CONWAY — This report will discuss the impact of the most recent House session, review the Carroll County representatives’ votes and discuss the fallout for one particular member of the delegation. To find out how your representative voted on every bill since the first term, you can go to the General Court website and click on "voting record." Remember that sometimes a yes vote can actually mean no and vice versa. 

At the bottom of the chart is the vote total for each bill and generally one of three actions: OTP ("ought to pass," which passes the bill); ITL ("inexpedient to legislate," killing the bill) and Table (holding the bill). Sometimes a table will force a bill to die by inaction. Or the bill could be returned, though it would take a two-thirds majority vote to pass it. "Indefinitely postpone" means the bill cannot be recalled in this two-year session.

After my last article, I got a request for information on how a particular representative voted on a certain bill. This information is available on the legislative website, but sometimes it can be difficult to determine how someone voted. Bills that pass or fail via voice vote will not show how each individual  representative voted.

In a similar fashion, division votes are recorded only by party. Division votes are often political shields to hide the vote of an individual. This shielding allows a representative to vote the ir inclination without reprisal and is often used as a strategy on controversial bills. You will see three of these Voice/Division votes at the end of the bill descriptions.

This session another variation on bills, Senate Omnibus Legislation, were dissected and voted upon. The Senate has the rule that allow them to add many individual bills into one Senate bill and it is called an Omnibus bill. The difficulty is that an Omnibus bill may have four or five bills included within it and generally there is a portion with which a representative doesn’t agree. This makes voting on the bill and amending the bill very difficult. It may remind the reader of the old phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. The other political maneuver is to include an additional bill that has nothing to do with the focus or the intent of the original bill.

For example, a popular and generally accepted bill regarding Education may have attached to it a controversial Environmental issue bill. Often we hear about this tactic used in Washington as a means to pass specific legislation for a “pet” or “hometown” project and is called pork barrel legislation. In the NH House the intent isn’t “pork barrel” but rather to re-insert a House Bill that the Senate may have totally deleted.

This is my third report and follows the recent session in Bedford, NH June 3-4, 2021. Almost all of the bills that were voted upon at the most recent session start with the prefix SB as the bill came from the Senate and conversely House Bills are labeled HB. Many of the bills this session were originally drafted and voted upon in the House and the approved House bill is forwarded to the Senate for their review and modifications. Once the Senate has reviewed and or modified the House bill it is returned to the House for final agreement. If no agreement occurs then it may end up in a Conference Committee to try and find agreement. I’ll discuss the Conference Committee Reports in another article.

Only two remaining sessions are scheduled for June which will determine the fate of bills that were amended by the Senate (June 10) and the upcoming two year state budget (June 24).

Some of the major bills this past session dealt with vaccine regulations, background checks for handgun purchases, election law and the requirement for union participation.

The GOP have the most representatives so almost always have sufficient votes for any piece of legislation. However, on occasion, bills that have a significant impact (SB161 Unions) and others are tested on the floor and a few Republicans will buck the Speaker’s rule and vote against his wishes which happened this session. As noted in the last article the Speaker sometimes bends the traditions or rules of the House. Last session it was the way, manner and timing of the schedule so several Democratic Bills never were heard. This session his two personal votes. A Speaker traditionally votes only in cases of a tie as he did this session, however, he also voted to “create” a tie which killed the bill. Legal yes, traditional no, political yes.

SB 155 Vaccine Amendment. This Omnibus bill (7 bills) dealt primarily with the Governor’s Executive order powers and included within was a section regarding vaccines. An amendment to the bill was introduced that would ban public and private groups from requiring vaccinations from employees and others.

Rep. Marsh (R) Carroll County provided a very persuasive speech reminding legislators that someone’s private vaccination decision could impact other people’s health and safety. He questioned, “ If someone refuses reasonable precautions do they have the right to go wherever they want and infect whoever they encounter”? Part of his speech also identified that the amendment was too broad, expanding into other non-Covid vaccinations and would have other negative consequences including the removal of the authority of the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to determine school vaccinations.

The bill would also prohibit schools, colleges and universities from requiring vaccinations for students to return to campus in the fall.

Note: Rep. Marsh won the vote but did not attend Friday’s session and has since resigned his Republican Leadership position on the Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 147 Education Transportation Amendment. Omnibus bill had four parts, college student aid forms,central registry of abuse violations for school employees, coach bus transportation of students and special education costs. The special education costs bill created a $250,000 fund for areas with populations under 1000 (Hale's Location/Hart's Location) to access additional support of special education costs. The amendment, which I submitted, would create a Committee to revise the current rules and bring back in the fall recommendations for the safe and legal use of Coach buses for students. Currently, the use of Coach buses for school students is not permitted In NH although the practice has been going on for years. Think 8th grade field trips, large high school sporting events, etc.

SB 89 Election Procedures. This four-part Omnibus bill would change the regulations and procedures on voting day. The bill clarified the role of the City/Town Clerk in elections; prohibited photographing a voter within the voting area; created a study committee for the auditing of election results and ballots; and would basically allow NH to run its elections the way it wanted without regard to Federal regulations. Sections 1, 2 and 3 are mundane but the alst secion 4 would create separate election procedures for federal elections and state and local elections on the same day and was troublesome for many. The intent of part 4 was to circumvent the” For the People Act of 2021” dealing with elections that has yet to be passed in Washington.

SB 61 Prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.

This bill, frequently referred to as “The Right To Work Bill '', was the last bill on day one and received multiple legislative maneuvers from both parties. The bill basically required that if a labor contract was in place at a company then employees were required to join or pay a fee equal to the cost of the union to bargain and protect the employees, generally known as an Agency Fee.

Lobbyists from both sides of the issue had been at work for many months trying to garner sufficient votes for their position. The Speaker had also attempted to influence his fellow republican legislators to pass the anti-union bill. In the past similar bills had come forward and were rejected at each recent preceding session. However, with the majority of Republicans holding the House, Senate and Governor’s Office the Right to Work supporters believed this year the bill would pass.

HB141 Procedures for conducting firearm background checks. Currently background checks are done in two stages. Stage One, referred to by local supporters as the “Gun Line”requires the first check to be completed locally and then by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS). People in favor of the bill felt that the current system often wasn’t “instant'' and

took too long and that it was redundant with the required federal FBI check. Those in favor of maintaining the local point of contact felt that the NICS system did not take into consideration restraining orders, domestic violence charges and similar concerns.

The following three important bills were examples of Voice or Division vote process which was explained earlier in the article. Transparency in voting is gone with these important bills.

SB 110 Animals in vehicles. This bill would allow for a person to first call the police and then break a window of a vehicle if an animal was in jeopardy due to heat. Layed on the table with a Division Vote 210-158.

SB 31 Voter checklist and modifying absentee ballots. Part two of this bill would delete the current provision that allows a person with an infectious disease to request an absentee ballot.

The current provision created by the Governor’s Executive Order for those with COVID. The bill passed Division vote 214-162

SB 137 Minimum hourly rate for tipped employees. The intent of the bill is to maintain the current hourly base wage for tipped workers, ($3.27 p/hr) which is 45 percent of the federal minimum wage. By establishing a set hourly rate ($3.27) versus a percentage. then if the federal minimum wage increases the states wage for tipped workers does not. A provision of the bill allows for the state to adjust the set rate as deemed appropriate. The bill passed Division Vote 201-171.

Steve Woodcock is a Democratic state representative From Conway.

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