Your tool kit for for the ’22 legislative session

The New Hampshire General Court is back in business in Concord for 2022, and things look closer to normal in House and Senate than they did last year. Here are some links and information to help you get your pro-life messages across to your representatives. Bookmark this page for reference during the 2022 legislative session.

The basic site, starting with ID’ing your reps

The General Court website (gencourt.state.nh.us) is your guide to keeping up with legislative business in New Hampshire. Spend a few minutes exploring it. It’s been revamped since the beginning of the last session, so it might look different than you’re used to. Same good information, different design.

  • New Hampshire House members page (gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members): you can select your town from a drop-down menu and find out the name and contact information for each of your state representative. Your town or ward might have only one rep or more than a dozen. Make sure you know who they are, regardless of party or voting record. Each and every one of them is accountable to you. Bonus on the House contact page: you can download a complete House roster, if you’re so inclined.
  • New Hampshire Senate members (gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/members/wml.aspx): select your town from the drop-down menu to get your senator’s name and contact information. The full Senate roster is on a separate page.
  • Finding bills: the left side of the General Court homepage will help you look up a bill by its number, a keyword (text), or sponsor’s name.
  • The House standing committees (gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/standingcommittees.aspx) page will give you a link to each policy committee – Education, Judiciary, Health and Human Services, and so on. That’s where to find the names of each committee member.
  • Likewise, the Senate has a committee page (gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/committees/senate_committees.aspx).

Calendars

The House and Senate calendars, published weekly in printable PDF format, list all the public hearings for the coming week. The calendars are usually available online on Thursday evenings. Each chamber (House and Senate) maintains a digital calendar as well.

Hearings: in person and online

[edited to add this information] While you need to attend a hearing in person in order to offer spoken testimony, you can listen to hearings online. Click on the House or Senate digital calendar to find the committee or bill whose hearing you want, and you’ll find a link to the livestream.

Testifying on bills, and the critically-important remote sign-in procedure

One big change from 2020’s pandemic-triggered online procedure: you won’t be able to testify during a hearing remotely this year. If you want to speak to a committee at a hearing, you need to get yourself to Concord. Expect rooms to be set up with some distance between seats. As of early January, masks are optional in the State House and Legislative Office Building, but that policy could change. I’ll keep a mask handy when I head to Concord.

However, one innovation from last year is being continued, and it’s a good thing: you can sign up remotely to register your opinion to committee members on a specific bill. This is a very important development in public participation. During a hearing, the committee clerk will read aloud the tally of sign-ins, pro and con. If a life-issue bill has 600 people registering one way and only 30 registering the other, that’s going to be news.

Remote sign-in on a bill is available as soon as the bill is posted in the calendar, and you should sign in no later than 30 minutes before the scheduled start of a hearing to make sure the committee clerk has your name.

When you fill out the online sign-up form, you should get a confirmation page with instructions for submitting written testimony if you want to indicate more than simply support/oppose.

Anyone – whether testifying in person, signing up remotely, or doing neither – can submit written testimony to any committee on a bill being heard by that committee. If you email the committee at its address (remember those committee pages I mentioned above), the message will automatically go to each committee member. You can also use snail mail sent to a committee or its individual members (remember the postal service?), which nowadays could make your message stand out. Every elected official is flooded with emails, particularly when the topic is a life issue.

Brevity, clarity, charity

Whenever you contact a legislator or committee:

  • Keep it brief. If you’re testifying in person, you’ll probably have no more than three minutes. If you have a relevant personal story, talk about that. Your written testimony can be longer, and it can include documentation or data to augment your spoken testimony. Once a bill gets to the full chamber for a vote and you’re contacting each one of your reps, it’s best to be brief once again. Let them know you’re happy to offer more information, but for the most part, they’ll only have time to read a short message.
  • Keep it clear. Your call to action needs to come first: “please support [bill number].” Don’t say “vote yes” or “vote no” unless you’re absolutely certain on what motion a committee or chamber is voting on; a “yes” vote on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion is a vote to kill a bill. If you want a bill to pass, say “please support this bill.” If you want a bill to be killed, say “please oppose this bill.”
  • Keep it polite. Regardless of your feelings about a particular rep or the rep’s party, you’re talking to a neighbor whenever you communicate about a piece of legislation. Someday, your courteous message might be the one to spark a constructive one-on-one conversation with a rep who is usually not supportive of pro-life policy. That’s how persuasion works. Be courteous, say please, and send a thank-you when a rep gets a vote right.

Take a State House tour – and allow time to find parking

Anyone who has ever heard me talk about the New Hampshire State House knows that I am a raving fan. It is absolutely worth a tour. Our State House is on the small side (especially for a state with 424 legislators), and it could use some tech upgrades, and it is not a modern building. Don’t be put off: it’s a gem. At a minimum, if you’re up there, stop at the Visitor Center on the first floor. The team there can give you a brochure for a self-guided tour, or you can book a tour in advance. Street address: 107 North Main Street, Concord.

If you’re going to a hearing in the Legislative Office Building, it’s across State Street from the rear of the State House. Street address: 33 North State Street, Concord.

There’s a pedestrian tunnel connecting the LOB and the State House, which can be handy if you have business in both places. There’s a cafeteria down there at the State House end.

Parking in Concord near the State House can be a challenge. However much time you think it’ll take to get to Concord, add another ten minutes for finding parking. The city of Concord has a web page dedicated to downtown parking which includes a map of parking areas along with information on the handy Pay by Phone app (requiring a smartphone). If you don’t use the smartphone app, be sure to bring quarters.

Dueling rallies in Washington over Dobbs case

While the Dobbs case was being argued at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1, two rallies were taking place outside. I went to Washington for the day in order to stand with the people calling on the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and its cousin Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Dobbs is about a Mississippi law setting a 15-week limit on abortions. May a state regulate abortion before viability? The Supreme Court might say yes or no. It might use the case to overrule Roe, or it might make a narrow ruling that OKs the Mississippi law while somehow keeping Roe and Casey in place. We’ll find out by the end of next June.

There were about two thousand people standing in front of the Supreme Court building on December 1, roughly evenly divided between pro-life and pro-Roe. A crowd-control fence divided the two groups, although there was plenty of peaceful passage back and forth. Capitol Police kept an eye on things.

It was a noisy gathering. Each side had about three hours worth of speakers, with mics and loudspeakers. There were chants and songs and shouts. Despite the sound system, I couldn’t make out many words on either side because of the ambient noise. Anyone following the live-streamed rallies remotely probably heard more speakers than I did.

It was worth listening later to a recording of Kathryn Jean Lopez’s speech. I recommend it. https://youtu.be/4ymvmIiaiO8

I met up with a group from Feminists for Life to pick up a sign. Just about every other pro-life group I’ve ever heard of, plus a few I hadn’t, was represented in the crowd. The diversity was great, as though speakers at the side rallies at the annual March for Life had been suddenly handed the keys to the main stage. The only thing we all had in common was a determination to move past Roe.

placard saying "Peace begins in the womb"
The sign I carried outside the Supreme Court, courtesy of Feminists for Life: Peace begins in the womb.

These “rallies” are sure to make the news

Next Saturday, October 2, rallies for “abortion justice” (Planned Parenthood’s term, not mine) will be held in various cities across the nation. Six of them will be in New Hampshire. Per PPNH Action Fund’s Facebook post, the event will be a “demonstration of our collective uprising…continuing to fight to defend access to abortion care.”

You can find that post on Facebook yourself. I choose not to link to it.

I expect this will result in front-page Sunday news coverage for those who still read printed news. It will result in immediate news stories online. Watch for reactions from various public officials (and would-be public officials).

New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limitation, due to go into effect January 1, is certainly one prompt for pro-abortion demonstrations. So is Texas’s so-called heartbeat law. So is the Dobbs case, involving pro-life legislation in Mississippi, which will be argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in December with a decision to follow a few months later.

The Dobbs case accounts for the timing of these rallies: the Supreme Court will convene for its 2021-22 session two days later, on the first Monday in October.

Perhaps news coverage of these rallies will include a deep dive into what constitutes “abortion care” or “abortion justice.” In case it doesn’t, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Abortion is not health care. It’s the intentional induced termination of a human life. Oddly, given the claims I’ve heard many times in legislative hearings about abortion being some kind of medical event, there’s no statute in New Hampshire of which I’m aware requiring that medical personnel be involved in any abortion. Chemical or drug-induced or “medical” abortion might be one exception, although on regulatory rather than statutory grounds, due to the need for a prescription

New Hampshire does not keep track of abortion statistics and report aggregate non-identifying data to the federal Centers for Disease Control, unlike nearly every other state in the Union. Anyone who calls a stats law a threat to “abortion justice” needs to take up the matter with the CDC, which has published abortion surveillance data for decades.

New Hampshire has an unenforced buffer zone law, passed at the behest of abortion advocates who want to prevent any demonstration outside abortion facilities. Under the law, abortion facility managers may determine the time and location of activities on public sidewalks within 25 feet of the facility. The law draws no distinction between peaceful pro-life witness and violent confrontation. It does not require that laws against trespass or harassment be enforced before First Amendment rights are abrogated. No wonder the law’s unenforced. Would repeal of that buffer zone law represent a threat to “abortion justice”? Take that up with the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously struck down a very similar Massachusetts law, on narrow grounds. Even Justice Ginsburg joined that decision.

Respecting the dignity and value of each human life from conception onward is still a step too far for some of my neighbors who are drawn to phrases like “abortion justice” and “access to abortion.” We’ll get there, I hope. In the meantime, consider this: how much justice is there in not requiring medical involvement in abortion, or in failing to collect and report abortion data to the CDC, or in trying to abrogate First Amendment rights of public, peaceful, prayerful pro-life witnesses?

Rallies come and go, and these abortion-advocacy gatherings will be no different. If they leave anything in their wake, I hope it will be the jarring impression left by the oxymoron “abortion justice.”

Buffer zone repeal falls victim to crossover deadline

Faced with a deadline for vacating its borrowed venue, the New Hampshire House ended crossover day by effectively tabling a number of bills including HB 430, buffer zone repeal.

The House met on April 7, 8, and 9 at NH Sportsplex in Bedford, allowing for seating spaced according to current COVID protocols. Friday the 9th was crossover day, the deadline for all bills originating in the House this year to be disposed of one way or another. Leaders in both parties knew in advance that the Sportsplex needed the House to adjourn by early Friday evening in order to accommodate other users of the facility.

The deadline came, with many bills still unaddressed. Result: in the absence of a vote, the unaddressed bills – including buffer zone repeal – will not advance in 2021.

At this writing, the docket for HB 430 lists its status as “miscellaneous.” That’s one way to put it.

continue reading…

Buffer zone vote delayed

Update on HB 430: the New Hampshire House will vote on buffer zone repeal at its next session, on a date to be announced soon. HB 430 was one of 17 calendared bills left hanging when the House ran up against a hard deadline at its borrowed venue in Bedford.

There’s no word yet on when the House will once again meet in Representatives Hall at the State House. Thus far in 2020, the House has met at University of New Hampshire facilities and, most recently, at the Bedford Sportsplex, in order to observe COVID precautions including social distancing.