Friday, July 22, 2016

Led by the Dead

There are 14 candidates running for the office of Governor of New Hampshire. Five are Democrats, five are Republicans, and there are four not affiliated with the two major parties. Only two candidates are women, one Republican and one independent. Most of them don’t have high name recognition. Just for fun, I’ve read their websites. I’ll begin by reporting on the Republican candidates, and cover the rest in upcoming columns.

Frank Edelblut is currently serving his first term as a state representative, from Wilton. According to his website, Frank thinks that NH should be the first state to try new ideas, and the first to jettison old ideas. Reading through the priorities section was illuminating. Frank thinks that cutting business taxes and eliminating regulatory hurdles will create jobs. He wants to do something about energy costs. He wants to enable a 21st century workforce. And he wants to “get a handle” on healthcare costs. Can anyone find the new here? Frank is going to stand up for families, which translates as: “Frank wants to make women’s reproductive decisions for them.”

Frank loves our community college system, though he says nothing about funding it. It’s difficult to discern exactly what he means when he says he supports all options when it comes to schools, but it sounds as if he thinks we taxpayers should be paying for private religious schools. Frank supports the 2nd Amendment. He owns a gun. MOAR GUNZ! Frank also wants to reform welfare. He wants us to know he’s the only candidate for governor who has consistently opposed “Medicare welfare expansion.” I’m guessing this means he opposed the NH Health Protection Program, aka expanded Medicaid. I hope this doesn’t mean he’s referring to the earned benefit seniors receive known as Medicare. Frank wants us to know that he values the NH environment. He supports Northern Pass, he wants to build pipelines, and he’s miffed about those who turn environmental concerns into political issues. Frank appears to view the NH environment as one big potential cash cow. He says nothing on his site about state parks, clean water, or clean air. And finally, he wants to end politics as usual, by doing exactly the same things that have been failing our state for the last 30 years.

Jeanne Forrester’s website tells us that she is a real conservative and a break from the past. She’s currently serving as a state senator from Meredith.

It’s not an appealing or intuitive website. Over a photo of a lake, we learn that she is pro-life. It’s repeated a couple of times, just in case there is any doubt, and it’s also listed in the section where one can download position papers. She, too, seems to think that taking back NH will be accomplished by taking away women’s bodily autonomy. Forrester thinks that prevention education will solve the opioid crisis. She thinks that the answer to our state’s economy and job creation is lowering business taxes and eliminating red tape. Senator Forrester has taken The Pledge.

Jonathan Lavoie wants you to know that he’s a REAL New Hampshire citizen. According to his website, he’s a regular person. Not a career politician or a millionaire. He’s against restricting our freedoms. He’s running as a Republican and did a little compare views with other candidates – but he only compared his views with the Democrats. To his credit, he thinks abortion is none of his business. He has no economic plan listed on his site.

Ted Gatsas is the current mayor of Manchester. On his website we learn that he’s taken The Pledge. His devotion to dead Mel and Bill* is so strong that he would like to enshrine that Pledge in our state constitution. Gatsas would like to replace expanded Medicaid with a NH solution. He offers no specifics on what that might look like. He wants to stop Common Core. He believes in STEM education, in local control, and sending kids to tech schools. He will create jobs by cutting business taxes. What a maverick! To his credit, Ted is in favor of investing in infrastructure (he and Sununu are the only candidates who mention it on their websites) and he doesn’t say a word about abortion.

Chris Sununu has the benefit and the curse of a well-known name. In this anti-legacy campaign year, it’s difficult to know whether that will help him or hurt him. One of the first things he wants us to know is that he’s taken The Pledge. According to his website, he also wants education reform, funding for charter schools, and school choice. His “vibrant” economic plan consists of cutting business taxes and eliminating red tape. He wants to reorganize DRED, and reduce health care costs. Sununu also wants to make NH a right to work state, because right to work states get all the jobs. (That those states have better infrastructure, lower energy costs, and a lower cost of living hasn’t occurred to him.) That union jobs are some of the only good paying jobs that offer benefits in our woefully underpaid state is of no concern to him. That right to work states have even higher poverty rates would not interest him. This is about busting up unions and has nothing to do with what is good for workers in our state. 

Sununu blames the NH infrastructure crisis on the Democrats. No one seems to have told him that the GOP had control of the NH House for 150 years, until 2006. The infrastructure didn’t fall apart in a decade. The last two items in his economic plan are infrastructure and telecom infrastructure. He says he’ll get expanded fiber connectivity through public/private partnerships. Sure he will. The monopolies that have control of our telecommunications aren’t interested in expanding, because there’s nothing in it for them in the way of financial reward.

There is nothing new under this sun. All of the GOP candidates promise new, innovative thinking, and bold leadership. All of them propose exactly the same things that their party has been saying for the 30 years I’ve lived in this state. Taking the pledge means never having to think for one’s self. NH has been run like a poor state for decades, as the condition of our infrastructure illustrates. The Republican war cry continues to be, “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem.” Just like trickle down economics, this is a failed policy. And just like trickle down economics, conservatives are intent on perpetuating the failure. NH has a housing crisis, which none of the candidates even acknowledge. None of the candidate websites mention the north country. It’s the same old recycled stuff, wrapped in The Pledge, and served up as “innovative leadership.”

Mel and Bill are chuckling from their respective graves. *

*Mel Thomson and Bill Loeb 

This was published as an op-ed in the July 22 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Baldasaro: Representing NH to the World

Josh Rogers of NHPR is in Cleveland. He just tweeted this out:

I've been seeing a lot of NH media and NH folks talking about how this is "just Al." This kind of behavior is tacitly accepted by our media and our legislature. He's never had to deal with any consequences for the outlandish and frequently dishonest things he's said in public, and that has served to embolden him to the point where he has called for the execution of a presidential candidate who has not been arrested, charged, or convicted of anything. 

Some of Al's greatest hits:

The time he testified at a hearing that the state of NH was selling babies to gay couples for $10,000 per baby. I was at that hearing.

The time Al testified at a hearing that phasing out lead fishing tackle was a part of the UN's Agenda 21 to invade the tackle boxes of NH fishermen. I was at this hearing, too.

Or the time he insisted that there was a double triple secret 13th amendment to the US Constitution that was intentionally deleted.

Then there was the time he approved of the booing of a gay Marine.

And finally, there was the nipple incident.

I keep reading that there isn't any way to expel him from the House (not true - it's just never been done) and that the voters in his district will have to take care of it. 

Here's the thing. As long as Al was embarrassing himself on the NH State House floor, he wasn't my problem. He wasn't MY representative. 

Right now, Al is representing NH on the world stage. He has become MY representative. Yours, too, if you live in NH. 

This is not acceptable. This is not the face New Hampshire wants to be showing to the world. 

h/t to Josh Rogers

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Impulse Control


are the direct descendants of these:

I have no doubt that those yelling "lock her up" in 2016 would have been yelling "burn the witch" in Salem in 1692. 

Then along comes Al:
“I’m a veteran that went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm. I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton to me is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam,” he said. “She is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi. She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back up security. Something’s wrong there.”
“This whole thing disgusts me, Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason,” he added.
This is State Representative Al Baldasaro of Londonderry, currently serving his 5th term in the NH House. 
A duly elected representative calling for the death of a person who has not been charged or convicted of any crime. 
Once again, the NH GOP covers our state with glory. GOP Chair Jennifer Horn issued a weak assed statement urging Al to apologize. If she had any ovaries, she'd be asking him to RESIGN, right away. Does she really want to DEFEND this kind of conduct - because that's what she's going to have to do. 
It's also worth noting that there is no honor code, no rules for legislators on how to behave in public. GOP State Rep. Kyle Tasker sat in the Child and Family Law committee setting up a sexual assignation with a 14 year old girl. He broke both state and federal law - but he didn't break any House rules. 
Al Baldasaro has made many obnoxious and frequently dishonest statements loudly in public. If the NH GOP treats this as another instance of "oh, it's just Al," they'll be as guilty as he is of inciting and condoning violence. They'll also be handing the Democrats the House majority in 2017. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

We Remain Undeterred

The Governor and the Executive Council comprise the executive branch of our state government. The Council has veto power over pardons, contracts with a value greater than $10,000, and nominations. Executive Councilors earn a yearly salary of $12,354 plus an additional $4000 per year for expenses, in Districts 2-5. The District 1 Councilor gets $5800 per year for expenses. It should come as no surprise that NH is the only state that does the executive branch this way. We’re the only state with a ridiculously large House full of unpaid legislators. Neither one of these things actually works all that well anymore, but that does not deter us.

The Executive Council was intended to be a check on the governor’s power. Instead, it’s become a home for some angry men who don’t give a fig about what’s right for the state. Their figs are reserved for what is far right, as in their ideology. The Executive Council has become just another parade ground for ideological posturing by the members of the GOP as they use the position as a springboard to higher office.

Last summer the Executive Council voted against funding Planned Parenthood on the basis of the bogus videos that have since been discredited. Republicans seized on those videos as a way to play politics with women’s health and bodily autonomy, while pretending to have great concern for life. That Planned Parenthood saves lives didn’t factor into their grandstanding.

Planned Parenthood saved my daughter’s life twenty some years ago. Low wage working women in the north country didn’t have many choices when it came to their health care back then. The choices haven’t expanded all that much in the ensuing years, though the ACA has improved access for some. My daughter could afford Planned Parenthood, thanks to their sliding fee scale. An annual pap smear came back showing precancerous cells in her cervix. They were removed. She didn’t get cervical cancer. About 15 years later, she had a baby, because she didn’t get cancer and die, thanks to Planned Parenthood.  

It is worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood is not just a provider of birth control. Planned Parenthood also provides STD testing and treatment, breast exams, and cancer screenings.

When Executive Councilors Joe Kenney and David Wheeler start grandstanding about Planned Parenthood, I take it personally. Women’s lives and women’s health are of no concern to these men. Women are just pawns to be used for grandstanding purposes.

Last week the Executive Council voted to restore funding to Planned Parenthood. Republican Chris Sununu was the swing vote this time. He’s supported Planned Parenthood in the past, and after a foray into political expedience last summer, he’s returned to his original stance. His own political party has already begun to excoriate him. There is no room for differences of opinion in today’s Republican Party.

David Wheeler brayed about “Planned Parenthood selling baby parts.” This has been disproven (at the same time the videos were debunked) but in the fact free age we live in, that is unimportant. He knows that the NH media won’t hold him accountable for his lies. Only two states (California and Washington) had fetal tissue donation programs. The program was completely voluntary. The tissue wasn’t sold – it was donated. Some (not all) of the clinics were reimbursed for the cost of shipping and handling. The tissue went on to be used for scientific research.

Joe Kenney put on his sad face to declare that the money for Planned Parenthood should be spent on the opioid crisis. Family planning is not a crisis, he opined, in the way that one might if they had zero chance of ever becoming pregnant. Women’s lives don’t matter in Joeworld, but suddenly, addicts lives matter? Try as I might, I can’t ever remember Joe having any concern for them in the past.

At the Executive Council meeting, Kenney said that there is never an unwanted child. There are orphanages and adoption agencies, he said. Does he even know what an orphanage is? (Spoiler Alert: warehouse for unwanted children.) Fauxlifers love to pretend concern for children, while begrudging every dime spent on their education, and doing nothing about child poverty and homelessness.

The 2015 data from NH Kids Count shows that in Carroll County, 10.5% of families with children under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty level. In Coos County it’s 19.2% of families, and in Grafton it’s 11.8%. Given that NH is the seventh wealthiest state in the nation, those numbers are shocking. Joe Kenney has yet to put on his sad public face to discuss the need to do anything about the increasing percentage of child poverty in his district.

According to the nhgov website, “The Executive Council plays a vital role in improving the state's infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, via management and oversight of the state's 10 year Highway Plan.” The website does not list “overseeing women’s reproductive parts” as one of the EC responsibilities. Ponder that next time you drive on East Conway Road.

NH typically has about 500 bridges on the state’s red list for structural impairments. We have 1,2000 bridges that are over 75 years old. New bridges are added to the red list every year. We add more bridges than we take off, though one way to remove a bridge from the red list is just to close it. The wait list for new municipal bridge projects is about 17 years. Our 10 year transportation plan is a farce. But hey, that’s not sexy. Talking about bridges doesn’t get your face on WMUR or get you written up in Breitbart. Doing your damn job doesn’t get your name up in lights.

According to the Executive Council website, Council members are supposed to be advocates for the people. Check out their responsibilities at , then ask questions of your local EC candidates accordingly. You might ask about that “vital” role they play in improving our infrastructure. Ask the incumbent what he’s done in that regard. Be sure to ask which people they intend to advocate for.

 Published as an op-ed in the July 8 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Working As Planned

Two weeks ago I wrote about the legislature being called back for a special vote on a bill to give law enforcement an extra $1.5 million to deal with the opium crisis. To recap: The original bill, SB 485, failed to pass because a non-germane amendment concerning state employee health care was tacked on, to ensure that it wouldn’t pass. It didn’t. By one vote. The Governor wanted it to pass. House and Senate leadership wanted it to pass. Law enforcement wanted it to pass.

And so, a bipartisan group got together, eliminated the poison pill amendment, and wrote a new bill, HB 1000. The House and Senate were called back in to vote on it. Some representatives were very unhappy at being called back. They were so unhappy that they spent two hours debating whether to suspend the rules in order to vote on the bill. The legislative session began at 10. They didn’t begin discussing the bill till after the lunch break.
The vote was 241-97 to suspend the rules. It’s a small group of GOP miscreants who continually obstruct and delay, but they’re incredibly effective at wasting the time of their colleagues. They made a big point of asking the Speaker if leadership could vote without fear of retribution. It was the last day of this session, what did they think he going to do to them? Change the combo on their locker? Take their lunch money?  Send them to detention?

This voting session came into being because of a non-germane amendment.  To illustrate their displeasure, the libertea faction proceeded to propose 7 non-germane floor amendments to HB 1000. Most were an attempt to add in the language of bills that had already failed or been vetoed. Rep. JR Hoell, for whom guns appear to provide his sole reason for living, put forth a floor amendment to add on a provision that would repeal the requirement for a concealed carry license. Another amendment would have allowed stores to sell syringes without a prescription. Yet another would have allowed towns that have no public schools to use public funds to send children to private religious schools. All seven of the non-germane amendments failed by wide margins, but did succeed in wasting hours of everyone’s time.

Eventually HB 1000 passed by a vote of 235-74. They moved on to attempt to overturn the governor’s veto of six bills. The first prohibited the confiscation of firearms and ammo during a state of emergency. This has never happened in New Hampshire. It was proposed in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina, but that story has been twisted by the NRA to get the gundamentalists up in arms, which isn’t exactly a challenge. They’re easily manipulated. (One can only imagine their disappointment in the fact that Obama never even tried to take their guns away, after 8 years of caterwauling about it.)  The veto override failed. So did the attempt to override the veto on the bill repealing the concealed carry license requirement, so that bill failed twice in one day. The override of the bill to use public funds for private religious schools failed. All six override attempts failed.

The last debate concerned an entry in the House journal. Every voting session day begins with an “invocation” which is another way of saying prayer. The prayer was edited in the print version, as many things are. All of the “umms” spoken in a speech are edited out. The minister made reference to “children, born and unborn” in his prayer, and that was truncated to “children.” There’s also a tradition of editing overly sectarian or politically charged language in favor of more neutral language in the permanent record. Fetus fetishist Warren Groen took exception to this editing, and made a fuss. You may remember Warren Groen as the representative who made the fetus speech to fourth graders visiting the legislature who proposed making the red tailed hawk the state bird. The vote to amend the journal passed by a narrow margin, after an hour long debate that began at 4 p.m.

I’m in favor of transparency. If inflammatory, foolish, or reactionary statements are made, they should be included in the permanent record, where the public can see them and hold the makers of the statements accountable for them. Legislative sessions should not be opened with prayers. It is a tradition that should be eliminated. The 400 members of the House do not all share the same religion – and even if they did, their religion should have no sway in the public affairs of our state. No religion should. If there’s a need to fill a hole in the ritual, read a poem. Some Walt Whitman would be nice.

Over in the Senate, the vote to suspend the rules slid right through on a voice vote. No floor amendments. HB 1000 passed unanimously.

HB 1000 passed largely because it’s an election year and most legislators did not want to be seen as voting against law enforcement during an opioid crisis. Whether this is a good use of funds is debatable. In this case, because it’s an election year, perception is everything.

A number of long time representatives are leaving the legislature because of the obstructionist crowd. The endless roll call votes and procedural delays are working exactly as planned.

Published as an op-ed in the June 24 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

But Wait, There's More!

The legislative session was over. We thought last week would be the end, till it was time for veto override attempt day.

We were wrong. The legislature will be back on June 16. One of the bills that had a non-germane amendment tacked on to it has the governor and the House and Senate leadership feeling a little cross. SB 485: An Act establishing a state grant program to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in addressing the opioid crisis and making an appropriation therefor, relative to the health care premium contribution for retired state employees who are eligible for Medicare Parts A and B due to age or disability, relative to funding of retiree health benefits, and making an appropriation to the department of administrative services.

This bill began life as a bill to fund law enforcement agencies in dealing with the opioid crisis. The funding amounted to $1.5 million for law enforcement. The amendment to mess with the retired state employee health care was tacked on much later.

The bill sailed through the committee of conference, but it failed to clear the House. By ONE vote. 159-160. The libertea crowd was peeved about giving money to law enforcement. The Democrats were peevish about Republicans messing with state employee health plans. It was enough to ensure the bill didn’t pass.

Law enforcement really wants that money, and Governor Hassan really wants to give it to them. We’ve been losing the war on drugs since Nixon was in the White House but that won’t stop us! We’re still trying to make trickle down economics work, too. I don’t believe that we can enforce our way out of this situation. Enforcement only addresses the symptoms. We aren’t doing anything to figure out the root causes of the drug crisis. (Hint: it’s not the drugs!) We are not a state that engages in self-reflection. We have no interest in planning ahead. All we care about is not raising or spending sufficient money to run our state as if it were a going concern.

After the vote, GOP leadership blamed the Governor for not providing leadership (translation: not caving in to their demands) on retiree health care. No mention of the fact that it was a Republican on the Finance Committee who added the poison pill to the original bill, and they passed the bill with that amendment attached to it. There doesn’t seem to be any awareness on the part of leadership that the libertea faction of their majority hates law enforcement and would rather eat ground glass than give them any money. Easier to blame the governor than look in the mirror.

None of that matters. It’s an election year. People are dying. No one wants to be blamed for not funding solutions, so the bill is going to be stripped of the odious amendment about retired state employee health care plans, and the vote will be taken again on funding law enforcement agencies dealing with the opioid crisis. There will probably be some veto override attempts as well, since they’re going to be in Concord anyhow.

A few months ago, a story came out about State Representative Don Leeman committing voter fraud. Rep. Leeman, a Republican from Rochester, represented Wards 2 and 3 in Rochester. In December he moved into Ward 6. In February, Leeman voted in the NH presidential primary in Ward 3. If he admitted that he was no longer domiciled in that ward, he would have had to resign from the House. Naturally people knew, there was talk, and eventually it became an issue.

The NH Republican party is obsessed with voter fraud. There were numerous bills put forth this session that attempted to somehow define the word “domicile” as meaning “not letting students or other unlikely-to-be-Republicans vote in our state.”

In March, the House Legislative Administration Committee determined that he was no longer qualified to represent his district, since he no longer lived in it. Here was a clear-cut case of voter fraud. Guy lives in one ward, moves to another, deliberately votes in first ward – that’s fraud. This was a chance for the fraud obsessed majority party to take action! A chance for them to put their principles into practice!

A letter from a new landlord was magically produced, some tap dancing was done, incantations were chanted, and Leeman was deemed able to keep his seat, because he lived in his district again. His domicile dance was deemed “temporary.” The fact that Leeman fraudulently voted in the primary was swept under the rug. Here was their chance to make an example of one of their own – which would have been a bold and powerful statement – and they blew it. They couldn’t act on principle, because you can’t act on what you don’t possess.

The March 9 Union Leader editorial was filled with finger wagging about voter fraud, acknowledging that Leeman committed it, blaming Democrats (just because) and congratulating Leeman for keeping his seat. Other than a big lump in the carpeting, that seemed to be the end of the story.

Last week, Leeman was arrested on charges of bribery and witness tampering. House leadership may have swept Leeman’s conduct under the rug, but the AG’s office took it seriously, and did what they were supposed to do, investigate. He’s accused of trying to induce an employee of the Rochester Housing Authority to provide a letter with false statements regarding his move. He’s accused of offering that same employee a bribe from the Knights of Columbus (he’s a member) in order to expedite a transfer to another apartment in his House district.

Leeman claims he did not commit voter fraud, because his intent was to move back into his district. Yet even though that magical letter from a new landlord was produced, he continues to live in Ward 6. He never moved. He did, however, resign from the House days before his arrest, which he claims is a mere coincidence.

Leeman says he’ll be exonerated, and he’ll bring charges against those falsely accusing him. He also intends to run for the House again, to represent Rochester’s Ward 6.

Published as an op-ed in the June 10 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Legislative Legerdemain

Every legislative session starts with most of our legislators displaying at least a modicum of dignity and good manners. Most years that doesn’t begin to break down until the last month or so when it’s time to concur or not concur on amended bills.

This year the breakdown began early. As part of the House committee process, a member of the committee writes up a summary of a bill that is ready to go to the floor for a vote. It will explain what the intent of the bill is, explains any moving parts, the fiscal aspects and gives the committee’s recommendation. There may be a majority report, detailing why the majority of the committee supports or does not support the bill, and a minority report explaining why the minority does or does not believe it should pass. This write up is included in the House calendar. They are generally written with a neutral tone and language.

Not this year. Fellow calendar geeks undoubtedly noticed that a number of committee reports were written in either a sarcastic or self-righteous tone. This was an exceptional year in many respects. The NippleGate scandal was the result of Rep. Josh Moore opining on Twitter that a nipple bared in public was open for grabbing. Rep. Ken Weyler announced his opinion that giving public benefits to anyone practicing Islam is treason. Representative Kyle Tasker brought glory to the GOP when he was arrested at the place where he was supposed to be meeting a 14-year-old girl he’d been soliciting sex from on the internet. He met a cop, instead. More cops found his house full of drugs, and there is reportedly a list of his legislative customers, that may go public at some point. As someone once involved in the informal pharmaceutical trade, let me give ya’ll some advice. One thing you really want in a drug dealer is discretion. Don’t buy drugs from the guy who drops his gun in the State House and is always in the news for saying and doing obnoxious things.

As the legislature winds down, it’s time for shenanigans and deals. Any bill that was amended by either the House or Senate must go back to the body it originated from, where that body votes on whether to concur with the amended version, to non concur which kills the bill, or they can ask for a Committee of Conference. (CoC)

The language from dead or tabled bills can be tacked on to completely unrelated bills (a phenomenon known as the non-germane amendment) in an effort to sweeten the deal or twist arms. Some of the weirder examples include HB 636: relative to forfeiture of property; relative to the sale of premixed synthetic urine; establishing a grant program for high schools for heroin and opiate prevention education; and clarifying who may petition to adopt. Because when you think adoption, you think synthetic urine.

SB 495: relative to the health care premium contribution for retired state employees who are eligible for Medicare Parts A and B due to age or disability, relative to funding of retiree health benefits, making appropriations to the department of administrative services, and relative to the definition of a cigar bar. (One of these things is not like the other.) The goal is to give the other guys something they want, so that they’ll vote for your bill, even though they don’t like it. 

That’s how a bill written to fund the police standards and training council and purchase some state police cars (SB 527) was amended to include a provision about bi-weekly paychecks. The Senate tabled the original biweekly paycheck bill. In the legislature, tabling can also be defined as “saving for future leverage.” In this instance, money for cops and cop cars would not be approved by the anti-cop libertea crowd – but tack on the language from the biweekly paycheck bill that was written and sponsored by a number of libertea restaurant owners, and the cops might get their cruisers. This bill is still in the CoC.

Once in a CoC, the members have to unanimously agree to changes, and everyone has to sign off on the report. The report then goes back to the originating body for an official vote on whether to pass the whole thing or not. If it passes, it will eventually hit the governor’s desk.

Another fun aspect of the Committee of Conference process is that the members of the committee can be changed at any time, depending on the desired outcome.  For example, SB 4 is yet another attempt to solve the nonexistent problem of voter fraud. The bill will require a voter to live in the state for 30 days before being allowed to vote. This is almost certainly unconstitutional, but that does not deter the voter suppression crowd. Wasting money on court challenges just means less money to spend frivolously on things like roads and bridges. The House amended the bill to add some rather pompous language about the intentions of the 1974 Constitutional Convention and the meaning of the term domicile, and the Senate asked for a CoC. A dissenting Senator (Democrat) was replaced by a Republican Senator and suddenly there is agreement! Not because it’s a good or necessary bill, but because it’s partisan jiggery pokery.

Eight voter domicile bills were filed this year. There were 4 concealed carry bills. These are the priorities of the current legislature. They aren’t the priorities of the average voter, but they do reflect the mindset of the ideologues that currently populate the majority party.

There is a link on the House General Court website where you can check out the bills currently in Committees of Conference, and who the members of the committee currently are. A look at the bill’s docket will show any changes in the configuration of the committee.

Legerdemain is defined as “sleight of hand when performing conjuring tricks.” That’s what the end of the legislative session is all about.

Published as an oped in the May 27 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper