Category: NH Legislature
The fact that responsible gun ownership is even considered a controversial idea is mind boggling. Is anyone really promoting irresponsible gun ownership? Sadly, the NH Republican party, currently in the majority in the legislature, is doing just that. This past year was another low point for those who have no issue with the 2nd amendment, but only want to prevent those who should not have guns from so easily acquiring them. And, in the face of the sheer numbers of heart-breaking mass shootings that have already occurred this year, the cavalier attitude of Republicans will only become more extreme in the next session as they anticipate the public’s demand for legislation that will curb gun violence. It is well worth noting that “in 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death” for children between the age of 1-19 years, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Looking back at the past legislative session, the following sensible gun legislation was blocked by the Republicans.A bill was submitted designed to close a loophole in online background checks at gun shows, flea markets and private sales. Another bill sought to prohibit the display of deadly weapons at public events such as celebratory parades, funeral processions, vigils, or demonstrations. Finally a bill which would have prohibited guns at polling places, which often happen to be public schools, was killed.
This was basic legislation to remove insidious loopholes in the present laws which will help to ensure that adequate background checks are done and which will protect citizens from feeling threatened in public places. In what world is this objectionable?
Legislation put forward by Republicans had the opposite goal, including gutting anything that supports responsible gun ownership, gutting background checks, allowing the brandishing of weapons anywhere including all public places, and prohibiting local municipalities from establishing their own gun free zones. There was even an attempt to make it unconstitutional to pass any legislation on gun safety.
Perhaps the worst proposal put forth and passed by the Republicans is HB1178. This bill would prohibit state law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal gun laws. The governor just signed this bill into law.
WMUR reported that, “House Bill 1178 was written with the intent of ‘prohibiting the state from enforcing any federal statute, regulation or presidential executive order that restricts or regulates the right of the people to keep and bear arms’.” This means that if there were federal regulations of any kind, NH state law enforcement personnel would be prohibited from enforcing those regulations, and such enforcement would be up to federal officers. Since guns are often involved in a crime, this would seriously complicate how federal and state agencies work together.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 56% of people support a ban on assault weapons, 86% support red flag laws designed to keep weapons out of the hands of people presenting a danger to their communities, their families and to themselves. Fully 89% of citizens support basic background checks prior to purchasing a firearm.
A common reason put forth in opposition to responsible gun legislation is that such laws would penalize responsible gun owners. If indeed they are so responsible, such legislation would in no way impact them. Why then, do they continue to promote legislation that puts our citizens and our children in harm’s way? Why do they not show a shred of concern for the safety of Granite Staters?
One answer is that the majority of Republicans in office today care more about maintaining their personal arsenal of weapons than they do about the safety of our children. They will tell you that is not true. However, if you look at their actions, even in just this last legislative session, you will see that it is, in fact, true.
And what does majority leader Jason Osborne propose to keep children in our schools safe? His suggestion is that firearms training should be taught at every grade level in public schools. In other words, arm the children.
This is beyond absurd and we must not let this continue. Please help by supporting Democrats in the upcoming election.
Posted on 28 Jun 2022, 11:03 - Category: NH Legislature
We are writing this letter in response to misinformation being distributed by our Republican opponents in the current race for the NH House in Rye and New Castle. Their campaign materials falsely claim that we voted for a NH income tax and a sales Tax, and list specific House Bills, as supposed proof. Nothing is further from the truth.
Most people recognize this misinformation for what it is, but after the most recent attacks, we want to set the record straight. We do not feel it is right that our constituents should be so misled.
Here are the facts about the bills they have referenced:
SB1 and HB712: Our opponents claim these bills establish a state income tax. False. These bills sought to establish a system of paid family and medical leave insurance. It is not a tax of any kind but an insurance policy. The program would have allowed up to 12 weeks off to care for a sick family member or themselves following the birth or adoption of a child. According to a UNH survey, 78% of Granite Staters support paid family leave.
HB 1: Our opponents claim this bill created a deficit. False. HB1 is the entire budget which passed the house and the senate and was vetoed by the governor. A compromise budget - HB3 was passed by both the House & Senate and signed by the governor.. As required by statute, it is always a balanced budget. Whatever the deficit may be, which is unknowable at this stage, is due to loss of revenue due to COVID. After the budget is passed, it is the governor's responsibility to enact the budget and make cuts if necessary due to reduced revenues.
HB2: Our opponents claim this bill created an income tax. False. This bill is the narrative that accompanies HB1 and explains all the various programs relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures. If you search through the 182 pages of this bill, you will not find the words “income tax” or “sales tax.” You will find that the budget provides revenue sharing to communities designed to lower property taxes.
HB623: Our opponents claim this bill raised the business tax rates. False. This bill defined the rates of the business profits tax and business enterprise tax. This bill was incorporated into the full budget, which the governor approved and signed. The rates have remained the same.
HB641: This bill, from 2019 (pre-COVID) was enabling legislation which would have allowed municipalities, if they chose, to add $1.00 to the rooms and meals tax. That money would stay in that community to offset the increased costs of law enforcement, emergency medical aid and other services incurred due to heavy tourism. The bill died in the senate.
HB186: Our opponents are correct that this is a bill to raise the minimum wage, which would happen over 3 years and is in interim study. The current minimum wage is the federal wage of $7.25. Raising the minimum wage puts more money back into the economy and leads to greater retention of employees and less absenteeism. The claim that raising the minimum wage would result in job loss is unfounded according to numerous research studies. According to a WMUR/UNH Granite State poll, 76% of NH residents support raising the minimum wage. The same poll shows that 91% of Democrats, 70% of Independents and 64% of Republicans also support raising the minimum wage.
It is disappointing that our opponents have taken this tack. While this is not how we campaign, we do want all constituents of Rye and New Castle to know the facts. We trust them to recognize fact from fiction and to recognize unfounded claims for what they are.
Thank you for your vote on November 3rd.Read More...
Posted on 21 Oct 2020, 15:58 - Category: NH Legislature
The legislative 2020 year was certainly a strange one. Knowing that the corona virus was going to disrupt legislative work for a while, but not knowing exactly how or how long, the NH House met for a marathon session in March. The session went from 9:00am March 12th until 4:00am Friday 13th. I remember driving back to the Seacoast after that in a horrendous rain storm. I thought of staying over in Concord but I had already stayed over two nights because of other long meetings, and I just wanted to get home to New Castle.
We got a lot of work done during the 19 hour session which was fortuitous as many of us started to self-isolate that following weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic.
We met twice in June to finish the session and what follows here is an abbreviated list of important legislation that was accomplished as well as some important legislation that was blocked by the Republicans.
The first meeting in June was to deal with legislation that the House Legislature still had on the docket. Because this was past the usual deadline, a ⅔ vote was needed to suspend the rules in order to take up these bills.
Unfortunately, even though many Republican representatives agreed with the provisions in these bills, Republican house leadership demanded that their party members vote against allowing us to have those discussions and moving these bills forward, in order to prevent “Democrats” from accomplishing anything. These bills would have been wins for all NH’s citizens, and this type of partisan obstructionism reflects very poorly on those who are responsible for it.
In the end we were unable to pass legislation that:
- Addressed racial profiling and unconscious bias.
- Would have allowed some municipalities to become energy self-sufficient.
- Would have broadened the range of services to Granite State children at risk, especially needed during this pandemic.
In the second session in June, we were responsible for dealing with legislation that came to us from the NH Senate. Because these bills only required concurrence on the part of the NH House and only a simple majority vote, we were able to pass significant legislation. These bills:
- Set contaminate levels for perfluorochemicals in drinking water into statute.
- Deal directly with the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting and supporting our health care workers and first responders.
- Provide for a higher minimum wage for our low wage workers, many of whom are health care workers serving the needs of our elderly and disabled.
- Will make voting easier during the time of COVID-19 by making it easier to vote through absentee ballots.
- Expand protections for sexual assault and domestice violence survivors.
- Address prescription affordability and health care access.
- Include comprehensive criminal justice and police reform programs.
- Create an independent redistricting commission to avoid the gerrymandering we have seen so often in New Hampshire.
It is heartening that good work was accomplished during this pandemic. Much more could have been achieved had the Republicans been willing to work with Democrats on solutions to problems instead of throwing up roadblocks.
I hope to return to the NH House for another term, working with all who are willing to work for the betterment of NH through these difficult times.Read More...
Posted on 04 Jul 2020, 10:05 - Category: NH Legislature
It is an important responsibility of all of us as lawmakers to ensure victims of any crime are afforded the protections they need, the opportunity to remain informed as the to the disposition of their case and to provide them with the respect and support needed as they move through the judicial process. CACR22, or Marsy’s law, was an attempt to do that but, however laudable that endeavor, I believe the path this law took was flawed and had the potential to negatively impact our criminal justice system, including how victims may be treated.
The main goal of Marsy’s law is to place victim’s rights on a par with the rights of the accused. Currently, the accused’s rights are constitutional while victim’s rights are statutory. The accused's rights are listed in the constitution because they are designed to protect the accused from the abuse and overreach of the government, as the accused’s civil rights and basic freedoms are at stake. The rights of the victim are there to protect the victim from the accused and not the state, as the victim is not at risk of going to prison and his or her civils rights are not at stake. The rights of both parties are equally important but they occupy a different space in the judicial system.
The rights of victims as listed in Marsy’s law already exist under state law in the New Hampshire Victim Bill of Rights which is far more extensive than what is proposed in Marsy’s law. These rights are found on the Department of Justice’s website where it lists 22 different rights. The problem appears to be that, in the past, these rights were not as well enforced as they should have been in the courts. Adding a constitutional amendment outlining a subset of the same rights will do nothing to guarantee enforcement.
Marsy’s law would also allow any victim to be present at all court proceedings not just for adults accused of a crime but also for any accused juvenile, setting up a potential infringement of the civil rights of that juvenile. Often, in such situations, there are extenuating circumstances such as sexual abuse or physical violence suffered by the juvenile. This young individual may suffer from a mental illness or some other manner of disability that would require private, confidential consultations to determine the competence of such a child to stand trial. Under Marsy’s law, the victim could ask to attend such consultations, violating the juvenile’s right to privacy. Having the victim present at such interviews is not only unnecessary but might also be potentially harmful and counterproductive. This possible infringement would also pertain to adults with developmental disabilities.
Further, Marsy’s law guarantees full and timely restitution should restitution be appropriate. The lack of qualification or specification in the legislation as to where this responsibility lies opens up the possible interpretation that the state would have to take on that financial burden should the accused by unable to meet that demand.
The proposal, as written, pertains not only to felonies but also to misdemeanors. Offenses being prosecuted would involve both violent and non-violent acts, opening up tens of thousands of non-violent, misdemeanor level crimes to the provisions of the amendment, overburdening the court system with regards to both time and money. Currently, the statute only applies to felonies.
Marsy’s law defines the concept of a person as not only a natural person, but also, as written, to include multi-million dollar corporations, both in and out of state. The intent of the legislation is to provide help to mom and pop businesses, but the language goes beyond that. Financial resources which should be directed towards victims of violent crimes in this state may have to be diverted towards the cost of defending major businesses from out of state. This is certainly not what Marsy’s law intended but that is how it may be interpreted and thus, enforced.
Marsy’s law states that the victim can refuse to be deposed. If the judge determines that a deposition is necessary, it is unclear if the victim can still refuse. To be able to do so would hamstring the judicial system and infringe on the rights of the accused.
In the end, a provision in Marsy’s law basically indemnifies the state from any damages should there be any violations of the amendment, making the law essentially unenforceable. This begs the question, if it can’t be enforced, what is the point of going through the motions of adding it to our constitution? The monies that would be spent on litigation sorting out what Marsy’s law really means would be better spent making sure that the rights that already exist are enforced.
Two years ago, South Dakota passed a similar version of Marsy’s law. This fall, they are voting to repeal it for two reasons. First, it did not work as they expected and second, the financial costs were exorbitant.
Currently, the New Hampshire Victims’ Bill of Rights exists in law and is enforceable. The way forward is not to adopt a flawed amendment, but to make the necessary changes at the state level. Legislation can be introduced to address enforcement problems during our regular sessions in a far more timely and less expensive manner.
If, in the end, we determine there may be a place in our constitution for an amendment that reinforces the high value we place on victim’s rights, Marsy’s law is not the right amendment. Those who found they could not support CACR22, as written, include judges, prosecutors, defenders, law enforcement and even some victims. These individuals ought to be involved in addressing the problems listed here and in the public hearings in Concord, and in drafting language that will work.
The NH House of Representatives voted down CACR22 by a vote of 284-51. This does not have to signal the end of the discussion, but the beginning of a way forward that will result in a New Hampshire solution created by Granite Staters, not out-of-staters, for New Hampshire and its citizens.
Posted on 30 Apr 2018, 10:27 - Category: NH Legislature
There might not be a lot in the way of rail travel in New Hampshire, but you can still get railroaded, which is exactly what happened in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of the NH House of Representatives during the 2017 session.
The issue before us was a proposal to ascribe “personhood” to a fetus in order to create two criminal offenses when the death of a pregnant woman occurs through the hands of another. Everyone agrees that an assault on a pregnant woman resulting in death is an egregious crime and deserving of serious punishment. The question is what approach to take.
One approach is to institute an enhanced sentence for an individual responsible for the death. For instance, instead of a 7-15 year sentence, the sentence could be extended by another 15 years if the woman was pregnant at the time of her death. Another approach is the one that seeks to bring two crimes to court, the death of the woman and the death of the fetus. Although fraught with significant problems, this was the approach that was taken by SB66. In focusing on the personhood of the fetus, the bill before the committee was, simply put, bad legislation.
The essential problem is that instead of using this law to punish a person who causes the death of a pregnant woman, the law has been used to set up conflict between the woman and the fetus. In the states with nearly identical bills, pregnant women have been arrested because a judge or person in law enforcement determined that the would-be mother was a hazard to her baby. The National Women’s Law Center reported that “At least one court has stated that a woman could be held criminally liable for a stillbirth if she does anything that could harm her pregnancy, including the use of both legal and illegal substances, missing prenatal appointments and not obtaining ‘adequate’ health care.” One must remember that these are planned pregnancies by women who want these babies.
Incarcerated women have been held in jail beyond their sentences not because of any additional crime they committed but because they were pregnant. In Maine, a judge made sure that a pregnant woman, convicted of a crime, was held in jail until the end of her pregnancy, even though defense council and the prosecutor recommended she be sentenced only to time served. The judge in the case felt it was his duty to “protect the public from further crimes of the defendant and that public…should likely include the child she’s carrying.”
In the most egregious case I have read about, a woman in Florida, who wanted to have a vaginal birth, was denied the option by the hospital, because of a previous cesarean. She opted to have the baby at home with a midwife because she could not find a doctor who would assist in a vaginal birth. When she went into labor, the sheriff arrived, strapped her into an ambulance and took her to the hospital where she had a cesarean section against her will. Following the birth, when she protested this action in court, the new-born was awarded a lawyer but the mother was not. In the end the court said that her rights did not outweigh the rights of the fetus she was carrying at the time. Could anything be more Orwellian?
This is what happens when a fetus is ascribed personhood. Instead of considering protection for the mother and the fetus, the well being of the fetus is set against the well being of the mother. I am sure that in the states where these events occurred, people swore that such things could never happen there, but they did. Even if the intention is not to abuse a pregnant woman’s rights, it only takes a misguided judge to go down that path.
It became clear that the issue was not more serious sentencing when a pregnant woman dies. The real intent was to hobble a woman’s right to control her reproductive health and access to care. This was a first step in undermining a woman’s right to choose.
In committee, the instances referenced above were of concern to the committee and were reflected when the “Ought to Pass” recommendation failed. Because the entire committee felt this was an important issue, the bill was retained so that we could take the time to craft legislation that protected both mother and fetus and appropriately punish the person responsible for the death of the woman. When we adjourned that meeting, we expected we would meet over the summer to do just that, using the enhanced sentencing model.
Out of the blue, without public announcement, the Democratic members of the committee learned through the grapevine, that the committee’s recommendation to retain had conveniently not been recorded in the clerk’s office, when all other actions of the committee had been duly recorded. That meant that the bill was still active in committee. We further learned that there was going to be a vote to reconsider the vote to retain. On that day, over the protests of the Democrats on the committee, the vote to reconsider passed and a further motion was made to pass the bill, which succeeded.
In order to achieve this, Republicans who did not support SB66 but were willing to work on the enhanced sentencing model, were noticeably absent that day. They were replaced by other Republicans, all women, as if that was going to somehow ameliorate the blatant abuse of power of the majority party, who would vote the way Republican leadership dictated. The full committee had held hearings and heard from many people on this issue. The ringers brought in had heard none of this testimony. They voted they way they were told to vote without any knowledge, nevermind understanding, of the issues. Due process was kicked to the curb and the vote was a sham.
The shabbiest part of this charade was that it took away the opportunity for the whole committee to do their work and craft a bill that would deal with criminal acts against pregnant women resulting in their deaths and at the same time protect her from the abuses that have occurred in other states.
But the story did not end there. It gets worse. Only after the bill had been passed by the full house, did they realize that the bill was written in such a way that it gave pregnant women free rein to kill anyone during their pregnancy. This was due to an amendment quickly submitted that purported to protect women who underwent abortions, which are legal and part of every women’s reproductive rights. The correct thing to do at this point would have been for the governor to veto the bill and send it back to committee to address this issue, and along with any other problems the bill had.
This is not what happened. Instead, the EBA (Enrolled Bill Amendment) committee, which is charged with correcting misspellings, capitalization mistakes, punctuation errors and minor things like that, took on the inappropriate task of “fixing” this bill. Their justification for doing so was that they “understood” what the committee meant and they could fix that. Nevermind that this affects the entire criminal code and sets a dangerous precedent that the EBA gets to change what it wants in bills when their charge is basically to fix typos.
The Republican leadership claimed they had done their “due diligence” by bringing this to the full house for their consideration. Of course, this was mere window dressing as the vote went along party lines, because the Republicans were told how they were to vote and they did what they were told, nevermind if it went against their conscience or against their constituents.
The concerns surrounding the bill were shared by many on both sides. A number of our Republican colleagues came up to me to say they had the same concerns about how pregnant women could be and are abused under this type of law. They went on to say that they could not vote based on their concerns because of the pressure they face from their party’s leadership. It was a frustrating experience to see due process utterly disrespected and that Republicans are not encouraged to vote their constituents, or their conscience, but have to fall in lockstep with whatever their leadership demands.
Make no mistake that women’s reproductive rights are under attack. Everyone who values human rights has a responsibility to take note of the farce that took place in the NH House of Representatives and speak out in support of women’s rights. The story is not over. This session, there is a bill, HB1511, that seeks to establish viability at 8 weeks. It also strips away the protections for women in SB66. This is step two in taking away a woman’s right to choose. If this passes, next session there will be an even more draconian measures introduced that will further erode women’s rights. Out of over 180,00 voters polled in New Hampshire, 73% support a woman’s right to choose but the legislature is not representing these voters. It is utterly critical this year that these voices speak out against this assault on women.
Posted on 13 Jan 2018, 14:40 - Category: NH Legislature