House Finishes 2020 Session

The NH House met in session on June 30th at the Whittemore Center on the UNH campus and approved over 30 bills which will be sent to the Governor for his signature. This meeting concluded the House’s work for the 2020 legislative session.

Among the bills approved by the House was legislation addressing the following:

  • Covid-19 care (HB 1166): relative to extending the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for certain COVID 19 protections, waiving cost sharing for testing and treatment for COVID-19, and waiving costs for COVID-19 testing and provision of PPE by small businesses.
  • Remediating PFAs water contamination and extending the commission on the seacoast cancer cluster investigation (HB1264): setting maximum contaminant limits for perfluorochemicals in drinking water, requiring insurance coverage for PFAs and PFC blood tests, and establishing a low interest loan program for certain water and wastewater systems affected by PFAS contamination.
  • Improving election accessibility for the fall 2020 elections (HB 1266): making temporary modifications to the absentee voter registration form, absentee ballot application, and absentee voting processes in response to COVID-19. “Concern for the novel coronavirus” would be listed as a reason why a voter could request an absentee ballot.
  • Raising the state minimum wage (HB 731): raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $12 per hour in three years, and fixing the tipped hourly wage at $4 per hour.
  • Providing increased equity and safeguards for Granite State children and families (HB250 and HB1639): establishing a dental benefit under the state Medicaid program, requiring insurance coverage for long-term antibiotic therapy for tick-borne illness, and requiring the department of health and human services to develop a state health assessment and a state health improvement plan.

    For additional detail about these and other bills acted on during this last session, please go to the “House Press Releases” page on this website.

    House members will reconvene in the fall to take up the Governor’s vetoes. In 2019, Governor Sununu vetoed a record 57 bills. Of these, a third had bipartisan sponsors (32%), 39% were sponsored by Republicans, over three quarters (78%) had bipartisan support in the legislature, and half (51%) received bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate.

    (Photo was taken as members of the NH House of Representatives began gathering at the Whittemore Center on the campus of the University of NH, for their session on June 30th.)

Commemorating Juneteenth and Supporting Black Lives Matter

On June 19, 1865, enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. Now, 155 years later, people in cities and towns across the U.S. continue to mark the occasion with celebrations.  (Here are brief guides to what you should know about Juneteenth from the New York Times and the Congressional Research Service.)

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 21⁄2 years earlier on January 1, 1863, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom

Texans celebrated Juneteenth beginning in 1866, with community-centric events, such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, and musical performances. Over time, communities have developed their own traditions. Some communities purchased land for Juneteenth celebrations, such as Emancipation Park in Houston, TX. As families emigrated from Texas to other parts of the United States, they carried the Juneteenth celebrations with them.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth officially became a Texas state holiday. Since then, 45 other states, including NH (2019), and the District of Columbia have also commemorated or observed the day.

This year – perhaps more so than in recent years – Juneteenth is a date that demands reflection as well as recognition. On May 25th, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, MN during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. He suffocated as the result of a chokehold – a knee to the throat – by an arresting officer. The incident was captured on video and cries for justice resounded across our nation and around the world. Here in New Hampshire, thousands of Granite States gathered in peaceful support of Black Lives Matter. In Nashua, approximately 1,000 people gathered for a Black Lives Matter vigil in Greeley Park on Saturday evening, June 6.

The event was put on by Black Lives Matter Nashua and the Greater Nashua area NAACP. The night was peaceful and filled with a collection of speeches and songs. (Photo is from a southerly angle showing some of the crowd gathered for the event.) Speakers included local activists, community leaders and volunteers, Nashua’s mayor, and state and federal legislators.

In a recent statement on Black Lives Matter issued by House Majority Leader Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey). Rep. Ley said, “…We must acknowledge and address the deep-rooted inequality that has permeated our society and the criminal justice system since the birth of this nation. New Hampshire has not been immune to these realities but New Hampshire also has a long history of advocacy for equality. Whether it be the enslaved Granite Staters petitioning for freedom in 1779, the unstinting work of abolitionist and feminist Parker Pillsbury in the 1840s & 1850s, the many sons of the Granite State who gave their lives in the Civil War, or civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels of Keene who in 1965 sacrificed his life so another might live, the Granite State has a proud history of activism on behalf of equality, humanity and justice.  These are values intrinsic to our state and who we are.”

At the conclusion of the New Hampshire House session on Thursday, June 11, Representatives Charlotte DiLorenzo (D-Newmarket) and Linda Harriott-Gathright (D-Nashua) took Unanimous Consent to speak about George Floyd. An excerpt from that speech follows:

The whole world is watching America: the land of the free, a land where the lives of black men, women and children have suffered and been killed by racist violence for over 400 years. Today we say “enough is enough.” It’s time America, for you to fulfill your promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for not just some of the people but for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, sexual identity, age, disability or income level. This is America’s promise.”

Juneteenth celebrates January 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX and announced the end of both the Civil War and slavery. His announcement, General Order Number 3, read in part: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property…”

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery. This year, let’s observe the day by acknowledging that there is still work to do to help America fulfill its promise of “absolute equality of personal rights…” and of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…for all people.”

House Republicans Looking to Shut Down Legislative Session and Abandon 225 Bills Still Under Consideration

Rep. Hinch - House Minority Leader

In March, the Governor issued a State of Emergency Declaration and stay-at-home orders due to the corona virus. As a result, the NH House and Senate suspended sessions and have done limited committee work through online meetings. The House is scheduled to reconvene on June 11 at the Whittemore Center on the campus of the University of NH in Durham. The first order of business will be to reset House deadlines for House and Senate bills that still need to be acted on. Before the statehouse was shut down, House Republicans agreed (on March 12th) to move those deadlines. That last session, however, was not without turbulence; the session went until almost 4:00 in the morning as Republicans slowed proceedings with excessive parliamentary inquiries, challenges to the chair, unnecessary and repetitive arguments, and through the use of other dilatory tactics.

Yesterday (June 3, 2020) at the House Rules Committee meeting, House Republicans refused to agree to a change in rules that would allow the NH House of Representatives to finish its work this year. Previously – on May 26th – the House Republican caucus voted not to change the upcoming House deadlines, thereby stopping the House from finishing its work.

There are 225 bills already affected by this threatened action, including a number of issues relative to COVID-19.

This obstructive behavior has been occurring at the committee level as well. I serve on the House Election Law Committee. On March 4th, we met in executive session to make recommendations on 13 bills. Four Republican members of the committee were not present. In accordance with House rules, Republican leadership designated four members of the House to sit with the committee and vote in place of the absent members. With the exception of one bill which was to be reported out as Inexpedient to Legislate and one bill going to interim study, these four replacements followed leadership’s instructions and voted against every other bill taken up during that executive session – including bills that were sponsored by Republicans. As a result, bills that could have been placed on the consent calendar and acted upon expeditiously, had to appear on the regular calendar for debate.

House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff released the following statement regarding the Republican position on not amending House deadlines: “We were elected by the people of New Hampshire to do the people’s business but today House Republicans voted to instead limit the work of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Their actions today could prevent the legislature from enacting department requests to ensure continuity of government in these unprecedented times. The action today also prevents the House from acting on bills that address the COVID pandemic, naming a highway after a police officer killed in the line of duty and from finishing the rest of the work Granite Staters elected us to complete. As Speaker, not a week has gone by where I have not been in touch with a member of the Minority Leadership team and for them to suggest otherwise is preposterous and an outright lie. To me it is outrageous when our state is facing a pandemic for us to abandon our important work. We will still show up on June 11th in an effort to do the people’s work despite their unprecedented action. If House Republican leadership chooses to sit back and prevent the legislative process from moving forward they can do it in public for everyone to see.”

The House Minority Leader’s obstructive behavior should not come as a surprise given comments he made to the House in November 2018 when he was seeking election as Speaker. Gary Rayno’s “Distant Dome” column in the December 9, 2018 edition of InkLink, reported that House Minority Leader Dick Hinch’s message to Republican House members was “…to take every opportunity you can to disrupt Democrats’ momentum” – that “it was going to be war for the next two years because the real prize is the 2020 election and control of the legislature.” In his speech seeking the votes of House members to be the next speaker, Hinch said,” 2020 must always be on our minds, and everything we do must be to achieve absolute success in 2020. Never lose sight of the fact that 2020 establishes redistricting, and the majority that controls redistricting will likely control the next ten years thereafter.”

So this obstructionism is not about doing what is best for the state and its people. It’s a bizarre and misguided attempt to try to position House Republicans for success at the polls this November.

But make no mistake. If the Republican minority refuses to support a change in House legislative deadlines and the work at the statehouse comes to an abrupt halt, the reason that the House and Senate were not able to finish their work on legislation of importance to businesses and the citizens of New Hampshire will lie with Rep. Hinch and House Republicans – not House Democrats.

Here is a very small sampling of the bills that will die in committee or on the table if Republicans block the House from continuing its work.

  • HB1102, requiring food service establishments to establish food allergy awareness procedures
  • HB1679, relative to Meals on Wheels
  • HB1691, relative to kindergarten adequate education grants
  • HB2020, relative to the 10-year transportation improvement plan
  • SB410, relative to the state minimum hourly rate
  • SB556, relative to violence in schools
  • SB646, relative to Medicare supplemental insurance
  • SB720, relative to adult protective services
  • SB726, relative to programs to aid veteran’s access to employment, housing, health care, and college degrees
  • SB759, relative to employers provision of reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees

Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa, published in Concord Monitor, 11/29, 2018

US Deaths From Coronavirus Exceed 100,000. City of Nashua Now Requires the Wearing of Face Masks in Public.

Today, U.S. coronavirus deaths passed the 100,000 mark. Within three months. The first U.S. death was reported on February 29th in the Seattle area, though several fatalities not attributed to the virus previously have since been reported. As of today, according to Johns Hopkins University’s global tracker, 28% of the world’s deaths due to coronavirus have occurred in the United States.

How did it get so bad in a nation than has prided itself in its science, its preparedness, and its resilience? Please take a few moments to examine the timeline of the nation’s response – or lack thereof – to the pandemic: “Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic and U.S. Response.” 

The country’s preparedness for a pandemic and its lack of response to warnings by top government officials is appalling!

So how do we measure 100,000 deaths against other catastrophic events in U.S. history? Consider this: within three months, more U.S. citizens have died from the coronavirus than in any war except for World War I (116,516), World War II (405,399), and the Civil War (655,000+).  And the number who died of coronavirus will most certainly pass the number who died in World War I within the next four to six weeks.

The only pandemic to cause more U.S. deaths than coronavirus was the 1918 Spanish flu, with 675,00 deaths. The number who will die of coronavirus will far surpass those who have died from other pandemic events in the United States, including the: 1926 Polio epidemic, 6,000 deaths; 1957 – 1958 Asian flu, 116,000 deaths; and 2009 – 2010 swine flu, 12,000 deaths.

One thing we do know from the history of the Spanish flu experience is that a second wave is likely. And more deaths are coming.

We are many months away from developing a widely-deployable vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top infectious disease expert, says it is possible that a deployable vaccine may be available in December or January – seven or eight months from now.  And that is being highly optimistic.

100,000 people have died from the virus in three months. As stay-at-home and social distancing orders are relaxed, exposure will spread, and many more will die over the next seven to eight months and beyond.  Could we reach the U.S. death toll experienced during World War II (405,399) by this time next year? It is statistically possible.

The City of Nashua has taken a small step to try to slow down the spread of the disease in our community by approving an ordinance which requires the wearing of face masks in public as follows:

Employees of all businesses shall wear a face covering over their mouth and nose when interacting with the public and whenever they are within six feet of a co-worker or a customer.

Members of the public entering any business, including without limitation any outdoor area where business of any sort is conducted, work site, or government building must wear a face covering, such as a fabric mask, scarf, or bandana over their nose and mouth.

Members of the public entering a restaurant for the purpose of picking up food for take- out or any other purpose must wear a face covering over their mouth and nose. Members of the public dining outdoors at a restaurant may remove face covering while seated at their table.

Residents, visitors, and members of the public entering or present at a residential or commercial building complex of greater than two (2) units must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while in common areas and communal spaces.

We are used to seeing signs that say “No shirt, No shoes, No service.”  Keep in mind that those signs should now say: “No shirt, No shoes, No mask, No service.”

Protect yourselves. Protect your parents, your children, and your grandchildren.

Be smart. And stay safe. Thank you.

Last Day to Change Party Affiliation Prior to September Primary is June 2

The filing period for all offices for the September State Primary Election opens on Wednesday, June 3rd. Under state law, the last day for voters who are already registered to declare or change party affiliation before the primary is on Tuesday, June 2nd.

RSA 654:34 states that in order to declare or change a party affiliation, the voter must appear in person before the supervisors of the checklist (or town or city clerk). However, most city and town halls are currently closed.

The Governor, therefore, has issued an Executive Order that allows voters to change party affiliation by mail and the Secretary of State has prepared a form that can be used for this purpose. These forms must be received by the city clerk no later than June 2nd. A June 2nd postmark will not suffice. The Secretary of State’s electronic voter registration system will not allow city or town clerks to make party affiliation changes after June 2nd.

Nashua residents who wish to change their party affiliation should mail the completed request form to Voter Registration, Office of the City Clerk, 229 Main Street, Nashua, NH 03060. Information on this process is also available on the Nashua City Clerk’s website.

May 15 House and Senate Calendars Give a Glimpse of How 2020 Session Will Proceed

In the May 15th House Calendar, the Speaker of the House announced that the House will next meet in session on June 11th at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire. The House last met on March 13th, a marathon-like session that began at 9:00 am on March 12th and ended close to 3:30 am on March 13th. Legislative activities have been shut down since the Governor issued stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. In announcing the location for the next meeting of the NH House of Representatives, the Speaker issued a statement in the House Calendar that said, in part, “We need a place that is large enough to allow us to socially distance while not being so large as to create its own logistical problems….Our meeting in the Whittemore Center will be an historic event as it will be the second time in the history of the House of Representatives we will be meeting outside of Representatives Hall….Please know we will be taking all available precautions for your safety. Each member will have their temperature taken prior to entering the facility and per UNH guidelines, each member will be given a surgical mask which they will have to wear inside the arena. These precautions will help to ensure everyone is safe.”

A very small number of House Legislative Committee meetings have been held virtually (e.g., Finance), prior to the release of the May 15th Calendars, but other committees are gearing up to conduct work sessions this week and next, including Judiciary, Ways and Means, Criminal Justice and Public Safety, and Finance.

Meanwhile, Senate President Donna Soucy announced that the Senate will hold its upcoming sessions in Representatives Hall. A date for the Senate’s first session has not been announced, and no committee public hearings or work sessions are scheduled in the current Senate Calendar.

In a joint statement, the Senate President and House Speaker issued the following comments: “While some legislative activities, including Committee and Commission meetings, have resumed work remotely, we understand it is important for the Legislature to resume session to complete the work that the people of New Hampshire elected us to do as well as provide important checks and balances to the state government during this crisis. We are committed to returning in a manner that ensures public access to the process and above all adheres to public health recommendations, which is why when the House and Senate come back into session next month we will be meeting outside of our respective chambers for the first time since the Civil War. In the coming weeks, we will release additional information about the policies and procedures for reconvening the Legislature. Meanwhile, we appreciate everyone’s cooperation, understanding, and of course the continued hard work of House, Senate, and Joint staff who make this all possible.”

COVID-19 Local Resources

The following COVID-19 information is publicly available but residents of Ward 2 — and Nashua — may find this compilation useful and convenient.  In addition to these state and regional links, the City of Nashua  maintains a page on its website that contains, additional guidance, information and resources relative to COVID-19.  The City’s web pages on this subject are an excellent source of information.  If you click on any of the links below, a page will open as a new window on your screen.

COVID-19 LOCAL RESOURCES

NH COVID-19 Hotline and Reports:

#211: Coronavirus hotline

DAILY COVID-19 NH Data: ​COVID-19
Granite United Way, supports 2-1-1 and many other non-profit organizations working around the state during COVID-19:  ​Welcome: Granite United Way

STAY AT HOME 2.0 Information:

Stay At Home 2.0 Orders

Testing for COVID-19:
● Convenient MD has a state contract to offer the COVID-19 test, a test for presence of live virus in the body.  A Convenient MD is located in Ward 2 at 565 Amherst Street.  Clinics are open 8 am – 8 pm, seven days a week.

Who can currently seek a test?

  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms per healthcare provider
  • Any healthcare worker
  • Anyone 60 years of age or older
  • Anyone diagnosed with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Anyone diagnosed with serious heart conditions
  • Anyone diagnosed as immunocompromised
  • Anyone diagnosed with obesity
  • Anyone diagnosed with diabetes
  • Anyone diagnosed with chronic kidney disease
  • Anyone diagnosed with liver disease
  • To seek a COVID-19 test, call your healthcare provider or fill out the below testing form

Rent/Mortgage/Utilities Assistance

● Executive Order #4 signed by Governor Sununu makes clear that if tenants and property owners can’t pay rent or mortgage now, they will still have to pay in full when the state emergency is lifted. All tenants who have difficulty paying rent are encouraged to talk to their landlord to develop a payment plan during this time. If you are struggling with paying utility bills, talk with your utility company to make a payment plan.

American Sign Language Resources on COVID-19

Mask Request Form for NH Businesses Re-openingHomeland Security Emergency Management

For Unsheltered Community:

Substance Use Disorder Services:

Family Services:
NH Easy Gateway to Services (includes SNAP, Medicaid and Medicare programs, child care assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), disability aid).

Assistance for New Americans:
● Assisting refugees with community integration and services: ​Ascentria Care Alliance

Unemployment Services:

  • Eligibility for unemployment:
    • The usual requirement to search for work has been waived during the pandemic.
    • The waiting week requirement has also been waived.
    • If you are unable to work due to Stay at Home order or another travel restriction, you ARE eligible for unemployment benefits.

The federal CARES act allows for you to refuse to return to work due to COVID-19 related reasons below:

■ If you experienced COVID-19 related symptoms and sought a medical diagnosis.
■ If a member of your household has experienced COVID-19 diagnoses.
■ If you are caring for a child or another person for whom childcare, schooling, or care facility is closed.
■ If you are self-quarantined at the advice of a healthcare provider.
■ If you are self-quarantined at the direction of your employer.
■ If you were anticipating starting a job for which starting is unavailable due to COVID-19.

■ If your employer is closed, mandatorily or voluntarily, due to COVID-19.

■ If you are temporarily laid off due to COVID-19.
■ If you are self-employed but unable to conduct business due to COVID-19.

■ If you have other health complications and quit your job due to COVID-19.

The State of New Hampshire processes unemployment claims for free, so customers should be extremely wary of any site that charges a fee for this service or asks for credit card information.

  • NH Unemployment Assistance Hotline: 603-271-7700
  • Apply here: ​NH Unemployment Benefits: Welcome
  • Workshare Unemployment Program: ​Program Details
    • A workshare plan can be submitted by an employer whose taxes are in good standing with the NH Dept. of Labor.
    • Workshare plans are eligible for employers who are reducing hours from 10-50% when businesses are reopening and the reductions are spread evenly among all employees and the employer continues to offer healthcare benefits.

Workshare plans allow businesses to keep employees on the payroll and incentivizes employees to return to work at a reduced rate while still receiving the additional $600/week provided by CARES act currently in place.

FAQ for self-employment:
○ Self-employed people are currently eligible for Unemployment Benefits. You will need either your 2019 federal tax return or 1099s. Don’t worry, if you don’t have either or have not yet filed your 2019 return. You can still submit your claim. If eligible you will receive the federal minimum benefit currently set at $167. This will also make you eligible for the Federal $600 payment. You can submit your tax return later when you file. Don’t worry, if you don’t have either or have not yet filed your 2019 return you can still submit your claim. If eligible, you will receive the federal minimum benefit amount currently set at $167. This will also make you eligible for the Federal CARES Act $600 payment.

Statewide Domestic Abuse Services:

Women’s Health Centers:

Planned Parenthood Locations

NH Suicide Hotline:
● #1-800-273-8255
● Link to NAMI NH Supports: ​Suicide Prevention

Sununu’s Veto of HB 315 Rejects Requirement for Security When Sharing Voter Information

Earlier this month, the House took up the Governor’s veto of HB315, which would have ended NH’s involvement with the Kansas-based Interstate Voter Registration Program and authorize the Secretary of State to join another program to compare NH”s voter registration information with that of other states to search for duplicate registrations or voting activity.

In his veto message, the Governor wrote: “House Bill 315 would impose unreasonable restrictions on the Secretary of State’s ability to determine the best voter registration information sharing arrangement for our state. New Hampshire should maintain the Secretary of State’s flexibility on this issue and trust him to make the best decision for the people of New Hampshire…”

So what is the “Crosscheck” program — or more appropriately, what was the “Crosscheck” program?

Crosscheck is database software designed to compare voter records from member states to identify voters who may have registered in two or more states and voters who may have voted in two or more states.  Crosscheck was developed by former Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh in 2005 and it expanded to a peak of 29 member states in 2014 under the direction of former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

It should be noted that Kris Kobach was chair of President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (a/k/a Voter Fraud Commission), which was established in 2017.  NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner was a member of that commission. And it should also be noted that prior to the November 2016 Presidential Election, Governor Sununu claimed on the Howie Carr radio show that Democrats are “busing them [Massachusetts residents] in all over the place” and picking a phony address for people to use for same-day registration in NH.  Sununu subsequently walked back his comments, but President Trump repeated the Governor’s claim in 2016 and again in 2019.

2017 was Crosscheck’s final year of operation, though the program was not officially shut down until 2019.

Why did the program cease operation? In 2017, working from evidence supplied by Indivisible Chicago, journalists exposed the flawed security practices with which Kansas managed the database.  In January 2018, a Kansas resident filed a records request with Florida for documents concerning Crosscheck. In response, Florida released the partial social security numbers for nearly 1,000 Kansas residents unredacted. That same month, the Kansas Secretary of State’s office announced it would allow the Department of Homeland Security to perform a security review, which was completed in February.  In June 2018, the Kansas American Civil Liberties organization sued the state over the use of the program asserting it was a security disaster that wound up making the voter rolls vulnerable to hacking. In December 2019, the program was suspended indefinitely as part of a settlement of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Kansas.

So what did HB 315 seek to accomplish?

  1. It removed language from the statutes authorizing the Secretary of State to participate in Crosscheck.
  2. It directed the Secretary of State to “become a member of a program or organization whose membership is composed of state, local, District of Columbia, or voting territory election officials from the United States and whose purpose is to share and exchange information to improve the accuracy and efficiency of voter registration systems.”
  3. In the alternative, the Secretary of State was directed to submit a report to the General Court to explain why he chose “not [to] participate in such program or organization.”
  4. And, finally, if a program was selected, the Secretary of State was to select a program that “shall ensure that any information or data shared between the agencies is protected by security processes and protocols and that any information or data that is of a confidential nature remains confidential.”

The Governor vetoed HB 315 because, he said, it placed “unreasonable restrictions on the Secretary of State’s ability to determine the best voter registration information sharing arrangement for our state.”

The only “restriction” placed on the Secretary of State by HB 315 was that he ensure whatever program he chose to participate in would have security protocols in place to protect the confidential information of New Hampshire’s voters.

That is not an unreasonable request.

 

Photo credit: NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner, right, introduces one of the speakers at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in Manchester, N.H. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, center, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, left, also attend. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer, File, Sept. 12, 2017.)

 

2020 Legislative Session Underway

The NH House opened the 2020 Legislative year with sessions held on Wednesday and Thursday, January 8th and 9th to consider two vetoes by the Governor on bills pertaining to teacher tenure (HB226) and the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program (HB315), and to take action on 156 bills that had been retained by the House from the 2019 session.

HB226 would have ensured that a teacher who had two years of experience would be entitled to a hearing before a school board to ask for reasons why he/she was not being rehired or reelected to that position for the coming school year.  In his veto message the Governor wrote: “…just two years on the job…is simply not enough time for local officials to know if new teachers are the right fit for their schools.”  Current law only gives teachers with five years of experience the right to a hearing.

HB315 would have repealed a statute that granted the Secretary of State authority to participate in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, a program that was suspended indefinitely in 2019 and which a dozen states had withdrawn from due to the program’s inaccurate data and risk to voter privacy rights.  In his veto message, the Governor stated that HB 315 “would impose unreasonable restrictions on the Secretary of State’s ability to determine the best voter registration information sharing arrangement for our state.”  In fact, HB315 stated that “the secretary of state may enter into a program..to share and exchange information to improve the accuracy and efficiency of voter registration systems…”  The bill also required that the secretary of state “shall ensure that any information or data shared between the agencies is protected by security processes and protocols and that any information or data that is of a confidential nature remains confidential.” However, if the secretary of state chose not to participate in such a program, he would be required to report to the General Court why he chose not to participate.  These are hardly “unreasonable restrictions.”

The Governor’s vetoes were sustained.

Following are some of the bills carried over from 2019 that were approved by the House (some may have been referred to a second House committee for further review):

  • SB45, relative to electioneering at polling places
  • SB283, relative to post-election audits of electronic ballot counting devices
  • HB667, relative to testing wells before issuing a certificate of occupancy
  • HB640, establishing a registration fee for canoes and kayaks
  • SB255, relative to dementia training for direct care staff in residential facilities and community-based settings
  • HB626, relative to penalties for overtaking and passing a school bus
  • HB308, establishing a condominium dispute resolution board
  • HB677, relative to discipline of students, addressing students’ behavioral needs, and making an appropriation therefor
  • SB8, establishing an independent redistricting commission
  • HB327, making an appropriation to the community college system to continue the math learning communities program in partnership with NH high schools
  • HB731, relative to the minimum hourly rate
  • SB19, relative to the privacy of certain information concerning public employees
  • HB102, relative to municipal ordinances regarding the use of plastics (single use plastic bags)
  • HB559, enabling municipalities to ban single-use sources of plastic pollution
  • SB159, relative to net energy metering limits for customer-generators
  • SB166, relative to competitive electricity supplier requirements under net energy metering

For the full text of these bills, go to the NH General Court’s “Bill Search” page and enter the bill number to view the history and text of the bill.  Be sure to change the default “Session Year” (2020) to 2019, since the above bills were carried over from last year.

Schools Get Funding Increase With NH Budget

The two-year state compromise budget signed by the Governor in September increased school funding by $138 million over two years – close to the $140 million boost that Democrats proposed in 2019.

The budget restored stabilization aid to original levels, which the state had been cutting annually, and it provided funding for full-day kindergarten and additional aid to poor districts. Many parts of the new education aid include one-time funds.

Meanwhile, the state’s education funding formula, which historically allocated money in the form of “adequacy aid” to school districts, is the subject of a lawsuit now headed to the state Supreme Court.