2009 Legislative Updates
State House Successes
In the April newsletter, I reported on numerous successes at the New Hampshire State House, some of which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Free State Project participants. Here’s an update on the important bills:
HB312, a bill to stop law enforcement from abusing the wiretapping law to prevent citizens from recording them. “On the job means on the record.” This bill was sponsored by Rep. Joel Winters (D–Manchester), an early mover. The Criminal Justice Committee recommended to the House that the bill be killed, yet Joel and several other Reps were able to give floor speeches that resulted in the House voting to overturn the committee recommendation, 183–161. The bill then passed the House in a 206–142 vote.
Unfortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also recommended to kill the bill, and the Senate did so by voice vote. Apparently the Senate didn’t want to be “on the record” killing the bill. The idea isn’t dead, though, and will return next year.
HB383, a bill creating a primary-offense seatbelt law. This bill initially passed the House in a close 197–155 vote, and came out of the Senate Transportation & Interstate Cooperation with another “ought to pass” recommendation. It was only through the tireless efforts of freestaters Keith Carlsen and Denis Goddard that this bill ultimately stalled and died. Keith and Denis, along with several other freestaters, enlisted the help of dozens of activists in flyering the swing Senators’ districts with thousands of flyers demanding that our politicians “Let those who drive decide!” with a photo of each Senator, captioned “…anti-freedom Senator?”.
So many voters ended up calling their Senators that the bill ultimately lost two votes that it needed to pass in the Senate. It was tabled in a 13–11 vote: Dead for now.
HB648, the medical marijuana bill. This bill was the work of Matt Simon and N.H. Compassion, a special project of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy that was set up to get medical marijuana passed in New Hampshire. Dozens of activists, including many freestaters, came out to support this bill. In 2007, a medical marijuana bill had failed in the House by nine votes, but this year, HB648 passed the House by a wide margin, 234–138, and a slightly amended version ultimately passed the Senate in a 14–10 vote.
The Governor, however, had “concerns” with the bill, as a result of misinformation being spread by Kelly Ayotte, the State Attorney General, and the Chiefs of Police Association, and threatened to veto it unless additional changes were made. A committee of conference was set up to do just that, the bill was watered down further, and again passed 232–108 and 14–10. The Governor still chose to veto the bill, claiming his concerns still weren’t sufficiently addressed.
Fortunately, the bill passed the House with a veto-proof majority, and only two Senators need to vote the other way in order for that chamber to override the Governor’s veto, so this fight isn’t over.
HB436, HB310, and HB73, the legislative package ending marriage inequality in New Hampshire and establishing State recognition of same-sex marriage. Ryan Marvin, along with other freestaters, spent hundreds of hours of effort on getting these bills passed, working with the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition and the N.H. chapter of the ACLU, and a new organization set up specifically for this legislation, the N.H. Coalition for Equal Rights. This series of bills faced one of the most tortuous paths through the Legislature that any bill ever has: Having motions to pass, kill, and table the bill all fail in the House; a threat by the Governor to veto it unless changes were made; refusal by the House to concur with Senate changes; and more.
The last piece of the package finally passed the Senate 14–10 and House 198–176 in early June, and was signed by the Governor the same day. These bills all go into effect on January 1, 2010, at midnight, making New Hampshire the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
NHLA 2009 Liberty Rating Released
The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance has released their 2009 Liberty Rating report card, which rates all 424 of New Hampshire’s legislators on how pro- or anti-liberty their voting record is. This year, the NHLA used forty-four bills in the House, and eleven bills in the Senate, to determine their scores. The Liberty Rating can be downloaded from the NHLA website at www.nhliberty.org.
The NHLA Legislator of the Year award went to Edith “Dee” Hogan (R–Nashua), who achieved a 98.77% score (A+) for her tireless support for liberty in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Activist of the Year went to Keith Carlsen, for his work on the seatbelt bill, medical marijuana, and more.