Legislative Update June 15

Note: The 347-page Senate calendar was released Saturday morning, June 13th, making it nearly impossible for us to give you an in-depth analysis.

The length is largely due to cumbersome “omnibus” bills that roll multiple bills into a single entity for discussion and voting. An example is the proposed omnibus amendment to HB 1234, a bill pertaining to heating buildings in Concord. The amendment would add such diverse legislation as standards for information technology, qualifications for banking commissioner, sale of raw milk, and location of sports betting facilities, just to name a few.

Another tactic to quickly pass legislation and circumvent a sound deliberative process can be found in the proposed amendment to HB 685, passed by the House to establish a committee to study ambulance reimbursement by insurance carriers. The amendment would completely gut the original bill and instead substitute the contents of the Senate’s own bill, SB 486FN, to mandate abortion coverage for certain insurance policies, essentially making this a bill that would only need a Senate vote and a House “concurrence” vote (no House hearing on the new material) before becoming law in the state.

Cornerstone is against omnibus legislation and using amendments to co-opt bills from one legislative body to serve the other’s own legislative agenda. These tactics circumvent New Hampshire’s fair and open legislative process and deny the people the opportunity to participate. If there is not enough time to consider each bill on its own merits, it should be re-introduced in the next legislative session.

If you share our concerns, we urge you to contact Senate leaders to let them know.

SENATE SESSION THIS WEEK

The New Hampshire Senate will meet in session on Tuesday, June 16, at 10:00 a.m. in Representatives’ Hall. The session will be live streamed at this link: 

SB 480, Save Women’s Sports 

Bill Status Listed As “Miscellaneous”

The official calendar for The New Hampshire Senate’s June 16 session is more than 300 pages long, but one bill failed to make it onto the originally-published schedule: SB 480, Save Women’s Sports, which seeks to ensure fairness and equity in scholastic sports. The bill’s official status page as of June 13 has an odd notation: “miscellaneous.”

Normally, a bill that has had a committee vote but not yet a floor vote would have its status recorded as “report filed.”

Calendars sometimes have an addendum added ahead of the scheduled session. Watch Cornerstone’s Facebook page for updates.

From the Cornerstone blog: Why It’s Time to Support SB 480

HB 1162, Relative to Adoption and Parentage

STATUS: Awaiting Senate vote.

WHEN: The Senate session is Tuesday, June 16, at 10:00 a.m.

CORNERSTONE POSITION: Cornerstone OPPOSES HB 1162. (Read our guest post from a former CASA.)

WHY: There are two reasons. First, the bill would allow adoption by any two adults, regardless of whether or not there is an existing relationship between them. One advocate for the bill said at its hearing, “We left that to the courts to assess.” This kind of change in the law deserves more study. Second, if the committee amendment is accepted, this will be a bundled bill, also known as an omnibus bill. The amendment proposes rolling twelve bills into one. That’s bad public policy and a bad precedent for future legislation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:Before Tuesday, June 16, ask your state senator to vote “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 1162.

HB 685-FN: At Risk of Being Amended to Mandate Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Policies  

STATUS: Awaiting Senate vote.

WHEN: The Senate session is Tuesday, June 16, at 10:00 a.m. HB 685 is first on the agenda.

CORNERSTONE POSITION: Cornerstone OPPOSES the proposed committee amendment to HB 685. The original language of HB 685 is about insurance reimbursement for ambulance services, but the Senate Commerce committee has recommended that the bill’s language be replaced entirely with an abortion insurance mandate.

WHY: Two reasons.

1) No insurer should be required to provide coverage for abortion, and no employer who provides health insurance as an employee benefit should be forced to be complicit in providing abortions. This is a matter of religious liberty and conscience rights. Furthermore, the kind of language replacement proposed by the committee is known as a non-germane amendment, bearing no relation to the bill’s original intent. 

2) A similar bill, SB 486-FN, already passed the Senate but is unlikely to be acted on in the House, since the House has not voted to extend its deadline for dealing with legislation. If HB 685 as amended passes the Senate, no House hearing would take place, since there was already a hearing on the original version of the bill. That would short-circuit the normal hearing process providing adequate notice and transparency to the public.

Note that some abortion advocates in the Senate have asserted that most health insurance policies already cover abortion. That is regrettable, but it’s no reason to mandate that still more policies cover it. A mandate to cover abortion is fundamentally different from an option to cover abortion.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Before Tuesday, June 16, ask your state senator to OPPOSE the committee amendment to HB 685. If the amendment is adopted, vote “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 685.