RAYMOND — Let me start by saying that the Department of Employment Security released their January Unemployment Report showing an increase in jobs for the month. Avoiding all the media hype, the report said employed residents increased by 1,180 and the number of unemployed residents dropped by 280. Yes, 900 is not a very large figure, but it is an increase which is better than a decrease. The unemployment rate stayed at 5.2% due to adjustments made by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics to account for population data updates from the 2010 census. I see this as good news, especially for this time of the year.
Also just released, the state annual financial report showing $17.7M surplus for the end of last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2011. Earlier this month, the House passed HB-1652 to move this surplus into the Rainy Day Fund, which currently stands at just $9.3M. This surplus is a far cry from the over-inflated revenue estimates of the Democrats by almost $40M. This is exactly why the House was so committed to using accurate, responsible revenue projections when we did this budget and cut spending where we could. As I've said before, we need to build-up the Rainy Day Fund, for real emergencies, and to shore up our bond rating. This is one step to bring fiscal responsibility back to Concord.
At the February 22nd Session, we started off adopting the Consent Calendar which had 69 bills, 47 of which were killed. We then moved on to the Regular Calendar passing:
HR-29 - urging the US Department of Health and Human Services to rescind its rule requiring health plans to provide sterilizations and contraceptives. HR-29 is not about the merits of contraception. It is not about whether insurers choose to offer coverage for these services in their policies. It also is not about the Catholic Church's policies on contraception, sterilization or any other of its teachings or beliefs. Rather, HR-29 stands up for our religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church and others, that have long-held principles and teachings that would be violated as a result, not of a law passed by Congress, but a rule that was promulgated by unelected bureaucrats who were empowered under ObamaCare. We need to send this message now to our congressional delegation, at this critical time, before they dream up more bad ideas. Remember, this is only a resolution. I was honored to be assigned as a "one-day substitute" to State, Federal Relations, and Veterans Affairs Committee to work on HR-29 where it was voted recommending OTP on a Republican led RC 13-5. Bill passed on House floor OTP YES RC 227-121.
HB-1312 - relative to the statute of limitations for violations involving a motor vehicle accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury. Bill increases the statute of limitations for violators involving a motor vehicle accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury from 3 to 6 months. The current 3 month statute of limitations is not always sufficient time to conduct a thorough investigation for an offense as egregious as taking the life of another. Ought to Pass (OTP) voice vote (VV).
HB-1301 - relative to challenges to voters. This bill removes an unnecessary requirement to the process of challenging a voter, reverting the law back to what it was before the prior Democrat (DEM) legislature passed a reactionary bill in response to one specific incident. Attempt to Table failed roll call (RC) 126-216, passed OTP RC 212-129.
HB-1332 - relative to the law enforcement authority of fish and game conservation officers. This bad bill changes a statute that has been in effect since 1935 without a challenge on constitutional grounds, about law enforcement authority of Conservation Officers under RSA 206:26, by changing "reasonable cause" for stopping and searching. Bill came from committee as Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL)(kill), but failed RC 171-174, I voted yes. Bill passed OTP Division vote (D) 181-165, I voted no. Hope Senate is smart enough to kill it.
HB-1333 - establishing a committee to study the establishment of a point system for violations of hunting and fishing laws and regulations enforced by the Fish and Game Department. Bill as amended establishes a committee to study violations of hunting and fishing laws and regulations point system that could be a pathway to developing a penalty system that more appropriately meets the severity of the violation. A-0616h YES VV, Ought to Pass as Amended (OTP-A) YES VV.
HB-1422 - relative to the applicability of foreign law in cases before New Hampshire tribunals. This bill, as amended, anticipates and is intended to protect against future attempts to apply foreign or international law in the determination of any case or controversy before any tribunal of the state of New Hampshire. It provides an exception from this prohibition in cases where the parties before the tribunal have previously agreed in writing to be governed by foreign or international law. A-0713h YES VV, OTP-A YES VV.
HB-1662-FN - relative to preparation of fiscal notes. The taxpayers deserve to know that their hard earned dollars are spent in a thoughtful manner on programs and departments that serve the public. This bill will add an additional requirement to describe the costs and benefits of state spending. OTP YES VV.
HB-1307 - relative to agricultural plates. This bill will save New Hampshire farmers money by qualifying the use of cargo vans for agricultural plates as long as they are only used for agricultural purposes and only used within a 20-mile radius of the farm. A-0247h YES VV, OTP-A YES VV.
HB-1442 - relative to motorcycle noise emission regulation. The bill works to eliminate excessive motorcycle exhaust noise using a new, SAE International, roadside testing procedure, the J2825. This test allows police to ticket out out-of-state motorcycles who violate our noise laws, by conducting a roadside test, while bike is idling, with either the rider sitting on the bike or the bike is on the kickstand. A-0683h YES VV. OTP-A YES RC 261-80. A repeat bill of high public interest that was again killed:
HB-1693-FN - relative to motor vehicle inspections. The committee exhaustively reviewed the issue. If passed, it could put New Hampshire in a status of non-compliance with our Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan and put at risk an estimated $300M of federal highway funds. The vehicles in our state currently fail their annual safety inspection at a rate of over 20%, $75K for bad breaks, $80K for faulty steering, $56K for bad tires, and we want to go to every other year, I don't think so. Bill failed. ITL RC 238-110.
(Editor's Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)