 was another busy and long day, both of your representatives voted at least 20 times.

Some of the significant bills voted on at the March 8 session were: 

HB 640: reducing penalties for marijuana possession, passed by the House, Representative Wells voted in favor; 

HB 348: voter registration with driver’s license application, killed by the House and by Representative Wells; 

HB 622: allowing all voters to vote by absentee ballot, killed by the House and Representative Wells; 

HB 548: increasing retirement age for some State employees, killed by the House, Representative Wells voted in favor of the bill; 

HB 157: adding chronic pain to qualify for therapeutic use of cannabis, passed by the House, Representative Wells and Copp voted for the bill; 

HB 361: removing the authority of the Commissioner of Health and Human Services relative to child immunization requirements, killed by the House, Representative Wells voted to kill the bill, Representative Copp voted in favor of the bill; 

HB 472: permitting some patients to grow Cannabis for their own therapeutic use, bill was killed, Representative Wells voted to kill the bill, Representative Copp voted in favor of the bill.

March 9 was another busy day in the NH House. These were significant bills with roll call votes:

HB 447: in favor of electing the U.S. President by popular vote, bill was killed and both Representative Wells and Copp voted to kill the bill; 

HB 287: to increase compensation for providers of services to people with developmental and other disabilities, bill was killed in a very close vote, both Representative Copp and Wells voted to kill the bill; 

HB 478: prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, bill was tabled and both Reps. voted to table; 

HB 589: would repeal the law that provides a 25 foot safety margin from demonstrators around reproductive health care facilities, both Copp and Wells voted against the committee ITL recommendation, the law stays in force since the ITL recommendation was upheld; 

HB 115: providing a State minimum hourly wage starting at $9.50, the bill was killed by the House, both Copp and Wells voted to kill the bill; 

House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 2, helping students from NH have access to debt free higher education at public colleges and universities, resolution was killed and Reps. Copp and Wells both voted to kill it.

There were a couple of other interesting bills voted on during the March 9 session; 

HB 499: would have raised the minimum age to marry in NH from 13 to 18, the bill was indefinitely postponed and both Representative Copp and Wells voted for postponement. 

HB 541’s sole sponsor, Representative Marple, wanted members of the House and Senate to be paid their $200 salary for the two year legislative session in one ounce silver dollar coins. This bill was tabled. Wells voted to table, Copp was against tabling the bill.

March 23 was a relatively short session. One bill that was passed in that House session was Senate Bill 10 which provided some compensation to Dairy Farmers for losses resulting from the 2016 drought. This bill passed by a wide margin and both Representative Copp and Wells voted for it.

The real excitement came in the very short April 5 and 6 House sessions. On April 5 HB 25, making appropriations for Capital Improvements, passed by voice vote. Following that vote

House Bill 1, Governor Sununu's Operating Budget, Making Appropriations for State Expenses for the two years ending June 30, 2019, was brought up for consideration. There were three amendments proposed. The first two were from conservative republicans and were both defeated by wide margins. Representative Copp and Wells voted against the first one, which made some cuts in employment and other areas; the second amendment, which they both voted for, would have made more drastic cuts in the budget. The third amendment, brought forward by Democrats made some less drastic changes. Representative Copp and Wells voted against this one which only failed to pass by 34 votes. At that time it became clear that the Budget didn’t have enough votes to pass, so Representative Kurk proposed that it be tabled and it was tabled by voice vote. The House session was then adjourned.

On April 6, House Bill 2, Making Appropriations for State Expenses for the two fiscal years ending June 30, 2019, was brought forward. After one amendment was defeated by eight votes, it became evident that this budget bill wouldn’t pass either so it also was tabled. The April 6 session was then also adjourned.

This is the first time in close to 50 years that the New Hampshire House hasn’t approved a budget. House Bills 1 and 2 now go to the Senate, and the Senate hopefully will be able to pass a budget.

There could also be an attempt by the House to try again by amending two bills, which have been referred to the House Finance Committee, House Bills 144 and 517, which bear almost no relation to the Budget bills. Otherwise the Governor’s Budget will come back to the House from the Senate for discussion and hopefully approval, probably toward the end of June 2017. Stay Tuned!