The New Hampshire legislature is a mirror, reflecting what goes on in Washington. In Washington, petty obstructionism is the order of the day. The same is true in the People’s House here in the Granite State.
The loon and lead sinker bill is a good example. SB 89 was aimed at ending the use of lead sinkers and jigs weighing an ounce or less. These lead sinkers are the leading cause of death in the adult loon population. They’re also littering the bottoms of our lakes and ponds. We don’t use lead in water pipes any more, or in paint because now we know that lead is bad. The wrangling over this bill went on for well over an hour, because the liberty crowd is convinced that this bill has something to do with Agenda 21. Rep. Al Baldasaro opined in April that this was a UN attempt at getting fisherman off the lake. After enduring what one can only assume was copious public and private ridicule, he’d changed his tune by session day, and told media that this was just a “feel good bill.”
Rep. Burt of Goffstown openly mocked the concerns of those who supported the bill, dismissing the idea that lead was dangerous. The loonkillers lost, and the bill passed on a roll call vote (yep, they wanted this enshrined in the public record) of 225-142. You can look up your representative’s votes on the House website. This whole process took nearly 2 hours – and the loonkillers lost, big time. What else can we call this but obstructionist theater?
The big vote last week was on SB 152, the casino bill. That debate lasted for a little over 4 hours, but that debate was justified. The result of the vote was destined to have a big impact on the state no matter which way it came down. We all now know that the House voted down the bill. The why of it isn’t being honestly being told. All of the NH media seems united in presenting this as legislators being either for or against gambling. No nuance need be discussed. While sitting through the committee vote, and then the 4-hour debate on the House floor, I heard plenty of nuance expressed. The real problem with the bill is that it was bad. Many representatives who support expanded gambling voted against it because it was a raw deal for the state.
SB 152 ensured that NH would get 30% of the take from the machines of Millennium Gaming, the gaming corporation that the state is courting. In 2012, a similar bill gave NH 49% of the take. In 2008 it was 50%, and in 2004 it was 55%. Pennsylvania gets 55%. Thirty percent was a great deal for Millennium – but not so great for the state. Millennium was also given the opportunity to write the regulations governing the casino. Putting the fox in charge of the henhouse has never been successful, but our state senators were keen on trying.
A commission authorized by Governor Lynch a few years back found that the regulations for a casino should be in place before any negotiations with a company began. There was money put in the budget to put that regulatory infrastructure into place. It was never done. The idea of letting the casino write the regulations defies all common sense. The bill was voted down on a vote of 199-164. A motion to reconsider failed on a vote of 212 – 152.
There were nearly a dozen bills that were unheard in last week’s session, and so were brought forward this week. The NH Liberty Alliance (essentially a front for the Free State Project) hands out gold (naturally) sheets to folks heading in to Representatives Hall. These sheets give the Liberty perspective on bills, and generally provide a blueprint for how much obstructionism to expect on any given bill.
SB 96, a bill aimed at curbing vexatious litigants (nuisance lawsuits) was deemed Anti-Liberty. Given the Free State Project’s propensity for filing nuisance lawsuits, this came as no surprise. In Randia we will all be able to sue each other all the time. Gold! Austria! The bill passed, despite the protestations of the residents of Libertopia.
SB 100, was a bill to allow employers to stop issuing paper checks, and give wages on cards – like debit cards. The problem here is that those cards (issued by companies like Visa) have fees associated with them. This is a mode of payment that is reserved almost entirely for low wage workers. Carl Nelson does not get his paycheck in the form of a plastic card with user fees attached. This benefits employers at the expense of employees. It also benefits banks and credit card companies, all who want a piece of the low wage pie at the expense of workers. Shameful. The bill was defeated on a vote of 235 -93.
The most interesting fight of the day was over SB 11, a bill allowing municipalities to work together on water and sewer infrastructure projects. Sounds sensible, right? What you don’t know is that this is a sneak attempt by the UN to achieve global domination through your toilet. The John Birch Society and other wearers of tinfoil berets decided this bill (written to aid Stratham and Exeter in particular) was part of the nefarious Agenda 21. This is a bill that came out of committee with a recommendation of ought to pass on vote of 18-0. Normally it would have been put on the consent calendar, but this legislature isn’t exactly normal. All who were present donned their sunglasses to block the glare of 100 tinfoil berets.
A motion to table the bill failed. Rep. Jane Cormier of Alton gave a one-woman filibuster against the bill that included all manner of bizarre assertions (well stealing, property takeovers) including her belief that “the EPA now considers rainwater a pollutant.” A move to recommit the bill (send it back to the same committee that unanimously passed it) failed.
Rep. Abrami (Republican from Stratham) finally had the chance to speak, and pointed out that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hadn’t visited Stratham, and that the bill had nothing to do with Agenda 21. He also said, “I’m a conservative guy. You think I’d stand up here and allow the state to steal our wells?” The bill was finally passed on a roll call vote of 254 -74, after all that posturing and bloviating. With each vote (table, recommit, final vote) the tinfoil crowd lost votes. Their goal isn’t winning – they know better. Their goal is posturing and obstructing. Just like Congress.
© sbruce 2013
Published as a regular biweekly column in the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper.