We learned that it took us a full day from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm to get through 33 House bills. All were recommended by their committee as Ought To Pass (OTP) by their respective committees, except for the last 3 bills that were recommended as Inexpedient To Legislate (ITL) by their respective committees.
They were from Judiciary (4), Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services (3), Municipal and County Government (10), Science Technology and Energy (3), State Federal and Veterans Affairs (1), Transportation (4), Ways and Means (3), bills pulled from Consent Calendar (2), Commerce and Consumer Affairs (2) and Environment and Agriculture (1).
We learned that House Democrats were very annoyed at how the Speaker ordered the calendar. Speaker Packard placed the budget bills on Day 1, which took us the better part of the day to get through since House Democrats made us go through 20 of their amendments; all of which failed. On Day 2 we were to vote on OTP bills and then on Day 3 we would do the ITL bills.
Of course, it took us Day 2 and Day 3 to finish all of the OTP bills leaving only time enough to consider 3 ITL bills in the waning moments of Friday evening. House Democrats were upset and said the session “was rigged” in favor of “Republican bills” and that “it was unfair not to have gotten to debate the ITL bills.” Any bills that the House did not get to in time to meet the deadline, merely go away. Their point became moot since those bills were rejected (ITL) by their committees anyway.
We learned that it was a good thing to start the day with a House Resolution, HR12, to thank the work of our NH National Guard during the pandemic. This resolution passed unanimously with a voice vote from the House. They truly have done a wonderful job serving our citizens. I am proud that the House recognized their efforts.
We learned that the NH House passed legislation to protect religious liberty under a state of emergency (HB440, 192-178). They also reinforced religious freedom under a state of emergency (HB542, 199-173) as well. These were both very good bills and it was felt if people could go to Walmart and Target during a SOE then they should very well be able to attend a church, synagogue, mosque or other religious gathering. In times of emergency, those are the places people should be able to turn to. Additionally, civil liberties should not be suspended and our rights must be protected…. always.
We learned that ALL 5 of the CACR (Constitutional Amendment) bills considered in the past 2 days could not muster a 3/5 of House members (60% of [400 seats minus vacancies]). We needed 239 votes to pass one. There were everything from preventing a NH State Income Tax or Sales Tax (CACR1 and CACR2) , to protecting 2nd amendment rights against federal legislation (CACR8), to allowing money raised for education be used for sectarian schools (CACR3) and repealing the Blaine amendment, to placing caps on municipal taxation (CACR9). Sadly, NH voters will not get a chance to weigh in on these issues on the next election day.
We learned that the NH House will allow children to sell lemonade and never require them to obtain a permit to do so (HB183, 211-163). While this bill may sound silly and a waste of time, there was nothing in our statutes that would have allowed kids to sell lemonade legally. We have seen other states shut down kids lemonade stands over permitting issues and since we are the “Live Free or Die State”, obviously we could not allow that to happen here. We want to encourage entrepreneurship, well at least 211 of us did. You might want to see how your legislator voted.
We learned that HB266, the Sanctuary Cities bill, was tabled via voice vote. This bill would have required state and local government to assist and cooperate with the enforcement of immigration law. The committee recommendation was OTP. The House obviously did not want to deal with such a controversial issue so they set it on the table.
We learned that removing a bill from the Table only requires a simple majority of those present. To subsequently act upon that bill past its regular deadline requires a suspension of House rules. 2/3rds of the majority present are needed to suspend House Rules. It’s unlikely that acting upon these tabled bills will happen.
We learned that another bill that was tabled (HB439, 189-186) after the OTP motion was killed (185-192).17 Republicans voted along with all House Democrats to kill the OTP motion. This bill would have limited the authority of a municipality to make by-laws and ordinances simply because they believe it is for the community’s “well-being.” RSA 47:17 XV grants a very broad power with that terminology and was the basis for some cities to create “mask mandates” and fines during the pandemic.
We learned that Transportation bills were a hot item. Lots of time and controversy was spent on these bills. We passed a bill (HB224, 200-167) allowing the after-market tinting of car windows (30%) in NH. We also passed a bill (HB 260, 210-163) allowing antique, custom and street rod vehicles to have only 1 license plate on those vehicles (rear plate).
We also took an hour and a half to pass a car seat mandate (HB251, 198-176) which will now require parents to put children up to age 2 in a rear-facing car seat. There were 6 people speaking against this mandate and only 1 in favor, but the bill passed anyway after a long and contentious debate. So if your child throws up in a rear-facing seat, you’ll just have to deal with the vomit and hope they don’t choke on it since they will be out of sight, and rear facing.
The last Transportation bill voted on was the one that would have helped our timber haulers. It would have allowed a higher axel weight on their trucks bringing them in line with Maine and Vermont. Unfortunately, that bill was tabled (HB279, 200-173). It missed passage by 7 votes, as the initial vote on OTP was 181-188. Our timber haulers will just have to continue to deal with the hassle of splitting loads coming into NH and paying higher rates for transporting raw timber products through our state.
We learned that despite the fact that we are fighting the Wayfair decision in court; us paying taxes to other states when we order online, that House members thought it is a good idea to pass a bill (HB15, 289-78) that would allow us to collect rooms and meals tax on internet transactions/online facilitators. Those are the folks who do not own hotels or rooms, and who may be in state or out of state, but make arrangements for rentals.
We learned at around 4:00 pm that Rep. Deb Stevens (D-Nashua) had left her dog in her van all day, sitting in the hot sun on a 70-degree day. After noticing this situation, Rep. John Burt (R-Goffstown) and others came to the rescue, reported it to House leadership and to the attending State Police. Nothing could be done since Rep. Stevens “was on official business,” so no one could touch the vehicle for fear of arrest.
State Police were standing by and since the windows were open Rep. Burt was able to at least give the dog a bowl of water until Rep. Stevens decided to come outside to move her car into the shade. She told everyone to “mind their business” and that her dog “liked sitting in the sun.” Mind you, if a Republican had done this, it would have made national news and we’d all be labeled animal abusing monsters. More here.
We learned that Columbus Day is still safe for the time being. HB155 which was on Consent as OTP ended up being pulled from Consent and Tabled (242-124). Rep. Jess Edwards actually had a great amendment on that bill to make Indigenous People’s Day on August 9th and to leave Columbus Day alone.
We learned that efforts to remove Qualified Immunity from agents of the state (HB111) were also Tabled via voice vote. This bill was also pulled from the Consent calendar and was recommended OTP by the Judiciary committee. Debate on this was compelling and there were good points made both for and against this measure, which would have allowed citizens to sue in court for injury caused by an agent of the state (police, fire, EMT, elected official, etc.). Opponents believed this would raise liability insurance rates for municipalities, cause more difficulty in attracting people to these positions and produce more frequent and frivolous lawsuits.
We learned that talking trash ended the day as we passed the anti-Casella bill (HB177, 197-159). Proponents of the bill had lobbied hard to stop the landfill targeted for Dalton, NH near Forest Lake Park. They put forth a bill to limit any proposed landfill from being within 2 miles of any NH state park. This of course sounds good at first glance, but it really is a local zoning issue and creates a statewide ban using spot zoning which will prohibit the consideration of about 20% of all NH lands.
Opponents of the bill say this is not good legislation because it sets a bad precedent. Will some future lawmakers prohibit other things like smelly, dirty pig or dairy farms from being near state parks? or Walmart distribution centers? or whatever else is deemed “objectionable”? That infringes upon property rights. Yes, we all get the notion that we must protect our tourism and state parks, but is this the right way to accomplish this? 159 of us did not think so. It will be interesting to see what the Senate and the Governor do with this very controversial bill.
We learned that Rep. Tim Smith (D-Manchester) complained that people were voting while standing outside the building using their remote voting device. How did we learn this? Because Rep. Tim Smith admitted that he had done that! Just as a “test” of course (cough, cough).
Finally, we learned that we left around 57 bills with ITL recommendations behind us. While we got a lot of work done, there was just far too much to do in the 3 days we had to work on them. Parliamentary procedure and debating legislation is time consuming and mentally exhausting. Now we are off to hear Senate bills as they cross over to the House.
Hopefully, the next time the House meets we can be in House Chambers again. It will be interesting to see what happens as the budget bill navigates the Senate in the upcoming month or so, and what the Senate will do with the other bills we are sending their way. Thanks for reading! There will be more to come!