Two years after the New Hampshire House left the Representative Hall, Rep. Carol McGuire returned to the House podium to talk about Oreos.
“As you know, the classic dunk is the milk,” the Epsom Republican said last week, speaking of the traditional “well” to a gathering of lawmakers below. “But it tends to discriminate against our lactose intolerant constituents. And therefore, we had to consider other options. Red wine, of course. But do you use merlot? Or burgundy or what? I’ve heard rumors about white wine, but that’s just not the New Hampshire way.
The occasion was momentous: the planned return to the traditional, tight-knit chamber after years of alternative venues across the state. In a mock session, the topic – a commission to study the interior of Oreos – was anything but.
“This bill was only introduced because of Washington, D.C. lobbying for Oreo and the sponsors’ deep ties and reliance on ‘Double Stufs,'” said Rep. Steve Smith, the vice -President.
New Hampshire’s 400-member House will formally return as a body to the Hall of Representatives on Thursday in its first meeting since Speaker Sherman Packard announced the restoration of voting days in the traditional chamber. A week ago, however, the speaker invited lawmakers to a mock session to reorient members back to the room and give examples of bad behavior from the podium.
Throughout his speech, Smith was slapped by Packard for holding up a packet of Oreo cookies on the floor – a prohibited use of a prop during a speech. He was reprimanded for assigning a wrong motive to Oreo bill sponsor McGuire. And when he apologized to “Carol”, he was reprimanded for using her first name.
“I’m so embarrassed,” Smith said. The study committee bill failed, 14-27.
The topic was frivolous, but the motivation behind the exercise was not, Packard said. In the years that the chamber had left the hall of representatives, good behavior had plummeted, he said. Now he was trying to address bad behavior ahead of time.
“The decorum in Bedford and Manchester was probably almost despicable by our members,” Packard said, noting that the noise and chatter from both sides of the aisle had reached unnecessary proportions.
Some of the instructions to members were basic.
“It’s a really big hammer,” said New Hampshire house clerk Paul Smith, holding the giant wooden hammer next to his head. “And when it’s rocked, especially when the speaker hits it, it means ‘shh’.”
House members’ “inquiries” — the summary speeches given just before a vote on a bill — should be short and sweet, Smith said. “We’ve been talking about these things for a very long time lately, and I think we need to take them out.”
And the bedroom dress code, while technically non-existent, is premised on the expectation of reasonableness, Smith said. “Please dress in a way that respects the fact that you’re sitting in the same room as a member 200 years ago,” Smith said.
It remains to be seen how well the House will respond to Thursday’s calls for decorum. Many Democrats protested the decision to return to the chamber, citing health risks and pleading for more time in socially distanced spaces. A series of clear plastic barriers erected between Democratic and Republican seats have only stoked partisan frustrations in recent days.
But when they meet, the members will have a more serious bill record than Oreo cookies. Here’s a preview of what to expect.
Vaccination protections and abortion restrictions
A few COVID-19 related bills will come to the House with a committee recommendation that they be killed.
They include allowing a person over the age of 16 to be vaccinated against a communicable disease without parental consent; granting expanded unemployment benefits to workers fired for refusing a vaccination warrant; and allow people to file a civil rights complaint with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission if they have been denied employment, housing, or access to a public place because of their vaccination status. .
Several other COVID-19-related bills have strong committee support, but one wonders what impact they would have if passed.
One would extend the Patients’ Bill of Rights Act to prohibit medical facilities from denying care to someone based on their vaccination status, a non-issue according to testimony at a public hearing. The other would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from requiring proof of vaccination to participate in its programs or receive its benefits and services, which the department has not proposed.
The so-called “paternity bill”, which would allow a man, without proving his paternity, to ask a court to stop a woman’s ultrasound seems to be heading for an interim study, an end more polite than inappropriate to legislate. The opposition was significant. Of nearly 3,000 people who registered their position on the bill, only 34 supported it.
An effort to repeal the recovery fund for the nearly 150 victims of the $20 million Financial Resources Mortgage Ponzi scheme appears to be going nowhere. The House Ways and Means Committee voted, 19 to 0, to recommend that the bill be killed, saying the process was too advanced to reverse course.
Since the state began accepting applications in January, 16 people have submitted applications, Associate Attorney General James Boffetti said. The application period closes on May 18.
The fund administrator will assess the claims and decide on compensation, which must be paid in December, Boffetti said.
Green burials, cybersecurity and cyanobacteria
House Bill 1320 would repeal the embalming law, making it clear that embalming is a personal choice and is in no way mandated by the state. Proponents of green burial have been pushing for the bill to guarantee people’s right to choose whether they want to give up chemicals. The bill is expected to pass the House on the consent schedule, arriving with a 20-0 recommendation “should pass” out of committee.
The House is also set to pass House Bill 1277, requiring immediate reporting of cybersecurity incidents – a proposal that received a unanimous 19-0 vote “should pass” as amended out of the committee.
Bill 1066 was originally intended to create a study commission to address the health effects of cyanobacterial blooms on humans, animals and the environment. The version of the bill coming to the House, with a 21-0 recommendation “should pass,” instead directs the Department of Environmental Services to create a plan to tackle New Hampshire’s growing cyanobacteria problem.
The House is set to kill a Republican-backed bill that would have required New Hampshire businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the citizenship status of potential employees. House Bill 1124 earned a 20-1 “untimely to legislate” recommendation from the committee and is on Thursday’s consent schedule.
Wireless Privacy Shields
The House will consider a bill, House Bill 1282, which would prohibit mobile carriers from disclosing names, addresses and other information about its users to government entities – including police departments – unless the government obtains a search warrant. A bipartisan majority on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee said the bill is an important expansion of a recently added amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing the right to privacy. But some opponents say it could block law enforcement investigations into people accessing child sexual exploitation footage, which they said required swift action.
The House is set to approve Bill 1157, which would formalize into law New Hampshire’s policy that state ballot counting machines cannot be connected to the internet, as well as the Bill 1174, which would allow election candidates to observe city vote counts. process at a distance of six feet or more.
And the chamber will likely pass Bill 1195, which would require meetings of public school boards or school administrative units to include a public comment period at the start of the meeting that could be capped at one hour, and Bill 1109 , which would require voters at city assemblies, not some councils, to approve off-road recreational vehicle allowances on city-controlled roads.
A bill banning police profiling of motorcyclists, House Bill 1000, is expected to pass the House on Thursday, as is another bill, House Bill 1474, which would remove the requirement that vehicle inspections be carried out in the owner’s birth month, and instead allow them to be scheduled at any time during the calendar year.
But a bill, proposing a state constitutional amendment declaring New Hampshire’s independence from the United States, has a bleak future on Thursday. Bill received a 21-0 recommendation that he be killed by the Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs.
“The committee finds the Articles of Secession to be unconstitutional and therefore impossible,” Rep. Brodie Deshaies, a Republican from Wolfeboro, wrote in an explanation to the House Calendar.