Sununu victory, GOP legislature: what’s ahead?

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, has won a third term. The same election flipped the House and Senate from Democrat to Republican majorities, subject to a few Senate recounts.

Will this yield any pro-life legislation?

You may recall that when Sununu ran for Governor the first time, he ran an ad touting his “pro-choice” position, but later said that he supported certain common-sense measures: fetal homicide legislation, Women’s Health Protection Act (standards for operation of abortion facilities), healthcare freedom of conscience, a late-term abortion ban, and buffer zone repeal.

(From 2016: A concerned Republican and Sununu’s reply)

After two terms, he has signed a fetal homicide law. None of the other measures he mentioned has even made it to his desk. It’s possible that a Republican majority in House and Senate will make a difference. After all, the Republican majority during Sununu’s first term did manage to pass that fetal homicide law, with the help of four Democrats and one Libertarian.

“Pro-life” isn’t spelled G-O-P. Neither is “First Amendment,” for that matter, as I recall repeated failures to repeal the buffer zone law. Even so, maybe some of those common-sense measures mentioned by the Governor might have a chance in 2021.

Veto sustained: abortion insurance mandate bill fails

The New Hampshire House has sustained Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of HB 685, which would have created an abortion insurance mandate applicable to certain health insurance policies.

The vote on the veto override attempt was 195-139, well short of the two-thirds majority required for override. (“Yea” indicated support for the override; “Nay” indicated support for the Governor’s veto.)

The vote broke down along party lines. One Republican (Skip Rollins, R-Newport) joined 194 Democrats in supporting the override. Democrats Barbara Shaw (D-Manchester) and Mark Vallone (D-Epping) joined 137 Republicans in voting to sustain the veto.

Pro and Con

Rep. Rebecca McBeath (D-Portsmouth), speaking to colleagues before the override vote, said “abortion care is an essential procedure for women’s health.” In 2019 McBeath voted against collecting and reporting abortion statistics as a public health measure – something that 47 other states do. Further, Rep. McBeath has not taken any steps I know of to require New Hampshire abortion providers to have any medical training.

Rep. McBeath cited the new privacy amendment to the state constitution as another reason for overturning the veto. I wrote about that amendment before it came to a vote in 2018, warning how it could be misused by abortion advocates.

Given a chance to make a brief statement in favor of sustaining the Governor’s veto, Rep. Kim Rice (R-Hudson) reminded her colleagues that HB 685 would have put New Hampshire afoul of a federal law (the Weldon amendment), thereby costing the state millions of dollars.

In his veto message, Governor Sununu cited the Weldon Amendment as one reason for his action. He went on to say, “This legislation is unnecessary, and would threaten the State‚Äôs ability to receive federal funding for our many healthcare programs in the middle of a global pandemic. The vast majority of the commercially insured in New Hampshire already have coverage of abortion services. The legislation also raises constitutional concerns by forcing employers who morally object to offering coverage that violates their religious tenets.”

Edited to add link to House roll call vote.

House, Senate to consider veto override on September 16

The New Hampshire House will meet on Wednesday, September 16, to consider bills vetoed by Governor Chris Sununu. Among those bills is HB 685, the abortion insurance mandate.

A two-thirds vote in House and Senate is required for an override. If the House overrides a veto in its 10 a.m. session, the Senate will take it up at its own session at noon.

What will the question be?

The motion on HB 685 will be a question: Notwithstanding the Governor’s veto, shall HB 685 become law?

A Yes vote will be in support of the abortion insurance mandate and opposed to the veto. If two-thirds of House members and two-thirds of Senators vote to support the override, HB 685 will become law.

A No vote will be in opposition to the mandate and in support of the veto. That’s the one I’ll be cheering for.

How do I reach my legislators?

Look up information for your House members on the General Court website, gencourt.state.nh.us. You can search by town or by legislator’s name.

Look up House members

Look up Senate members

A brief, clear, courteous message to sustain the Governor’s veto of HB 685 could help prevent the abortion insurance mandate from becoming law.

Are the veto override sessions open to the public?

House and Senate are still operating under COVID restrictions. There is no announced public access except as described below. However, the sessions will be live-streamed so the public can monitor the proceedings online.

According to the House Calendar, the lounge of the Whittemore Center will be open to the public during the session. This is in a separate area from the arena floor where the House will be meeting.

According to a tweet from the House Clerk, the House livestream will be available at 10 a.m. on September 16 at nhhouse.edifymultimedia.com.

The Senate session livestream will be available at noon on September 16 at http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00286/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/20200916/-1

In order to allow for social distancing, the House will meet at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and the Senate will meet in Representatives Hall at the State House in Concord.

Does the recent primary election affect the veto session?

No. The 2019-20 legislators will remain in office until Organization Day in early December following November’s general election.

Edited to provide link to House livestream.

Post-veto, a clarifying moment on Twitter

Yes, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed the odious abortion insurance mandate. I’ve thanked him. I hope readers will do likewise.

Nothing in the veto changes his attitude toward abortion. The veto indicated respect for those who disagree with him, just as it indicated concern that the mandate would have cost the state money. That’s as far as it goes.

Three people came together in a Twitter exchange a few hours after the veto to clear this up for pro-life voters.

First, this from Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord), who hopes to get the Democratic nomination for Governor this fall. He pitched his customary reproductive-rights spiel.

Mere minutes later came this reply from a gentleman working for the Governor’s re-election, formerly on the Governor’s staff. He helpfully pointed out that Planned Parenthood has not suffered under the Governor’s leadership, despite the fact that he has disappointed them twice in five years (more about that here, under “an interesting anniversary”).

A state representative summed it up well in her reply to Mr. Vihstadt. She does not trash the Governor, nor has she ever done so in my hearing. She is a thoughtful individual. But she does have a habit of calling things as she sees ’em.

Ouch. But yes.

Gratitude for the veto is a good thing. It’s downright essential, in my book. Acknowledgment of the conscience rights of Granite Staters is always refreshing to see.

Maybe that’ll extend to keeping tax dollars away from abortion providers someday.

Perhaps that’s a conversation to be had on the campaign trail.

Veto! Sununu says no to abortion insurance mandate

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed a measure to create an abortion-insurance mandate for certain health insurance policies. In his veto message on HB 685, he cited conscience concerns and a potential loss of federal funds if the bill were to become law.

“This bill would risk the States federal healthcare funding in the middle of a pandemic, take away the freedom of choice for those employees and employers who object to being forced to partake in or provide abortion services, and expose the State to expensive litigation. Therefore, the costs and risks of this bill far outweigh its benefits.” (Full statement at this link.)

HB 685’s advocates, citing “parity,” treat abortion as health care. To them, conscience protections are “discriminatory attacks.” They seek to remove abortion-free options for anyone who chooses not to help provide abortions, including insurance providers, business owners who offer health insurance as a benefit to employees, and individuals paying insurance premiums.

HB 685 got to the Governor’s desk after a tortuous legislative process that included stripping an unrelated bill of its language in order to replace it with the abortion insurance mandate. The bill was passed in spite of a House rule barring nongermane amendments. There was no House public hearing on the bill in its amended form.

Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in House and Senate. The House Clerk has announced that the House will have its “Veto Day” on September 16 at UNH’s Whittemore Center in Durham.

Earlier coverage of HB 685: Mandate bill created in rushed process, Clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

To thank the Governor: (603) 271-2121 or governorsununu@nh.gov

Edited to correct date for House Veto Day.