We learned that 400 legislators (along with House staff) can fit comfortably, socially distanced, in the Manchester DoubleTree Expo Center and get important work done, despite difficult acoustics. Well, at least the Senate is utilizing the newly, and beautifully, renovated Reps Hall in Concord.
We learned that acknowledging the passing of Rep. Barbara Shaw (D-Manchester) was of importance to the House. We took time for prayers and remembrances. She was an accomplished, experienced, and wonderful colleague. She was dedicated to helping people. Many times she collaborated and reached across the aisle to solve problems and get legislative work done. Rep. Shaw will be terribly missed. On a happier note, we welcomed newly elected House Rep. Jodi Nelson to our legislative body, and she even made her first House speaking debut!
We learned that 5 vetoes from the Governor were sustained (HB98, HB239, HB242, HB334, and SB38). SB38 missed an override vote by 2 votes. We had to wait about 45 minutes to receive that bill from the Senate, where they had enough votes for a veto override. While we waited for the bill to be transmitted, we amended House Rules with 2022 session deadline dates and changed statutes to allow all of us to be paid for traveling to Manchester instead of the State House. Actually, now House members can be paid for mileage no matter where the House convenes. I am personally hoping for the day when the Senate will go back to their side of the wall in Concord, and we can return to our side of the wall in Reps. Hall.
We learned that when we are signed up to speak on bills, we aren’t supposed to refer to another branch of government (like the Senate or Governor). Rep. John Burt (R-Goffstown) could not name the Governor directly in his floor speech about the Governor’s veto of SB334. That bill would have allowed carrying a loaded firearm on an OHRV as well as ending the infamous “Gun Line”. So, when Rep. Burt spoke and asked us all to over-ride the veto, instead of referring to the Governor directly he said, “That person who vetoed this bill”. Sometimes we have these moments of parliamentary levity in our day. For our Harry Potter fans, it’s reminiscent of “He who shall not be named” (wink).
Speaking of rule changes, Rep Lucy Weber (D- Walpole) offered up a rule change to allow for House sessions and committee meetings to be done remotely and virtually. She thinks that “It is absolutely shameful that Republicans continue to reject a simple rule change that would allow people to make responsible decisions” when we all know that what her party really wants is to make the State House into a museum and to do the business for their constituents at home in their pajamas, or from some vacation spot in Florida. Judging by the parliamentary wrangling of today’s session there is no way on this Earth that 400 people could be on a Zoom call and get anything done. It would be an utter train wreck. Just think of all the side conversations and meeting of the minds that would be missed. Collaboration works best when people, especially legislators, actually get together and collaborate. Thankfully, her rule change idea was killed 186-169.
We learned that the same folks in the minority party who want to let 16-year-olds vote do not want to see them get married at that age. Of course, when they are voting, 16-year-olds are not “children” and are capable of making important decisions, but when they decide to marry at age 16 then they are “children” who may not know what they are doing. The bill (HB60 raising the minimum age of marriage) was ITL’d (i.e. died) 192-165.
We learned that some bill dispositions are a bit insane. I never thought I would see the day when the House would vote to establish a study committee to study if we should have a study committee. (Shaking My Head). Yep, we actually sent a bill to Interim Study which itself was a bill to study the benefits of allowing NH citizens to purchase health insurance from out-of-state companies (HB488). I’ll just leave this here for you to ponder.
We learned that the 3 redistricting bills (HB50 HB52 and HB54) that were special ordered turned out to be a lengthy nail-biting affair. HB50 (apportioning State Rep districts) almost got derailed by a Table motion which garnered a 179Y-178N vote. The Speaker of the House voted Nay to create a tie and caused the motion to Table to fail. The House then proceeded to pass it with its committee amendment, 186Y-168N. Then, there was also a tabling motion for HB52 (apportioning congressional districts) which ended up with 177Y-178N vote causing the table motion to fail. That was another close call, but in the end that committee amended bill passed 186Y-164N. HB54 (apportioning county commissioner districts) was the last of the redistricting bills. This committee amended bill had a less dramatic passage with a vote of 184Y-159N. In the end, all three redistricting bills passed and are off to another stage of their legislative journey.
Speaking of Tables – Two bills earned a place on the House Table today. SB-69 (requiring employers to provide access to sufficient space for nursing mothers and reasonable break time) and HB237 (legalizing and regulating cannabis). SB-69 is an employer mandate which earned table status after a vote of 180-155. The second bill would have made the sale of cannabis legal in NH, would have established a sales tax, and would have created a whole new bureaucracy in our State. It was tabled 300-32.
Lastly, we learned that Thursday and Friday will bring more House voting adventures as we tackle enabling legislation for Local Education Freedom Accounts (HB607 – EFA’s) and the amended HB255 which has become a ban on COVID vaccine mandates in NH. There’s also HB275, the reform of the governor’s powers regarding emergency powers because “That person who vetoed SB344” made an agreement to reform the process. Then there is HB622, which involves a change to the Fetal Life Protection Act to remove the ultrasound requirement which establishes the age of the fetus. So, there will be more fun and games in the House in the next 2 days. Stay tuned.