The New Year has begun, and with it, a new legislature in Concord begins a new biennium. Voters changed the configuration of the House by voting in a Democratic majority; no small feat given the comprehensive gerrymandering that took place last year by the GOP. Certainly after the very public failings of the last bunch, we head into 2013 hoping for better.
There have been 876 LSRs (potential bills) filed for 2013. There were more, but 148 were withdrawn. Just as a comparison, in 2012, 870 LSRs were filed, and 175 withdrawn. In 2011, 900 LSRs were filed, and in 2010 there were 834. As you can see, the numbers stay pretty much in the same ballpark each year. Some are bills that we’ve seen before – endlessly. Former Speaker O’Brien has chosen to bring forth another right to work bill, despite the fact that his last try at it went down in flames. Speaking of the former speaker, Rep. O’Brien refused any committee assignment. Apparently he’s too important to work on a committee that he isn’t chairing.
There are four proposed amendments to the NH Constitution, despite the thorough thrashing that all of the amendments got on the ballot in 2012.
It is, however, a change from 2010 when there were 13 amendments proposed by the (GOP) minority party.
CACR1 would provide that a 3/5-majority vote was required to pass legislation imposing new or increased licenses or fees, or to authorize the issuance of state bonds. In other words, CACR1 would guarantee that no new funds could be raised to run the state. This is sponsored by Reps. Jordan Ulery and Sharon Carson.
CACR2 is also tax related, and would provide that taxes raised by the state of NH or its subdivisions may be graduated. This is sponsored by Reps. Charles Weed and Timothy Robertson, and has a snowball’s chance in hell of going anywhere.
CACR3 is a bill we’ve seen before, but not as a constitutional amendment. It would provide that parents have the natural right to control the health, education, and welfare of their children. This comes to us from the same crew that has filed it before: Reps. Itse, Baldasaro, Kappler, Comerford, Hoell, and Tucker. One wonders at the thought process – given that this hasn’t made it as a bill, why they think it would succeed as an amendment to the state constitution. Or perhaps this is just the minority party making a ‘statement’ at the taxpayer’s expense.
CACR4 is another bill that’s failed to go anywhere, turned constitutional amendment. It would provide that the rules made by the chief justice of the NH Supreme Court governing the administration of the courts in the state shall not have the force and effect of law. This comes to us by Rep. Lars Christiansen, who has demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the judicial branch in the past. Christiansen (and some of his cohorts) feel that the legislature should replace the judicial branch. The last legislature was certainly the best possible argument against that idea. This has been floating around now for a few years in varying iterations, and hasn’t gone anywhere. Again, it seems to be a minority party ‘statement’ at the expense of NH taxpayers.
There are other regurgitations. H1333 would require drug testing of applicants to TANF, as sponsored by Reps. Notter and LeBrun. Rep. LeBrun sponsored a bill in 2011 that called for drug testing of food stamp recipients. It would have saved the state nothing, while costing NH taxpayers over $3million. Another ‘statement’ at the taxpayer’s expense. Rep. Notter achieved a certain amount of renown in 2012 for saying that birth control causes prostate cancer.
H147 would give the legislature the authority to define education standards. Not content with wanting to take over the judiciary, some members of the minority party are extending their overreach into education, and have filed several bills aimed at a legislative takeover of education. Again – the last legislature was the best possible argument against this.
There are also a number of gun bills. H14 is relative to the relinquishing of firearms as a condition of bail, and it seems likely that this bill is aimed at ensuring that firearms not be relinquished. H692 would eliminate the license requirement for a concealed weapon. There are a number of anti-abortion bills as well. The minority party is deeply concerned with ensuring that firearms not be regulated, while forcefully regulating the reproductive decisions of the women of our state.
My favorite LSR is H186: requiring ballot measures to be in plain English. Surely that’s one that we can all get behind.
H228 would abolish the death penalty, which would enable NH to join the civilized nations of the world. H279 is a bill in support of medical marijuana, something that already exists in Vermont and Maine. We treat our dying pets with great love and care, and don’t want to see them suffer. It’s time we do the same for our fellow humans who are sick or dying.
Privacy issues are going to be big this session. One of them, H82, would prohibit an employer from requiring an actual or potential employee to disclose his or her social media passwords.
Of local interest, H760 is “relative to resurfacing a portion of East Conway Road, and making an appropriation therefore.” It’s sponsored by Reps. Buco and White, and Senator Bradley.
This is just a small sample of the mixed bag of proposed legislation. Not all of these bills will see the light of day. There seems to be a fair amount of duplication, so some will be combined. Some will never get out of committee. They are all available for viewing at the NH General Court website, which is a great resource: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/
There you can find bills, and track their progress, read the House and Senate calendars to see what’s coming up, and look up legislators.
It’s a new year, and a new session. NH has real problems that need solving. Let’s hope for a more productive and less embarrassing biennium than the last one.
© sbruce 2013
This was published as an op-ed in the January 11, 2013 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.