More from House calendar, week of March 15

The New Hampshire House will meet on Tuesday, March 15, for what may turn into a three-day session given the number of bills on the calendar. I’ve written about some bills passing through the Judiciary Committee, as well as a conscience bill out of Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs. Those bill’s are on the week’s agenda.

Identify and contact your representatives

For any or all of these bills, you can contact your representatives before Tuesday’s session. Email is quick, but it’s also the most common. Most reps will get more than a thousand emails this week. Make your point in the subject line: identify yourself as a constituent when you write to your own reps, cite the bill number, and include “please vote [ITL for inexpedient to legislate or OTP for ought to pass].” As an example, in emailing my own reps about buffer zone repeal, I’d make the subject line “[name of town] resident, please vote OTP on HB 1625.” The legislators might not have time to read more than that. That’s what happens when several hundred bills come up in the same week.

Conscience protection for medical professionals, HB 1080

The recommendation from the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee is Ought to Pass (OTP) on HB 1080, protecting medical professionals who choose not to participate in abortion, sterilization, or artificial contraception services. The vote was 11-10 along party lines with Republicans in the majority, so there will certainly be a debate on the House floor. Voting Ought to Pass on conscience protections ought to be easy, but this bill faces stiff opposition.

Putting abortion into the NH Constitution, CACR 18

CACR 18 is a proposed amendment to the New Hampshire constitution “providing that the state shall not infringe or unduly inconvenience the right of reproductive medical decisions.” “Inconvenience”??? Even the Judiciary Committee with its abortion-friendly majority was taken aback by this one. The committee recommendation is Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL). The House ought to agree. Because this is a proposed constitutional amendment, a two-thirds OTP vote by the full House will be necessary to advance it. A high bar, for sure, but take nothing for granted. Push for the ITL.

Heartbeat bill, HB 1477

HB 1477 would prohibit abortion in most cases after detection of a fetal heartbeat. Judiciary Committee recommendation: ITL on an 11-10 vote with one Republican joining Democrats to make the difference. In order to pass HB 1477, the House needs to overturn the committee recommendation and then vote OTP.

Buffer zone repeal, HB 1625

I’ve written at length about this bill and the deeply flawed report from the Judiciary Committee that recommended “inexpedient to legislate.” My own recommendation: overturn the committee report, and vote Ought to Pass on HB 1625, repealing New Hampshire’s unenforced buffer zone law that seeks to discourage peaceful prolife witness outside abortion facilities.

Gutting the Fetal Life Protection Act, HB 1673

This one is similar to HB 1609, which regrettably has already passed the House. New Hampshire’s Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), a 24-week abortion restriction, has been in effect only a short time. HB 1673 as passed by the Judiciary Committee would render it meaningless. The committee’s recommendation on an 11-10 vote is “ought to pass with amendment” (amendment #2022-0730h), a version that would weaken FLPA. The House ought to overturn that recommendation and instead vote for the committee minority’s recommendation to pass the bill with another amendment (#2022-0688h) that simply clarifies FLPA’s ultrasound provision. In brief: support the minority report on HB 1673.

The sponsors of HB 1673 revealed their intentions in the original version of the bill, calling it a repeal of FLPA. Now, the chief sponsor has put her name on the majority’s amendment. It would apparently serve her purpose. ‘Nuff said.

“Relative to reproductive rights,” HB 1674

Judiciary has recommended ITL on an 11-8 vote. The committee got this one right. HB 1674 would establish that NH “shall not restrict or interfere with an individual’s exercise of their private decision to terminate a pregnancy” except as already provided in law. This is meant to prevent New Hampshire from enacting new abortion regulations even if the Supreme Court kicks Roe to the curb. This one definitely deserves an ITL.

Postscript: fathers’ role in abortions, HB 1181

HB 1181, which would have given biological fathers a right to seek a court injunction to prevent the abortion of their children, was sent to Interim Study by the House earlier this month. This effectively kills the bill. It is not one of the bills on the House calendar for the coming week.

Buffer zone repeal, 2022: House to vote week of March 15

Amidst an extremely long agenda on the New Hampshire House calendar for next week, buffer zone repeal – HB 1625 – awaits action. The Judiciary Committee on a 12-9 vote is recommending “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL). The full House in its multi-day session will vote on the bill sometime between Tuesday, March 15, and Thursday, March 17.

Identify your representatives by checking the House roster by town. Click on each name to find contact information. As them to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s ITL recommendation on HB 1625, and instead support a motion of “ought to pass” (OTP). You may find that you belong to two districts, and if that’s the case, contact all the representatives listed. If you send email, be sure your subject line is clear, since that may be the only thing a rep has time to read: “From a constituent: please vote OTP on HB 1625.”

Why HB 1625 deserves special attention

There will be other life-issue bills on the House calendar, and I will address those in a separate post. Why single out buffer zone repeal for special attention? Certainly the First Amendment implications are important, but there’s another reason. The committee’s majority report recommending ITL contains two falsehoods. Any representative supporting the ITL recommendation will be embracing them.

I cast no aspersions on Rep. Mark Paige (D-Exeter), who wrote the majority report. He may have depended on unreliable sources. All the more reason to clear up the false information.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law threatens the right of peaceful pro-life witnesses to be present on public property outside abortion facilities. The law has never been enforced since its 2014 passage. Nevertheless, it remains a stain on our statutes.

No, the buffer zone law was NOT drafted to follow Supreme Court guidelines

From the Judiciary Committee’s minority report, which is printed in the House calendar and may be the only thing most reps read about HB 1625: “…the drafters of our current buffer law carefully crafted it after the [U.S. Supreme] Court decided McCullen, thus with particular knowledge of the constitutional limits of buffer zone laws.”

That is four-alarm nonsense.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCullen v. Coakley, striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law on which New Hampshire’s law was based, was handed down on June 26, 2014. (You can read the case itself and my commentary written at the time the case was decided.)

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was introduced on December 17, 2013, passed by the House in February 2014, passed by the Senate in May 2014, and signed by then-Governor Maggie Hassan on June 10, 2014. That’s 16 days before the Supreme Court handed down McCullen.

The governor and every legislator knew perfectly well that the McCullen case was pending in the Court. They enabled the New Hampshire buffer zone law anyway.

So much for being “carefully crafted” after McCullen.

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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.

New this year: submitting testimony that can be read by the public

This announcement was in the January 28 House calendar, with emphasis added by me: “…please be aware of the new feature on the General Court website where New Hampshire citizens can upload written testimony on bills without the need to appear in person. Legislators are welcome to promote this new tool with your constituents. Legislators should also check the submissions page frequently to review testimony that has been submitted on bills coming before your committee. Testimony submitted online is available for anyone to view so we are encouraging this method of written testimony. The form accepts testimony through the end of the day of each bill’s public hearing.”

This is distinct from emailing the committee, as described in the previous paragraph. That can still be done, and your message will go to each committee member. This new way of submitting testimony will make your message available to the general public, where your personal stories and documentation will reach a larger audience.

Here is the link for submitting your public testimony: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/submitted_testimony.aspx

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.

House-passed budget contains language to bar abortion funding

The New Hampshire House has passed a budget with language “to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize abortions directly or indirectly”. The proposed budget now goes to the Senate for consideration.

While New Hampshire has long protected taxpayers from most abortion funding (there are exceptions), the new House language calls for complete physical and financial separation of abortion from family planning. This would mean that an entity seeking a contract with the state to provide family planning services – say, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England – would not be eligible unless its abortion business were set up as a separate entity.

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