Where Your Reps Stand: N.H. General Court Votes, 2019-2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted The New Hampshire House and Senate (collectively, the General Court), most of 2020’s life-issue bills were dealt with before the mid-March suspension. Granite Staters can see how their representatives have voted and can follow up accordingly.

  • Look up the names of your state representatives and state senator. Note that you might be covered by two House districts.
  • Look up the votes for the bills listed below.
  • Remember in November. Acting sooner might be a good idea, too: the period to file declarations of candidacy for state offices is June 3-12. Want to run, or know someone who should? That’s when to make a House or Senate candidacy official.

Still pending is SB 486, a bill to require that certain health insurance policies cover abortion. The Senate passed the bill along party lines. The House will schedule a hearing sometime after it reconvenes on June 11. Governor Sununu’s position on the bill is unknown.

Notes on the votes

The bills listed below are the ones for which a clear roll call is available. If a bill you’ve been following isn’t on the list, the chances are that it was disposed of with a voice vote or a division vote. (A division vote reflects a numerical result without any indication of how a specific representative voted.)

For each bill I’m highlighting below, I’ve provided links to the most relevant roll call vote. As to who determines what a “preferred” vote looks like, that’s me exercising editorial discretion. Readers may reach different conclusions. I trust that there’s enough information here for anyone curious about these particular bills.

If you want a broader view of how your representative has voted, the General Court website is your source. Go to Who’s My Legislator? and click on your town. You’ll get a list of all the reps from your district. Click on any name and you’ll be directed to that rep’s information page. From there, click on the “Voting Record” box. That will lead you to your rep’s votes on every roll call from the current session. There are over a hundred roll calls so far.

Always keep in mind that “yes” is not always a vote in favor of the bill; it is actually a vote in favor of a particular motion. Motions may be Ought to Pass (OTP), Ought to Pass with Amendment (OTP/A), Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL), or Table (which prevents an up-or-down vote on the bill).

When a legislator is marked “excused,” that means the legislator notified the House Clerk in advance of the day’s session that she or he would be absent. “Not voting” is an unexcused absence, which could mean having to leave the session early, deliberately skipping a vote, or being elsewhere in the building when the Sergeant-at-Arms bellowed out “roll call!”

Senate

SB 741, born-alive infant protection

Upon a motion made and seconded by abortion advocates, the Senate tabled SB 741 on a 14-10 vote. The bill would have provided enforceable protection for infants surviving attempted abortion. Preferred vote: NAY on the tabling motion. (Vote #30, 2/13/2020)

Can a tabled bill be brought back for further action? As a technical matter, the answer is yes, if a sufficient number of senators vote to do so. As a practical matter, SB 741 is going to die on the table.

Related: Big Talk, Then a Whimper (2/13/2020)

HB 455, death penalty repeal

Overriding Governor Chris Sununu’s veto by the slimmest of margins, the House and Senate nudged HB 455 into law. As of May 30, 2019, New Hampshire courts will no longer sentence anyone to death. The Senate vote was 16-8 on the veto override, just making the necessary two-thirds needed. Preferred vote: YES on the override. (Vote #163, 5/30/19)

To call this one emotional is an understatement. Opposition to the death penalty is something on which I get lively pushback in conversation with some policymakers who are otherwise consistently pro-life.

Related: A Note on Death Penalty Repeal (5/22/19)

House

HB 124, buffer zone repeal

The House voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 124, an attempt to repeal the buffer zone law. The ITL motion passed 228-141. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #15, 1/31/2019)

The failure of the repeal attempt was a hollow victory for opponents of the First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses. The buffer zone law itself remains on the books but is unenforced, with a court challenge certain to follow any attempt to put it into effect.

Links to this blog’s coverage of the buffer zone law since 2013 are here.

HB 158, abortion statistics

The House voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 158, regarding the collection and reporting of statistics on induced termination of pregnancy in the state. The ITL motion passed 218-144. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #79, 3/7/2019)

Related: New Stats Dispute Comes Up in Committee (5/9/2019)

HB 291, end-of-life study

Sponsors of HB 291 were candid in their public testimony: their idea of end-of-life “care” included assisted suicide. The House voted “ought to pass,” 214-140. Preferred vote: NAY on OTP. (Vote #88, 3/14/2019)

The Senate later amended the bill, but the House refused to concur with the Senate’s changes. The bill therefore died (fittingly).

HB 455, death penalty repeal

See my comments above on the Senate’s HB 455 vote. The override margin in the House was nearly as slim: 247-123. Preferred vote: YEA on override. (Vote #201, 5/23/19)

HB 1675, born-alive infant protection

The formal description of HB 1675 was “relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.” That was too much for a majority of New Hampshire’s current House members, who voted “inexpedient to legislate,” 177-131. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #101, 3/12/2020)

Related: Video from House Committee Saying “No” to Born-Alive Bill (3/8/2020); House Votes Down Born-Alive Protection (3/12/2020)

HB 1678, prenatal nondiscrimination act

HB 1678 would have barred abortions performed for reasons of Down syndrome, other genetic anomaly, or sex selection. Penalties for violation would have applied to the abortion provider, not the mother of the child. In one of the last votes cast by the House before the COVID-19 suspension, House members voted “inexpedient to legislate,” 193-101. Preferred vote: NAY on ITL. (Vote #142, 3/12/2020)

Coalition to FDA: any COVID-19 vaccine should be free from abortion connection

A letter to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from a coalition of concerned Americans has urged that any vaccine being developed for COVID-19 be derived from ethical sources, without use of cell lines derived from aborted human beings. An associated email petition drive organized through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) invites the general public to send the same message to the FDA.

The April 17 letter says in part, “To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible. However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited.”

The letter, released by the USCCB, is signed by several USCCB members as well as by physicians and other health care professionals, medical ethicists, and pro-life activists.

Not a hypothetical situation

According to the letter, the concern over how a COVID-19 vaccine is to be derived is based on work that is already happening. Practical decisions are being made now.

We are aware that, among the dozens of vaccines currently in development, some are being produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies. For example, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has a substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is working on a vaccine that is being produced using one of these ethically problematic cell lines. Thankfully, other vaccines such as those being developed by Sanofi Pasteur, Inovio, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute utilize cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.

It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience. Fortunately, there is no need to use ethically problematic cell lines to produce a COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, as other cell lines or processes that do not involve cells from abortions are available and are regularly being used to produce other vaccines.

coalition letter to FDA, 4/17/2020

share the message

Share this letter and petition as you see fit. The online petition has a clear message, but includes space for your own words.

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/upload/Letter-to-FDA-urging-ethical-COVID-vaccines.pdf

https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/73486/Respond?fbclid=IwAR1hxb17qXYhIVy8a099oh7PPJh_YBXRi6vJZGV-DvXwP13lXJadrhmlV-Q

This is not about whether vaccines in general are a good idea. (I am grateful for some and reject others.) This is about refusing to embrace abortion in order to cure or prevent COVID-19.

I wish the letter had been unnecessary. The people who signed it clearly saw the need, though. All of them live and work in the real world with real people. They take things like pandemics seriously.

They have the right idea. I’m with them.

Image from United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Image in post header by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Illinois pro-life Democrat after primary loss: “no higher calling” than standing with the vulnerable

Member of Congress Dan Lipinski, representing Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District, was defeated in his party’s primary on March 18. What makes this notable is that Lipinski is a pro-life Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and has served his district since 2005. The abortion advocate who beat him did so by only a narrow margin, but that was all she needed. Lipinski will serve out his term and then hand over the reins in January.

What Lipinski said after his loss ought to be remembered. There’s much to reflect upon, and it’s not just for Democrats.

There was one issue that loomed especially large in this campaign, the fact that I am pro-life. I was pilloried in millions of dollars of TV ads and mailers. I was shunned by many of my colleagues and other Democratic Party members and operators because of my pro-life stance. The pressure in the Democratic Party on the life issue has never been as great as it is now. Over the years I’ve watched many other politicians succumb to pressure and change their position on this issue. I have always said that I would never give up being pro-life and standing up for babies in the womb. Judy and I, and tens of millions of Catholics hold and live this belief. But it is not just based on religious belief, it is based on science which shows us that life begins at conception. Knowing this, I could never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world, simply to win an election. My faith teaches, and the Democratic Party preaches, that we should serve everyone, especially the most vulnerable. To stand in solidarity with the vulnerable is to become vulnerable. But there is no higher calling for anyone.

Rep. Lipinski at March 18 news conference, quoted in National Review Online.

Legislative action suspended over COVID-19 concerns

The New Hampshire House and Senate have suspended all activity from March 16 until at least April 10, responding to public health concerns raised by the COVID-19 virus. The virus was declared a pandemic on March 11 by the World Health Organization. Governor Chris Sununu declared a state of emergency on March 13. Since that date, public gatherings have been discouraged to prevent community transmission of the virus.

From the General Court website: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, out of an abundance of caution the General Court has suspended all legislative activities through April 10. During this time, the State House will be closed to legislative members, legislative staff, and visitors.”

In the March 20 House Journal, House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff wrote “[T]he Senate President and I have made the historic decision to suspend all legislative activities. At this point in time, we are uncertain when we will resume legislative business. We will continue to govern with the best interests of our citizens in mind. I thank you again for your patience and understanding as we move forward.”

All remaining bills for the 2020 legislative session are in limbo, unable to advance while the legislature is suspended.

More life-issue votes from March 12 session

In addition to rejecting a born-alive bill, the New Hampshire House on March 12 also rejected HB 1678-FN, the prenatal nondiscrimination act. The bill would have imposed sanctions on an abortion provider performing an abortion solely for reasons of sex selection or fetal genetic anomaly such as Down syndrome. The roll call on HB 1678-FN was 193-101 on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion. Because the motion was ITL, a “yea” vote on the roll call was a vote to kill the bill.

The House voted to send the assisted suicide bill, HB 1659-FN, to interim study. The move effectively kills the bill for this year. A subcommittee of House Judiciary is likely to meet one or more times before the end of 2020 to develop an interim study report, advising future legislatures whether to consider such a law. Opponents of assisted suicide legislation will need to show up at those yet-to-be-scheduled subcommittee sessions.

Also on March 12, the New Hampshire Senate voted “ought to pass” along party lines (Democrats in the majority) on SB 486-FN, an abortion-insurance mandate bill. The bill now goes to the House.

Related: the March 12 votes were previewed here.