Thursday, December 14, 2017

Coming up in 2018

A friend from North Conway suggested I write a column “about some of the good, intelligent legislation proposed for 2018, and some of the decent, intelligent legislators who are striving to promote good and beneficial things for NH.” This sounded as if it would be easy. Not so. There are 1030 LSRs filed so far. An LSR is a legislative service request, which is how bills begin the journey to either becoming law or becoming dead.

We can expect a contentious legislative session. The majority party has seized the opportunity to file their entire wish list, knowing that they may never have control of the entire state government again.

Some of the good bills that are coming back were held over from 2017. SB 247 would prevent childhood lead poisoning from paint and water, and make an appropriation to a special fund for the purpose of remediating lead in rental housing. The bill passed the Senate and was amended by the House, and the Senate refused to concur with the amendments. Lead paint was outlawed 40 years ago. NH is the last state where a child died from lead poisoning. There are a lot of good organizations and some legislators who have been fighting to get the lead out for years.

SB 244 will be back. This bill prohibits licensed counselors from engaging in conversion therapy with persons under the age of 18. Conversion therapy is the discredited and damaging practice of trying to change a person’s sexual or gender orientation. The list of bipartisan sponsors includes Rep. Ed Butler.  

HB 1671 would abolish the death penalty. The fight to abolish the death penalty has been going on for decades. This year, three Democrats and a Libertarian will be the standard bearers.

HB 1213 would remove the exception for married minors from the definition of sexual assault. Last year a bill to stop allowing child marriage failed to pass. This would at least allow married minors to file rape charges against their adult spouses.

HB 1564 concerns the sexual assault of a victim who is incarcerated in a correctional institution by a person with supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim. Last year the NH Supreme Court overturned a Belknap County deputy sheriff’s rape conviction. The deputy was transporting a prisoner, and had intercourse with her. He claimed it was consensual. The state argued that consent isn’t possible when one party holds authority over the other. There was a lot of jiggery pokery around what agency he was working for, who issued the transport order – and as a result he was freed. This bill is aimed at closing the many loopholes that allowed that to happen. The strong bipartisan sponsorship for this bill is a good sign that it may pass.

HB 1793 would establish a single payer health care system in NH. Given that the entire population of our state is smaller than many suburbs, this would make a lot of sense. I applaud the sponsors (including Rep. Knirk of Tamworth) for trying.

HB 1246 would increase the minimum wage for tipped employees. The minimum wage for tipped employees in NH is $3.26. Rep. Jackie Cilley has been fighting this fight for years. There is also legislation coming up that would allow employers to take tips from servers, but since nothing in that bill qualifies as good, we’ll take that up at another time.  

HB 1772 would allow online voting. Thirty states allow online voting, so it’s not a fad. This would forever put to rest the stories of busloads of people from Massachusetts. They can’t park that bus behind your laptop.

HB 1343 would protect beavers. It provides protection for beaver habitats and requires Fish and Game to include advice on beaver control on their website. We can all agree that protecting the wildlife in our state is a good thing – and in this session, I’m taking good where I find it.

HB 1611 would create a study committee to examine offshore wind energy development. Similar bills have failed in the past. Many of our legislators can’t even face a conversation about the future of energy in our state. State Rep. Renny Cushing perseveres – on this and so many other bills that would move our state forward.

HB 1632 would require bottled water to be tested for certain chemicals and labeled with the results of those tests. In a state where PFOA contamination has been so damaging, this makes sense. Rep. Mindi Messmer has proven to be a strong advocate for protecting water in our state.

Readers can find all of the proposed LSRs at the NH General Court website: The list of LSRs can be accessed on the right side of the page, under the heading “State Legislation Dash Board.”

These are some good bills. Next time we’ll look at the others.

PS: Alice, I tried.

Published as an op-ed  in the December 15 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

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