I would be remiss if I didn’t start out with a “Big Thank You” to the Carriage Towne News Editor Electra Alessio, and her production crew, for allowing these longer articles, as our legislation period winds down. I know they are tight for space, and really appreciate their kindness. That is exactly why we need to keep supporting the small businesses, that support this paper. With all that is happening in our state, and locally, we need to keep this vital paper printing. Without it, where would you get the local happenings, news, and other things that affect our daily lives, including increased fees and taxes?
The latest information we have been receiving about gambling tells us not to look for any quick money; that there won’t be any to help fix our current budget. Out of Maryland’s experience, it’s been 18 months since gambling was legalized, and the state has received $0 (zero) of its expected $90M up front license money. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, which owns Foxwoods, is saying Connecticut should consider lowering the legal gambling age from 21 to 18, and allow alcohol sales until 4:00 a.m., to help build up the slumping casino business. Is that what we really want to look forward to? Is this what our youth need?
Please, sit down and hold on to your seat, as you read what I have to tell you now. You thought you were living up here in New Hampshire, far away from the sham style, of pushing what you want through legislation, as they do in our national capitol, well read on. The SB-450, the bill I used last week to show the time and effort legislators on both sides of a bill spend, pushing to get it passed or killed. This bill was in a Senate sub-committee the very next morning, and without any committee debate, was committee voted 7-0, non-concurrence, recommending the full Senate kill it, which they did. Then the Senate modified HB-1128, with most of SB-450. I understand the changes are: General Fund revenue portion impact: left out (1) electricity generation tax, (2) insurance premium tax increase, and (3) estate tax over $2M. They added (1) monetization of certain state assets, enterprises or resources, (2) gaming - revenue (2 licenses), and (3) historical racing - revenue. SB-450 is now dead, voted Non-concurrence in the Senate, but wait, not too fast.
Here comes our HB-1128 back from the Senate with a massive amendment including: (1) parts of SB-450, (2) another version of the gambling bill SB-489, and (3) the Historical Racing slot machine bill SB-490. The bill is 98 pages long. Off I go to the House clerk’s office, and ask for a copy of it. The lady says to me, “Do you really need a copy, it’s so big we didn’t print many”. I said “Yes, unlike most representatives, I want to read it. I won’t vote for anything I haven’t read.” I got my copy, and off I went. What a waste of time reading those 98 pages; you will see why, just read on.
At about 11:40 a.m., at the May 19th Session, Finance Committee Chairman St. Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham) comes to the House well and makes a motion “To non-concur on HB-1128, unless the Senate votes to reconsider SB-450, then votes to non-concur and request a committee of conference, prior to 3:00 p.m., this afternoon, of which we would agree to.” This is a motion of duel meaning. Such a conditional motion is not in our House rules, and has no precedence of prior use, ever, in the history of the House. The Republicans challenged this “duel meaning” motion, but the House Speaker allowed it to proceed. The Democrat Floor Leader, Rep. Eaton (D-Stoddard), pushed the roll call vote 209-147, to uphold the Speaker’s ruling. Republicans tried a “Special Order until 3:00 p.m.” motion, but Rep. Eaton pushed to kill the motion, on a roll call vote 166-190. Republicans then (now about 1:00 p.m.) made a motion to recess until 2:00 p.m., for lunch; but again Rep. Eaton pushed the Dems to kill the motion on a roll call vote 167-191. Rep. Eaton made a motion “To move the question (Rep. Smith’s motion) and it passed on a roll call vote 200-157. Another motion challenging the House Speaker’s rulings failed as Rep. Eaton pushed the Dems to uphold the Speakers ruling on a roll call vote of 192-157. Then, the Rep. Smith motion passed on a roll call vote 181-169, without any floor debate on the contents of the amendment.
Ninety-eight (98) pages and not one word of debate on any of it? Rep. Eaton made a motion to reconsider the vote of Rep. Smith’s motion, and asked for a No vote. This procedure, if successful, prevents the bill from coming back to the floor for reconsideration or debate. Before the vote on his motion could be made, the Republicans made a higher precedence motion “to table” the reconsideration motion, which failed on a roll call vote 147-187.
Finally, over two hours later, (now about 1:45 p.m.), the 9th roll call vote, (all of which take time), on the motion to “reconsider” failed, on roll call vote 158-179. Boy, now we finally have this crazy, “duel motion” motion, precedence setting motion, passed and the House breaks for lunch and Speakers Ice Cream Social, until 3:00 p.m. Sorry, but the story isn’t over yet.
While we are at lunch break, enjoying the ice cream social, several concerned House Republicans chose to skip the social, and go up into the Senate gallery to see what’s happening about SB-450. Then 3:00 p.m. comes and goes, with no mention of SB-450, as they are debating other Senate business. But while the representatives were there; they were given a copy of a very interesting, previously signed, agreement between the House Speaker and the Senate President, which I was given a copy of, and I quote:
Terms of Agreement Between House and Senate Leadership The Senate and House Leadership agree as follows: 1. If the House votes to request a committee of conference on HB 1128 (contingent upon the Senate requesting a committee of conference by SB 450, then the Senate will reconsider its actions on SB 450 and request a committee of conference on SB 450. 2. The appointed members to the committees of conference on SB 450 and HB 1128 will consist of identical individuals. 3. The Committees of Conference will work off of one bill and the process will consist of starting with a bill that contains the provisions that are common to both SB 450 and HB 1128. To that base of common provisions, the committee members are open to offer amendments to add other items that were contained in either SB 450 or HB 1128 or other provisions that are germane to those bills. In other words, the process will be an additive process whereby other provisions beyond those that are common to both bill will have to be added to the bill via amendments (following added in cursive). The base amendment will include the language from HB 1128 that allows all other budget and revenue ideas to be introduced. 4. The House and Senate will not play the two bills off of each other. In other words, the recommendations of the committees of conference will need to be unanimous. Either both bodies will recommend to pass a bill as amended or agree to disagree. 5. Based on a coin toss won by the House, the House will decide which of the two bills will serve as the vehicle from which to construct the single bill and in so choosing will decide which body will chair the committees of conference process (following added in cursive) 6. Both bodies are also free to reconsider areas of common agreement in both bills.
This agreement was signed by House Speaker Terie Norelli and Senate President Silvia B. Larsen (at her signature in cursive - “with added changes, agree”).
Wow! Our House Speaker and her Leadership knew about all this, even before Rep. Smith’s motion was first made. Throughout the various motions and debates about the motion and its duel time requirement, the Speaker said several times, “the Senate can hear” as she put her hand to her ear.
When we came back from lunch, the Republicans tried to bring up this new information about the “agreement”, but the Speaker ruled us out of order. We then tired to bring up the “no” response by 3:00 p.m., pointing out that several Reps. were in the Senate gallery prior to, and after 3:00 p.m., and no mention of SB-450 was heard. Even the Speaker’s legal council was in the gallery, but again the Republicans were ruled out of order.
St. Rep. Norm Major (R-Plaistow) pressed the Speaker to allow the Ways and Means Committee’s revenue estimates before she appointed the conferees on the budget bill, sending them to the “Committee of Conferences” without how the state’s revenues are actually tracking. Just let them go, discuss fees and taxes in the dark, who cares?
At the end of each Session, the Majority House Leader always makes a resolution, Rep. Wallner offered the following: “Resolved, that the House now adjourn from the early session, the business of the late session be in order at the present time,” etc. After she finishes, the House then usually does a voice vote of yes to be adopted, and we are done. When Rep. Wallner was finished, I jumped up, and called for a roll call vote, for two reasons: (1) If you vote yes at this time, you agree to all the votes that were passed during that session, which I didn’t, and (2) It gave the Republicans one more shot at the happenings of the day, especially the sham job about HB-1128. We tried to bring it up again to no avail. Many representatives I spoke with, both Democrats and Republicans, after the Session, were appalled at the events of the day. What a disgrace to our sacred House, to the people of our great state, and to democracy. How could the House members agree to allow us to step so low?
House Republican members put up a good fight: trying to keep proper order, follow the House rules, and using correct parliamentary procedures. Republicans will continually fight, for the people of our state, our small businesses, and our great state as a whole. We won’t give up and we won’t waver. We will still be there to fight another day, for you, the people of New Hampshire. A special “Thank You” goes out to House Republican Alliance leader Representative William O’Brien, (R-Mont Vernon), for his outstanding leadership during this whole event, and throughout this whole legislative term. Thanks again, Bill, for you leadership.
(Editor’s Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at l.mikekappler<\@>comcast.net)