Earlier Parts:

This week ended with the House holding a three day voting session between April 7th and 9th.

HB 1 and HB 2

On the 7th, the House voted on the two budget bills, HB 1 and HB 2.  The House considered HB 1 in the morning and HB 2 in the afternoon.

I watched some of the livestream of the House debate on HB 2.  There were attempts to amend HB 2 from the House floor to remove parts of the bill.  During the part I watched, I saw amendments attempting to remove the prohibition on using state money to teach Critical Race Theory, to remove the rewrite of RSA 4:45, and to remove provisions expanding legalized gambling.  There were more House floor amendments according to the bill’s docket page.  All such amendments failed.

Both bills passed.  HB 1 passed on a 205-178 vote.  HB 2 passed on a 200-181 vote.  Both go on to the Senate.

HB 2, the budget rider bill, contains, among many other things, provisions concerning penalties for violating emergency orders and modifies RSA 4:45.  The provision concerning emergency orders violations rolls back any enforcement action for COVID-19 state of emergency orders violations and prohibits further enforcement of such orders.  The modification to RSA 4:45 allows the Governor to renew a state of emergency only once unless at least half of the Legislature is incapacitated.  If at least half of the Legislature is incapacitated, then the Governor can continue renewing the state of emergency if he feels the emergency has continued.  Otherwise, the Legislature must vote to renew the state of emergency.

There are some other things in the budget rider bill that I like.  Things like business tax cuts, a phase-out of New Hampshire’s income tax, a ban on use of state money to teach Critical Race Theory, and an order to New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) to eliminate unfilled positions.  I’m not going to read the whole budget bill.  There might be some bad stuff in there.

The main budget bill, HB 1, cuts spending more than the Governor wanted.

If passed, HB 1 and HB 2 take effect on July 1st, 2021.  The New Hampshire state government budgets on a two year basis.  Budgets end on June 30th in odd numbered years.  The Governor has threatened a veto if he receives the House budget.  We will see if the Senate removes the parts the Governor doesn’t like.  I doubt the House will concur with removal of those parts.

HB 187

HB 187 had another vote before the full House.  This bill reins in the powers of the NH DHHS Commissioner.  The bill had gone back into committee after its first vote.  The committee amended the bill.  The bill passed the full House with a voice vote on April 7th.  The bill goes to the Senate.

HB 220

HB 220 passed the House with a voice vote on April 7th.  The bill updates New Hampshire’s communicable disease law to restrict the government’s ability to force medical treatment on people.  The bill goes to the Senate.

HB 402

HB 402 restricts the ability of the government to take private property during an emergency.  The bill failed on a 166-171 vote, and then was “laid on the table”.

As I understand it, “laid on the table” means the bill is actually not dead despite the failed vote.  The House can act on it (i.e. bring it up for another vote) before the end of the session.  At the end of the session, if the House hasn’t taken further action on the bill, the bill is dead.  Given House calendar rules state that April 9th is the last day to act on House bills for this session, and the need for a 2/3rds vote to override House rules, I think the safe assumption is that any bill “laid on the table” at this point is dead despite the current legislative session not being finished.

HB 417

HB 417 is one of the many bills rewriting RSA 4:45.  This bill passed on a 328-41 vote.  This bill goes to the Senate.  Unfortunately, if the bill passes into law, it explicitly does not affect the current state of emergency.

HB 433

HB 433 is one of the many bills rewriting RSA 4:45.  This bill failed on a voice vote on April 7th.

HB 439

HB 439 repeals the law which municipalities have relied on to pass mask ordinances.  The bill failed on a 185-192 vote and was “laid on the table”.

HB 440

HB 440 restricts emergency orders to prevent suspension of civil liberties.  The bill passed on a 192-178 vote.  It goes to the Senate.

HB 493

HB 493 makes it a crime to assault, threaten to assault, or disobey an employee conveying public health orders.   The bill failed on a voice vote.

HB 506

HB 506 expands New Hampshire’s public accommodation laws to add people that have turned down medical treatment or refuse to use a medical device to the protected classes.  The bill received an Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) recommendation from the committee majority, and an Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation from the committee minority.  This bill was on the list of bills the House would work on for the three day session, but I see no updates to the bill status or bill docket page at the time of writing.  I think this bill is one of 73 which are now dead as the House did not get to them before the end of the three day voting session.

HB 542

HB 542 is a bill excepting churches, synagogues, mosques, and the like from emergency orders restricting public gatherings.  The bill passed on a 199-173 vote.  The bill goes to the Senate.

SB 138

I forgot to cover SB 138 last week.  This bill originally allowed the governor to establish price controls during a state of emergency.  A Senate amendment completely rewrote the bill.  The new bill exempts certain contracts the state’s Uniform Securities Act.  The bill no longer has anything to do with price controls or emergency powers.  The newly rewritten bill has passed the Senate and is in the House.

News Coverage

Several news outlets covered the budget vote.

At an Executive Council meeting, the Governor said yes when asked if 4th of July parades could happen.

Reopen NH celebrated the successes.  As did the House Freedom Caucus.

WMUR covered the passage of HB 542.

The Governor’s Reopening Task Force recommends allowing tables for outdoor dining to be three feet apart instead of six feet apart.

Not one, but two instances of drama at the three day House voting session.  Well, two instances that made the news.

Some Thoughts

I have not been able to come up with an explanation for why certain bills passed and some didn’t.

I know there are Republicans who won’t break with the Governor because of party loyalty and also some that support his actions.  Democrats’ complaints about the Governor are either that he did not allow them any input during the last term (when Democrats controlled the Legislature) into how Federal aid money was spent or that he has never been restrictive enough with his emergency orders.

Given what I know about the House make-up, I think this is about the best we can do with what we have.

The Senate is next.  I think the Senate will be a harder battle than the House.

I expect the Governor will veto every bill which reaches him that is related to the state of emergency.

When there is more news, I’ll write more.  I think things will be a little quiet for a while.  At this time, the Senate has only one of the above bills scheduled for a hearing.  That is HB 220 on Wednesday, April 14th.