With time lost to the COVID-19 suspension of legislative business, some New Hampshire legislators have decided that rolling multiple bills into one will somehow save time. A recent Cornerstone update warned about “bundled bills” and how they flunk the fairness test. Bundling prevents legislators and the public from giving each individual bill the scrutiny it deserves.
When legislation affects the composition of the family, scrutiny is especially important.
The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee voted on June 9 to bundle twelve bills into one. HB 1162 was originally introduced with language to allow any two adults to adopt a child, regardless of any relationship that may or may not otherwise exist between the adults.
The bills that have been rolled into HB 1162 via the amendment process are all relative to child welfare in one way or another: insurance coverage for early-intervention services, legal representation of children in the juvenile justice system, and so on. Taken together, all of the combined bills sound good. The problem is that they obscure the troublesome nature of the original underlying bill.
Any of the bills the committee rolled into HB 1162 could be re-introduced in 2021. Each could get a fair and thoughtful Senate hearing at that time, instead of the one-hour twelve-bill-in-one hearing that took place on June 9.
Bundled bills are bad policy. Beware of the precedent they could set.