We learned that procedures on how the House and Senate process NH legislation can change radically and magically when a pandemic is in play. All Constitutional, House and Senate rules were tossed aside by the Democrat Majority in their rush to process all bills. The House and Senate Democrat Majority Leadership blamed that on the challenges of COVID-19 and the need to get everything done by June 30; coincidentally after which no mileage is paid to legislators and the rush to campaign for re-election is upon us. Who says these people don’t have priorities?
We learned that House bills were morphed into gigantic omnibus bills by the Senate and were brought before the House for “concurrence”. These “omni-mess” bills contained House bills that the Senate changed, along with Senate bills that never had a proper vetting or hearing in the House at all! One such bill (HB1234) was 150 pages long and contained around 40 separate pieces of legislation. Each omnibus bill was truly a mélange of good and bad legislation bundled up together like some fire sale merchandise. Many contained bills that were not even germane to the original bill title. Some of these bills had totally new language that no one had seen, or contained recycled language from bills that were previously vetoed. It really was a horrible way to process legislation in this “take it or leave it” legislative free for all. Of course, as majority votes ruled the day, all but one of these Senate bills obtained concurrence and now are going to be dumped on the Governor’s desk.
We learned that the NH Senate renamed many bills from the House and sent them back with all sorts of things inside. One such bill, HB685, was a simple study bill and was originally entitled “To study ambulance services reimbursement”. The Senate renamed it “Relative to plans that cover Maternity Benefits”. What this bill ended up calling for was a mandate to health insurers to pay for abortions as a “maternity benefit”. How’s that for a twist in legislation? One Republican State Representative who rose to speak against this bill called this particular change, “Voodoo Legislation”. The vote was 196-132. It now goes to the Governor’s desk.
We learned that many of these omnibus bills contained language that would increase insurance premiums, be costly for NH businesses and consumers, cause electric rates to rise, grow government and a host of other ill conceived policies. Because of this, most of these bills heading to the Governor’s desk deserve a Veto even though they may contain some good bills. There were a number of Republican legislators who stuck to their principles and voted “NO” on every request for concurrence, no matter the contents of the bill being good or bad, because the entire process of these bills coming to us from the Senate was so tremendously flawed. They are to be commended for standing up for their convictions. Next year is another chance to get the good bills to pass.
We learned that there were a handful of bills that the House agreed on mostly. There was the bill renaming highways and establishing Holocaust studies (HB1135 voted 299-17); a bill allowing free tuition for children of 100% disabled veterans (HB1582 voted 290-36 : Prime Sponsor Rep. Terry Roy and Co-Sponsored by yours truly, Rep. Judy Aron); a bill having to do with long term care facilities (HB578 voted 282-43); a bill about broadband infrastructure (HB1111 voted 248-64); 2 bills having to do with sexual assault (HB705 voted 254-75 and HB1240 voted 257-68) and a bill dealing with criminal justice issues and law enforcement policies (HB1645 voted 255-74).
We learned that the Democrat leader of the House, and full time, well paid, AFT Union President, Rep. Doug Ley, bashed Governor Sununu on his negotiations with the State’s unions during his introduction of the last motion that we considered. It was a motion to accept a Fact Finders report regarding union negotiations. Seeing as ethics complaints had been lodged against Rep. Ley for voting on education and union issues that he should have recused himself for on a number of occasions, it is apparent how Democrat House Leadership totally thumbed their noses at House Ethics throughout the session with complete and utter impunity, so much so that they had Rep. Ley specifically present this last motion.
Finally, we learned that during this session, House Republicans loudly and repeatedly objected to the many Senate bills that came to us attached to House bills which had never had a hearing in the House. They believed the process lacked transparency and failed to include the necessary and traditional steps practiced in our legislative process. Democrats in the House ignored all that, except when it suited them on one particular bill. In an unsurprisingly hypocritical manner, Chairman of the House Executive Departments and Administration, Rep. Jeff Goley got up to speak against concurrence on HB1491 because, “this 81 page bill deserves a public hearing”. Funny thing that he and his cohorts certainly did not feel that way about all of the other bills that they passed on this day which also did not get a proper public hearing!! Thankfully this bill regarding occupational licensure was not given concurrence and died with a vote of 297-20.
The next House session is expected to happen in the Fall when the House reconvenes for “Veto Day”. We’ll have to wait and see how many of these omnibus bills get the Red Pen Veto treatment from Governor Sununu. Until then, we will miss the Sergeant of Arms bellowing out the words, “Roll Call”!