RAYMOND — The NH Department of Administrative Services released its February revenue figures. The report showed that state revenue for the month was under plan by $1.4M, with tobacco tax revenues surpassing expectations by $900K. Credit for a large part of the accurate revenue figure estimates goes to Rep. Norman Major, of Atkinson, who did a great job. Governor Lynch criticizes the tax relief the legislature made last year, but I suggest the Democrats take a serious look at the good effects that our reductions made in restoring the New Hampshire Advantage, including bringing tobacco revenues in at above plan. People are responding to our "open for business" approach.
Congratulations to Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, for her recent appointment to the Business & Economic Development Task Force for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. "Excelente, Felicidades, mi amigo!" meaning "Excellent, Congratulations, my friend!" in Spanish. I have worked with Marilinda for six years, as a fellow representative and as a member of the House Republican Alliance, and I can attest to her excellent work ethics. She will be a strong member of this task force as an advocate on behalf of the Hispanic community. Marilinda was one of the Union Leader's 2011 "40 Under 40" class.
Our March 7 and 8 Session started out with quite a load of bills: 304 total. A motion was made and passed, D 216-95, to limit debate to 20 minutes total: 10 minutes for each side, 5 minutes for each speaker.
The March 7th session started with bills left from the February 15th calendar.
HB-1718 - relative to judicial review of electoral districts. This bill: (1) provides for the expeditious judicial review of challenges to electoral districts. (2) requires the expedited filing of any appeal from the Superior Court to the Supreme Court. (3) specifies that the Speaker and Senate President must be joined as necessary parties to any case challenging the validity of their electoral districts respectively. A-0617h (A- amendment, h from House) YES VV (voice vote). Bill passed (Ought to Pass) OTP-A YES D 211-104.
We then took up the bills left from the February 22nd calendar.
SB-201 - apportioning state senate districts. The Constitution requires that the House and Senate each be responsible for determining the qualifications of their respective memberships. With this said, each chamber makes up their own plan. A chamber just verifies that the other chamber plan has no discrepancy in overall deviation and passes it on. Passed OTP D 253-91.
HB-1185-FN-A - relative to the police standards and training council. As amended, bill makes two changes to RSA 188-F:26: (1) it replaces the Council's broad rule-making authority with specific areas of rule-making authority. (2) adds a provision that all donations and grants require approval of the Governor and Executive Council. A-0751h YES VV. OTP-A YES VV.
HB-1371 - relative to County budget adoptions by the County Convention. This bill promotes openness and transparency in County government by dealing with conflicts of interest. A-0706h YES VV. A-0981h NO D 80-248, I voted no. Passed OTP-A YES VV.
We then took-up the current Sessions bills, starting with the Consent Calendar. There were 171 on the Consent Calendar: 93 recommending ITL (kill) and 10 recommending IS (in-term Study- slow death). Of these, there were 15 pulled for a floor debates.
For the remainder of the two long days, we worked on the bills on the Regular Calendar which had 111 bills. Many were killed after debates, with the following bills that passed off the Regular Calendar:
HB-1487 - relative to low carbon fuel standards programs. This bill as amended, does 3 things: (1) It clearly states our policy position that New Hampshire shall not join, implement, or participate in any state, regional, or national low carbon fuel standards program that requires quotas, caps, or mandates on any fuels used for transportation, home heating, or industrial purposes. We will not be dragged into a multi-state "liquid RGGI" program. (2) Allows the Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) to represent the state in regional debates of such topics, but requires DES to make the state's policy position clear. (3) Requires DES to report quarterly to the Fiscal Committee any expenses resulting from such regional debates. A-0920h YES VV. OTP-A RC 243-96 (RC roll call vote, recorded by name).
HB-1214 - banning corn-based ethanol as an additive to gasoline sold in New Hampshire. This was a bad program which has cost the taxpayers $25B over the years, plus millions in damage to boats, autos, and other small engines. Additionally it added cost to all corn based food products. OTP YES VV.
HB-1131 - establishing a committee to study methods of creating a balanced and neutral judiciary. As amended this committee is to study the neutrality between the Judiciary, Executive, and Legislative Branches of state government. Part 1, article 37, of the NH Constitution states that the three branches "ought to be kept as separate from, and independent of, each other, as the nature of a free government will admit" A-0944h YES VV. OTP-A YES VV.
HB-1546 - recodifying the laws relative to religious societies and adding a religious exemption to the insurance mandates relative to coverage for contraceptives. Bill re-codifies Title 29 on religious societies eliminating inequity between denominations and antiquated powers such as raising a property tax. As amended, it includes a change to our insurance statutes to protect religious conscience regarding insurance coverage of prescription contraceptives. A-1026h RC 187-152. Divide the bill YES VV. Sections 1 thru 8, passes OTP -A YES VV. Sections 9-12 passes OTP-A RC 196-150.
HCR-41 - urging the United States Congress to find that the Dept. of Health and Human Services grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is unconstitutional and void. Under Title 10, Planned Parenthood receives federal money which explicitly grants states the authority to distribute these funds as they see fit within the guidelines. This year, our NH Executive Council declined to grant funds to Planned Parenthood. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services then directly gave monies to Planned Parenthood by executive fiat, bypassing the law and expanding their own administrative reach, which is a gross constitutional overreach. Resolution passed OTP RC 179-134.
HB-1244 - relative to firearms possession while trapping. Bill increases the size of firearms allowed for self protection, while trapping, to allow to carry a firearm larger than a .22 cal. long rifle, or a shotgun larger than #4 bird-shot. Bill passed OTP YES VV.
HB-1251 - establishing a committee to study requiring that all sales of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption be made at state liquor stores. Bill as amended becomes a study. A-1011h YES VV. Attempt to return bill to other sales A-1116h failed D 123-179. Bill passed OTP-A YES VV.
HB-1297 - relative to health care reform and health care exchanges. This bill prohibits the state from planning, creating, or participating in a state health care insurance exchange or a federal health care exchange. It prohibits the implementation of the "Obamacare" insurance exchanges and creates a legislative oversight committee to ensure that no steps are taken towards such an exchange. A-0527h YES RC 219-94. OTP-A YES VV.
To be continued next week.
(Editor's Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)