Sometimes a Bill’s Title Does Not Reflect What the Bill Actually Would Do

During the the March 14th House Session, Representatives approved HB 198, “repealing the prohibition on texting while driving” by a vote of 252 – 73.  Why would so many Legislators approve such a bill?  What the bill actually did was repeal one provision in state law, which only referred to texting (RSA 265:105-a) and reinforced a newer, more comprehensive section of state law (RSA 265-79-c), commonly known as the hands-free law.  And it increased penalties: for a first or second offense, the penalty would be $250 – $1000 (not $100), then not less than $500 for any subsequent offense.  Further, the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles would be able to suspend a driver’s license for 10 days for a second offense and for not less than 10 days for any subsequent offense.  So while the bill’s title suggests that the prohibition against texting while driving was being repealed, the bill was actually strengthening enforcement and penalties for the hands-free law.  The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration and if it passes, it will go to the Governor for his signature or veto.

Remember to Vote in the Special City Election on Tuesday, March 5th

Update:  Congratulations to Benjamin Clemons who swept all nine wards in the City’s Special Election to fill a vacancy for Alderman-at-Large on the Board of Aldermen.

The City of Nashua is holding a special election on Tuesday, March 5th, to fill a vacancy on the Board of Aldermen that resulted from the untimely passing of Aldermanic President Brian McCarthy late last year.  The winner of the Special Election will complete the unfinished four-year term (2016 – 2019).

Two former Aldermen are campaigning for the Alderman-at-Large position: Fred S. Teeboom, 24 Cheyenne Drive, and Benjamin M. Clemons, 188 Ash Street. Teeboom was originally elected as an Alderman-at-Large in 1993, served a four-year term, and was again elected in 2005 for another four years.  Clemons served on the Board from 2008-2012 as an Alderman-at-Large, and again from 2016-2017 as a Ward 6 alderman.

Turnout during Special Elections tends to be lower than the turnout for a regularly-scheduled Municipal Election.  Every vote is important.  Please be sure to take some time to get to the polls on Tuesday.

Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 5.  Polling locations for each Nashua ward are as follows:

• Ward 1: Broad Street Elementary School, 390 Broad St.

Ward 2: Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, 48 Charlotte Ave.

• Ward 3: Amherst Street Elementary School, 71 Amherst St.

• Ward 4: Ledge Street Elementary School, 139 Ledge St.

• Ward 5: Main Dunstable Elementary School, 20 Whitford Road.

• Ward 6: Fairgrounds Middle School, 27 Cleveland St.

• Ward 7: Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School, 50 Arlington St.

• Ward 8: Bicentennial Elementary School, 296 E. Dunstable Road.

• Ward 9: New Searles Elementary School, 39 Shady Lane.

Here is What’s on the House Calendar for March 7th

Later this week, the House has scheduled for consideration, 30 bills on the Consent Calendar and another 58 bills on the Regular Calendar.  Bills that appear on the Consent Calendar generally have a unanimous or near-unanimous recommendation from the committee that heard the bill.  Any Representative may request that a bill be removed from Consent so that it may be debated before the full House.  Committee recommendations for bills that remain on the Consent Calendar are then acted upon, as a group, by a voice vote of the House membership.

Bills that appear on the Regular Calendar which are sure to generate considerable debate include: repeal of the death penalty (HB 455, recommended Ought to Pass); a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would allow any inhabitant who so desires to vote by absentee ballot (CACR 6, recommended Ought to Pass); two bills that seek to repeal amendments to election laws that were approved last session and that are currently being challenged in court, pertaining to definitions of domicile, resident, and inhabitant (HB 105 and HB 106, recommended Ought to Pass); a bill that would prohibit vaping by persons under 18 years old and on public school campuses (HB 511, recommended Ought to Pass as Amended); a proposal to prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union (HB 622, recommended Inexpedient to Legislate); and a Resolution that would rescind all requests by the NH legislature for a federal constitutional convention (HCR 1, recommended Ought to Pass).

It is unlikely that the House will complete action on all of the 88 bills that appear in this week’s Calendar.  Legislation on which no action is taken will be carried forward to the next session of the House which is currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 20th.

Key Education Bills Receive Initial House Approval

The NH House of Representatives, today, approved HB 564, relative to possession of firearms in safe school zones, would incorporate the Federal Gun Free Schools Act into New Hampshire law.  The final roll call vote to pass the bill with an amendment was 194 – 154 in favor of the legislation.  This is position that I supported during my campaign for State Representative, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to cast my vote in favor of this legislation.

HB 551, establishing an independent school funding commission, was approved 207 – 148.  Supporters of the bill argued that the legislature has not adequately addressed the directives of the original Claremont court ruling on how to fund public schools and that an independent commission could provide a more comprehensive review.  HB 184, to include full-day kindergarten students in the adequacy formula, passed on a roll call vote, 203 – 148.  Funds currently provided to support kindergarten are conditional on Keno revenues, and those revenues are falling behind initial projections and have been insufficient to fund full-day kindergarten.  HB 177, which would stop the continued reduction of stabilization grants was approved on a 268 – 90 roll call vote.  In 2017, a change to state law would wipe out the stabilization grants over 25 years by reducing payments to school districts by 4% each year.  Many school districts across the state rely on the stabilization grant to make up for some of the inadequacies in the education funding model.

There were a number of very important bills approved by the House today.  Tomorrow is the last day to act on bills that need to be referred to a second house committee.  Over the next few days, I will provide highlights of other bills that were — or will be — acted upon by the House this week.

House Election Law Committee Backs Independent Redistricting Commission

The House Election Law committee has voted 20 – 0 to recommend passage of HB 706, which creates a 15-member, independent redistricting commission.  The Chair of the Committee appointed a subcommittee to review the proposed legislation and to recommend amendments, if the subcommittee deemed them appropriate.  The subcommittee was chaired by Committee Vice Chairman Wayne Moynihan (D).  Additional members included Representatives Paul R. Bergeron (D), Gerald Ward (D),  Timothy Lang (R), and Kathleen Hoelzel (R).  The subcommittee recommended a number of minor amendments to the bill which included allowing for more open-ended participation on the redistricting commission by municipal officials, reducing the initial pool of applicants scheduled for interviews from 60 to 45 candidates, and strengthening the criteria that should be considered during the redistricting process.  No one who has, during the preceding four years, been a candidate for, or elected to, federal, state, or county elective office would be eligible to serve on the commission, nor would anyone who has worked for a major political party during that time, been a registered lobbyist, or has made significant contributions to any one federal candidate be allowed to participate.  Members of the commission will include five Republicans, five Democrats, and five members who are of neither party.  HB 706 — with unanimous, bipartisan committee support — will now go to the full House for consideration.  The bill will appear on the February 27th House Calendar. (Update: HB 706 was subsequently approved by the House on a roll call vote, 218 – 123.)

Governor’s Budget Address and House Calendar: February 14

The House will meet in Joint Session on Thursday, February 14, 2019, at 10:00 am to hear Governor Sununu’s budget address.  Following the budget address, the House will meet in regular session. 77 proposed bills appear on the Consent Calendar; 36 proposed bills appear on the regular calendar.  Bills on the Consent Calendar generally have a unanimous recommendation as Ought to Pass or found to be Inexpedient to Legislate, though a small number of those bills may have one or two dissenters.  Any House member may request that a bill be pulled from the Consent Calendar and debated during the Session.  Committee recommendations for bills that are not pulled from the Calendar will be approved en masse with a single vote.

Bills that may be of particular interest to Nashua Ward 2 residents include the following:

HB176-FN-A, relative to grants for school building aid and making an appropriation therefor.  This bill amends the current maximum expenditures for school building aid grants from a maximum of $50 m  million per year to a minimum expenditure of no less than $50 million per year. Committee recommendation: Ought to Pass.

HB222, relative to criteria for teachers in charter schools.  Present law requires 50% of chartered public school teachers be certified or have at least three years teaching experience.  This bill increases this to 75%.  Committee recommendation: Inexpedient to Legislate.

HB 497-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to payment by the state of a portion of retirement system contributions of political subdivision employers.  This bill upholds the promise made by the state to pay a portion of the employer’s contribution to the NH Retirement System (NHRS).  The state’s payment to NHRS was reduced from 35% in 2008 to 0% as of 2012.  This bill would require the state to pay 15% of the cost to the NHRS, thus reducing the cost for local communities.  Committee recommendation: Ought to Pass.

HB 185-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to contingently reducing the rate of the interest and dividends tax and repealing the tax in 5 years.  The Committee report stated that it could not determine the total cost of the bill as applicability dates in the bill were not specified.  Committee recommendation: Inexpedient to Legislate.

 

House Rules Changed to Prohibit Guns in Representatives Hall

The NH House of Representatives voted 220-163, on Wednesday to restore a prohibition on deadly weapons in Representatives Hall and the House visitor’s gallery, which previously existed from 1971-2011 and 2013-2015.

The roll call vote to amend House Rule 44(a) followed a motion to tab le the amendment, which failed 164 – 221, and one and a half hours of debate. Following passage of the rule change, House members who were not on the prevailing side proposed four separate amendments to the adopted rule, all of which failed.

House Majority Leader Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey) released the following statement on the rule change to ban guns from the House chambers, gallery, and anteroom:

“The amendment adopted today simply restores the House Rule that was in place for decades under the leadership of both parties, which upholds public safety by forbidding deadly weapons in the House chamber.  State House security personnel are armed and trained to ensure the safety of our legislature and the public. No one needs to bring their gun on the House floor any more than they need it in a courtroom or on an airplane.”

“Since Republicans first changed House Rules to allow guns in 2011, there have been numerous instances of lawmakers mishandling their weapon on State House grounds.  Guns have been dropped in packed committee rooms on multiple occasions.  Given the number of people who frequent the State House on a daily basis, including the thousands of fourth grade students who come each year to learn about state government, policies that allow these incidents to occur are clearly unacceptable.”

“This is simply a matter of public safety.  Allowing lawmakers and members of the public to bring their guns to the State House clearly increases the potential for an avertible tragic event. The amendment passed today restores common sense to our practices in the legislature.”

Endorsements

Heading into the NH State General Election on Tuesday, November 6th, I am pleased to acknowledge the following endorsements of my candidacy from these organizations:

  • The NH Sierra Club
  • Nashua Teachers Union – Committee of Political Education
  • National Education Association – New Hampshire
  • American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire
  • NH AFL-CIO

During the course of this campaign, I received (at least) 27 requests to complete surveys from a variety of local, state and national organizations.  Some were quite brief and easy to respond to: the NH Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization (NHMRO), for example, provided a three-question survey with a postage pre-paid reply post card.  (I still have a valid motorcycle operator’s license, and this was an easy survey to respond to.)  The most lengthy survey was sent to me by the National Rifle Association – Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF).  It consisted of four pages, 27 questions, using 7 or 8 point font, and requesting a response in just 13 days.

Some questions in some of these surveys were obviously “loaded.”   (The NH Firearms Coalition survey, for example, led with the following: “Will you pledge that you will only endorse and support candidates who unconditionally support Second Amendment Civil Rights in general and primary elections?”  (Sorry, but the Legislature will consider hundreds of issues during the coming session.  I will never be a one-issue candidate nor would I ever support a one-issue candidate for public office.)  Others just weren’t well-thought out: the NRA-PVF survey, for example, asked: “Have you ever run for…an elected office?”  (That survey was addressed: “Dear New Hampshire Candidate.”)

Some results of the surveys were shared with members-only (such as the NHMRO survey).  Others were never intended to lead toward an endorsement and were simply shared with the general public (such as those conducted by The Telegraph and the League of Women Voters).

I very much appreciate that so many organizations reached out to me during my campaign for NH State Representative (Hills. 29, Nashua Ward 2).  I welcome the endorsements I did receive as these come from organizations whose values I support.

And I thank those organizations that collected information from candidates for this race and others and shared that information with the public, for as Thomas Jefferson said: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty” (1829).

Telegraph Publishes Candidate Surveys

The Telegraph published responses to a survey sent to all local candidates in today’s edition (November 3, 2018).  The responses were published as they were submitted.  Candidates not included in the special supplement did not respond to the survey.  Among the five candidates running for three seats in this district, Paul R. Bergeron, Ray Newman, and incumbent Rep. Sue Newman responded.  Michael McCarthy and Michael A. Balboni did not.  Following are my responses to the survey:

STATE REPRESENTATIVE

Candidate’s Name: Paul R. Bergeron

Political Party: Democratic

Office Sought: State Representative, Hills. 29 (Nashua Ward 2)

Brief Biography:
A native of Nashua, Paul R. Bergeron retired from his position as Nashua’s City Clerk in 2015 after nearly 16 years of service.  Currently, Paul is an Adjunct Faculty member at Nashua Community College in the Department of English and is a member of the Nashua Library’s Board of Trustees. Previous experience includes 17 years in retail management (including eight years in the family’s former menswear store, Bergeron’s, Inc., on West Pearl Street).

Paul’s history of community service includes serving: on the City’s Cultural Connections Committee (formerly the Ethnic Awareness Committee) from 2003 – 2015; on the Rivier College Advisory Board from 1975 – 1976 and again from 1982 – 1989; as past president of the Heart of Nashua Foundation, an earlier downtown business and professional association (1982 and 1984); and on the Nashua Children’s Association Board of Directors from 1980 – 1983. He also has legislative experience as a State Representative (Municipal and County Government Committee, 1973 – 1974).

A graduate of Bishop Guertin High School, Paul was awarded Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in English from the University of New Hampshire. He conducted additional studies in English at Texas A&M University and in Business at Boston College and received his Master of Education degree from Cambridge College.

 Paul is married, has two daughters and four grandchildren, and has lived in Ward 2 for the past 13 years. His parents, Ann T. (Hansberry) Bergeron and the late Robert P. Bergeron, were also Nashua natives.

Why are you running for this office?
I am running for State Representative because I believe that our children are entitled to a quality public education and that the state must meet its court-ordered obligation to support our public schools; I support efforts to ensure that those who have the right to vote may do so; I support policies that will improve the quality of our workforce, strengthen our infrastructure, and enhance public transportation; I believe that common sense should tell us that guns have no place in our schools; and I care about strengthening families and giving people tools to determine the direction of their lives.

What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
My career experience includes 21 years in municipal government, more than 15 years in retail management, and time in the classroom as a high school teacher and college adjunct faculty member. I have a good understanding of the issues that are important to my constituents, including the need for a stronger and safer public education system, the need to maintain existing revenue streams to the municipalities, and the need to consider the impact that legislative actions will have on small business owners. As a former State Representative I have experience navigating through the Legislative process in Concord. I am a registered Democrat, and I had the pleasure of serving in the Nashua and Manchester City Clerk’s offices under four Republican mayors. I believe in bipartisanship, and I believe that I can fairly represent all my constituents in Ward 2 regardless of party affiliation. This background, I believe, makes me uniquely qualified for the position of State Representative.

Deadline to Register to Vote Before the Election is Oct. 27. NH Also Offers Same Day Voter Registration.

New residents who wish to register to vote may do so Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm at the Office of the City Clerk, 229 Main Street. The City Clerk will also be open on Saturday, October 20th and again on Saturday, October 27th between the hours of 9 am and noon for the purpose of voter registrations. However, October 27th is the last day the City Clerk may accept voter registration applications or make corrections to the checklist prior to the State General and Special Municipal Election on November 6, 2018.  New Voters will also be able to register at the polls on Election Day.