The Fall Mountain Alliance held a Voter Information Forum in early December. They have consolidated the information shared that night to assist residents seeking information about state government – what’s going on and how to access more insight. Hope you find it helpful – Lil
Voter Information Forum
Where is New Hampshire headed and how can we have a say in it? These questions emerged as the dominant theme of the voter information forum held in the town hall the evening of December 6th. Local representatives Lucy Weber (D-Walpole), Michael Abbott (D-Hinsdale), and Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland) spoke about legislation pending in the state across a wide range of issues and answered questions from an audience of twenty.
Although the three Democratic representatives are in the minority in the State House (which has a Republican governor and Republican majority legislature), they often collaborate with Republicans on issues which are non-partisan in nature. Berch talked of the approach where one side finds reasons to back a bill that are in the other side’s interest and said it was a way of moving bills forward. Weber addressed the incremental nature of their work, saying she’s worked on bills with those she doesn’t agree with, finding ways to make common cause, and keeping the door open to times when, because of a change of heart or circumstance, opponents change their stance. And Abbott, in talking of a ten-year infrastructure plan, referenced the long view.
As to how citizens can most effectively have input, the representatives recommended contacting their representatives by e-mail or phone, testifying at public committee hearings with personal experience related to an issue, writing letters to the editor, and providing representatives with relevant information.
Information on contacts and topics covered at the forum with upcoming votes or committee hearings in January are available through this link (https://sites.google.com/site/fallmountainalliance/voter-information-forum—contacts-topics).
The event was hosted by the Fall Mountain Alliance, a local group focused on informed engagement, and was organized by FMA member Sara Kagle.
Voter Information Forum – Contacts & Topics
Contacting Your Representative
While all are Democrats, they stress they represent all their constituents.
Contact e-mails for New Hampshire state representatives of District Cheshire 01:
- Representative Lucy M. Weber
- (Serves on the Health, Human Services and the Elderly Affairs Committee, Rules Committee, Children and Family Law Committee.)
- Representative Michael D. Abbott
- (Serves on the Public Works and Highways Committee.)
- Representative Cathryn A. Harvey
- Serves on the Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee
- Representative Paul S. Berch
- (Serves on the Judiciary Committee.)
(alphabetical by topic)
(Bill numbers, description, and status here are provided by Rep. Lucy Weber as of 12/5/17, based on a brief review of bills available at that date on topics mentioned in the forum. For more comprehensive and up-to-date information, she advises checking with
- the General Court website (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us), the House Calendar (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/caljourns/default.htm)
- and Senate Calendars (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/calendars_journals/default.html)
and the NHDP Grassroots Newsletter (https://www.nhdp.org/newsletter).
To better navigate the legislative system, Weber has provided a tutorial in print format that is included on the FMA website ( https://sites.google.com/site/fallmountainalliance/nh-general-court ).
HB 1287: About age when people may marry.
HB 1586: About judicial review for underage marriage.
HB 1587: About raising the minimum age for marriage and the emancipation of minors.
Weber said efforts to raise the minimum age to 18 failed and they are now trying to raise it to 16.
HB 1661: About the protection of minors who petition the court to marry.
HB 1213: About removing the exception for married minors from the definition of sexual assault.
Committee hearings for the five bills start in January.
Berch is working on a bill that would reduce the number of people jailed simply because they can’t pay bail.
SB 193–establishing education freedom savings accounts for students.
Weber says this removes support from public schools; benefits more affluent families more than less
affluent ones; allows state funds to be used for religious schools.
Voting on House floor as early as January 3rd.
HB 1492: About course of action when a child’s attendance at a school has resulted in a manifest educational hardship.
(Weber notes that the effects are likely to be that the poorest school districts may be liable for tuition costs at other more costly public or private schools.)
Committee hearings start in January.
CACR17: About initiative and referendum powers.
CACR18: About recalls (Weber noted all are up for reelection every two years.)
HB 1224: About election dates (allowing postponements due to weather).
HB 1240: Allowing voters to vote for multiple candidates for an office.
HB 1433: Requiring disclosure of federal income tax returns y presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
HB 1540: About ranked-choice voting.
HB 1543: About domicile of students for voting purposes.
Would limit rights of students to vote in the communities where they spend most of the year.
HB 1666: About redistricting.
HB 1667: About permissible campaign contributions by business organizations and labor unions and relative funding source disclosure for political advertising.
Committee hearings start in January for all the above under Election Law.
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Weber notes that “all of these … bills (the four below) are designed to weaken existing environmental protections.”
HB 114: About minimum electric renewable portfolio standards
HB 317: Prohibits Public Utilities Commission from increasing the system benefits charge without legislative approval
HB 559: About expenditures from the energy efficiency fund
HB 592: Repealing the regional greenhouse gas initiative
(An audience member said that organizations funded by the Koch brothers are behind House Bills 114, 317, and 592. Links to related articles at:
- ThinkProgress (https://thinkprogress.org/koch-network-goes-after-new-hampshire-5d9da939c2e8/)
- and in the “Union Leader’ (http://www.unionleader.com/energy/NHs-high-utility-bills-blamed-on-subsidies-11142017).)
Voting on House floor as early as January 3rd.
HB-1542: Allowing people to carry a pistol or revolver on university or community college property.
Berch said the strongest lobby is the gun lobby.
Committee hearings start in January.
HB 628: About family and medical leave insurance.
Voting on House floor as early as January 3rd.
Medicaid Expansion / New Hampshire Health Protection Program
Weber noted that this program provides Medicaid coverage to over 50,000 NH citizens who earn too much money to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but who cannot afford, even with subsidies, to purchase health insurance on the exchange. Currently it is funded 95% by the federal government and 5% by the state. Those covered by the program have access to addiction treatment, she added, so it is a valuable tool in fighting the opioid crisis. Weber said this program will expire at the end of the fiscal year and should be reauthorized. If it is not reauthorized, she observed that those covered by the program will once again receive their primary medical treatment at emergency rooms, which will drive up health care costs for everyone.
HB 1476: Permitting qualifying patients and designated caregivers to cultivate cannabis for therapeutic use.
Committee hearings start in January.
The New Hampshire Health Protection Program, along with private health insurance and the traditional Medicaid program, is a significant source of funds used to combat the opioid epidemic, Weber noted in a follow-up question. If Congress repeals the program, or if NH does not reauthorize it on the state level, then, Weber pointed out, significant numbers of addicts may receive their treatment in County jails paid for by local real property tax dollars, rather than in more appropriate and cost-efficient outpatient settings using federal funding.
There’s a 10-year plan required by the state that the Department of Transportation identify state needs and coordinate with federal projects.
Abbott said Vilas bridge doesn’t have a good chance of being brought forward.
Weber said our system of counting ballots, based on paper ballots which are preserved and available for recount, is not at risk for hacking.
Navigating the General Court Web Site
Prepared by Rep. Lucy Weber, Cheshire 01—Hinsdale, Chesterfield, Westmoreland & Walpole.
***Please feel free to share with anyone who would find it useful.
***If you have questions or additions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 756-4338.
***Email me if you want a digital copy to use or to share.
December 6, 2017.
Throughout this tutorial, I will explain how to find different things on the General Court web site. After each step, I have also provided the direct link to the page under discussion. Following the directions, rather than the links, will make you more comfortable finding your own way around the site on your own. The other thing that you need to know is that there are multiple ways to work your way around the web site. Do some exploring, then use the method that works best for you.
Getting Started: Google “NH General Court” to get to the General Court Home page. Direct link here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us On this page, you have several dashboards. The House dashboard has links to Find Your Representatives, to House Committees and to the House Calendars and Journals, and also a link to the NH House website. The Senate Dashboard has some similar links, but not all of them. Or you can use the links on the left hand side of the page to navigate to the NH House website or the NH Senate website. The State Legislation Dashboard has a link at the bottom where you can type in the bill number and call up any bill, House or Senate, and also has many ways of varying complexities for searching for bills, and a link to Voting Records, so you can see how members voted.
NH House Web Page–Direct link here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/default.aspx
NH Senate Web Page—Direct link here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/default.aspx
Find Your Legislators: On the General Court web page, go to the House of Representatives dashboard—second square box down on the left—and select Find Your Legislator. This will give you both Representative(s) and Senator. You can also find a link from the House Web Page under Quick Links by selecting Who’s My Legislator.
Direct link here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx
Find How your Legislator Voted: Locate your legislator using the link above. Click on Voting Record right under the contact info for a list of roll call votes taken this term.
Find a Bill–If you know the bill number: From the General Court web page, type the bill number into the box on the State Legislation Dash Board, top right. On the House web page, enter the number in the box under Find a Bill half way down the page. Or click Find a Bill on the list on the left hand side of the page for many more bill search options. This brings up the Bill Page, with links to the bill’s text, docket, roll call votes, and more.
Find A Bill—Advanced Bill Search: From the General Court web page, go to the State Legislation Dash Board, then click on Advanced Bill Search. From the House web page, click on Find a Bill in the list on the left, then select Advanced Bill Search. This will allow you to search by the bill sponsor, by word search in the title of bills, search past years, etc. Direct link here:
Bill Docket: Once you enter a bill number, you get a page which tells you what committee the bill is in, if there is an upcoming hearing scheduled, and links on the left hand side to the bill’s docket, text, and roll call vote, if any. The docket is useful because it gives the most complete history of what has happened to the bill and where it is now. Note that there is a link right next to the bill number for “Docket Abbreviations” so I will not list them here. Remember that we vote on committee recommendations, not the bill itself, so if the recommendation is Inexpedient to Legislate, a “yes” vote kills the bill; a “no” vote is in favor of the bill. The main Committee recommendations are OTP (Ought to Pass) OTPA (Ought to Pass with Amendment) ITL (Inexpedient to Legislate—polite for “Kill This Bill”).
Find the Roll Call Vote on a Particular Bill: Find the Bill page, above. If roll call votes have been taken, there will be a Roll Call Votes link on the left side of the bill page.
Find What Committee a Bill is in: Enter the bill number on the General Court web page or the House web page. Click on Bill Docket to find out what committee the bill has been referred to, and the date of any upcoming hearings.
Email All Members of a Committee about a Bill: If a hearing is upcoming, you may want to email all the committee members your thoughts on the bill. You find the committee the bill is assigned to by looking up its docket, above. Then, from the House web page, click on Standing Committees under Quick Links. Direct link to Standing Committee list here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/standingcommittees.aspx
Select the committee you want. The committee page will give you a list of the committee members—clicking on any member’s name will get you to that member’s web page and contact info. Clicking on Email Committee Members in the box on the right will send an individual email to ever committee member. IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a very effective tool, as you will be targeting Ds and Rs who have an interest in the bill—not just those who agree with you or who disagree with you.
Bills Currently in Committee/Bills Originally in Committee: From the committee page you found above, check out the links below Email Committee Members. The lists of Bills Currently in Committee and Bills Originally in Committee are good ways of finding most of the bills in a given subject area. I say most, because many bills could arguably be referred to one of several committees, and some bills are referred routinely to a second committee, most notably Finance if the spend money, and Ways and Means if they raise money. This can be a useful search tool.
Calendars and Journals: The Calendars, issued late on Thursdays, are the record of all upcoming events for the next week—the bills to be voted on by the House and Senate, and the upcoming hearings and executive sessions on each. The Journals are the complete records of what happened on the House or Senate floor.
Direct link to House Calendars and Journals: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/caljourns/default.htm
Direct link to Senate Calendars and Journals: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/calendars_journals/default.html
I have an LSR Number, how do I find the Bill number? The LSR number is the number issued by the Office of Legislative Services when the Legislative Service Request (LSR) gets put in. In late December/early January, the LSRs are parceled out to the various Committees, and then they are sent to the print shop for printing. Upon their return from the print shop, they are also posted on the General Court web site. Go to the general Court Home page, look at the State Legislation Dash Board on the right-hand side, and click on Advanced Bill Search. The direct link is here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_Status/ First, make sure that the Session Year at the top of the left hand column is set to the correct year for your LSR. Then, in the right-hand column, three down from the top, there is a place to enter the LSR number. Don’t enter the year number, just the digits after the dash, so for LSR 2017-0002h, you would type the number 0002 in the LSR box (or in this case you could also just type 2) and you would find that LSR 2017-0002h became HB 610.
NH statutes (RSAs): http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/indexes/
Select Browse, and page down for the RSA number you are looking for.
The NH Constitution: http://www.nh.gov/constitution/constitution.html
***Special note for searches at the end of the year: Until the calendar year and our system settings change, the only way you can find 2018 bills is by using the Advanced Bill Search function. You will have to manually change the year to 2018 every time you search.
***State House Roundup—NHDP Grassroots Newsletter Very useful tool for activists. Weekly newsletter has listing of the important hearings/meetings for the week plus a summary of what happened at the State House last week. There is also a lot of Democratic rah-rah, but you can ignore that. To be added to the newsletter mailing list, email Sue Ford email@example.com or Erin Cotton firstname.lastname@example.org.