Category Archives: New Hampshire politics

The cost of the buffer zone law, so far

A postscript to yesterday’s New Hampshire House committee vote on buffer zone repeal, HB 589: Rep. Gary Hopper (R-Weare) read aloud to his fellow committee members a communication he had received from Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice in response to a query from him about what the state has spent so far defending the buffer zone law.

He read the letter aloud in a meeting that was open to the public; he posted it today on Facebook; his correspondent is a state employee; the topic was state business. Sounds like quotable stuff to me. So here is Deputy AG Rice to Rep. Hopper, as posted by Rep. Hopper this morning:

…So far, the Department has devoted 313.75 hours of attorney time in defending the buffer zone law, which equates to $43,611.25 (313.75 hours x $139.00/hr). We do not track the time that support staff devotes to any particular case so I cannot provide a cost for that. As far as future costs, that will depend on what the plaintiffs chose to do. If they appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, we would file an objection, which I would estimate would involve approximately 40 hours of attorney time at $139/hr, or $5560 in cost. If the US Supreme Court accepted the appeal, the Department would likely devote several hundred hours on the appeal. I am unable to better estimate the amount of time required.

The plaintiffs could opt to refrain from further litigation unless and until a buffer zone is actually being considered. At this point, I cannot estimate if or when that would occur, or the amount of time that this office would spend on the litigation.

Recall that in the Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley decision overturning a Massachusetts buffer zone law, taxpayers not only covered the cost for the state to defend an ultimately unconstitutional law but were later on the hook for $1.2 million in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.

I’m sure Massachusetts’ costs started small. Look where they ended up.


Where’s the roll call on SB 66? (Update: Found!)

Update: a few hours after this post went up, so did the Senate roll calls for SB 66. View them at this link. The first roll call listed is the 8-week amendment that failed on a 12-12 vote. Sens. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and Dan Innis (R-New Castle) joined the Senate’s ten Democrats in rejecting that language. They did support the 20-week amendment, which passed 14-10. 

The thing about legislative roll calls is that they’re public. They tie elected officials to particular votes. They’re an accountability measure.

During the debate on Senate Bill 66, the fetal homicide measure passed yesterday by the New Hampshire Senate, three roll call votes were taken, according to the official docket for the bill, accessed via the General Court’s web site.

Docket of SB 66 as posted 11:30 a.m., 2/17/2017.

The first roll call (“RC”) was on an amendment; the vote was 12-12; the amendment failed (“AF”). This was the attempt to change the bill’s language to 8 weeks, instead of keeping the original “viability.”

The second roll call was on the amendment to replace “viability” with 20 weeks. This one passed (“AA” or “amendment adopted”) 14-10. The third roll call was to accept the bill as amended, and on another 14-10 vote, the bill passed.

Those RC notations are all hyperlinked to the page that ought to give us the roll calls: each Senator’s name, each Senator’s vote. Instead, we have this.

Record indicating no roll calls on SB 66, as viewed 11:30 a.m. 2/17/2017.

Each day’s roll calls are usually posted online by the end of the day. The recent House right-to-work roll call was online within ten minutes of when the vote occurred.

Personally, I’d like to know the breakdown on that 12-12 vote. I feel safe in saying all ten Democratic senators opposed the bill in all its proposed versions. So who are the two Republicans who couldn’t support the 8-week amendment?

I could just call the Senate clerk or call a Senator. But there’s that thing about roll calls being public. There’s that roll call page on the web site.

I’ll update this when and if the roll calls are posted.

 

Update: N.H. Senate Passes Amended Fetal Homicide Bill

The New Hampshire Senate today passed SB 66 on a 14-10 vote. The measure is a fetal homicide bill that would give prosecutors the option of filing homicide charges against anyone whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child against the mother’s wishes. As introduced, SB 66 could have been used only for fetal deaths after viability, but the Senate amended the bill today to change “viability” to 20 weeks’ gestation.

The bill’s legislative docket indicates that there was a roll call, but the results had not been linked at the time of this posting.

A New Hampshire House committee last week retained another fetal homicide bill, HB 156, which bars further action on the House version for now. The House bill would have made fetal homicide charges possible for deaths of preborn children at 8 weeks’ gestation or later. It is likely that the Senate bill will now go to the same House committee that retained HB 156.


On Party Unity: a Tale of Two Bills

The New Hampshire House voted a few minutes ago to kill a “right-to-work” bill. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are noisy with the cries of RTW advocates who are upset that SB 11 failed on the Republicans’ watch. Right-to-work is in the state GOP platform. Republican leadership in legislative and executive branches promoted the bill.  It failed anyway, by 23 votes.

*Yawn.*

No one who has seen pro-life bills fail in the New Hampshire House under Republican majorities can be shocked when “party unity” fails.

Many of today’s House members were in office last year when the House voted 167-116 to kill a bill (HB 1627) to protect children born alive after attempted abortion. There was a Republican majority in place then, too, under the same Speaker who holds the position today.

One difference between today’s vote and last year’s: protecting children born alive after attempted abortion was not a leadership priority. Unlike with RTW, there was no press conference by the state GOP calling on reps to pass HB 1627. Unlike with RTW, the Speaker didn’t hand over the gavel to another rep so he could go on record supporting HB 1627.

I happen to think RTW legislation is a good idea, and I’m sorry today’s bill lost. But surprised? Shocked?

Please. Without party unity on the fundamental right to life, party unity on anything else seems irrelevant.

I’m hanging on to what the state of New Hampshire insists on calling my “undeclared” voter registration. Any candidate who wants my vote knows how to earn it.


 

Bill status update

Update on bills I’ve been following:

Buffer zone repeal (HB 589) and a post-viability abortion ban (HB 578): The House Judiciary Committee will vote on these two bills Tuesday afternoon, February 14. The committee can recommend Ought to Pass (and I hope they do), or Inexpedient to Legislate. The committee recommendation will then go to the full House at a later date. You can send a brief Ought to Pass email – better yet, two emails, one for each bill – to the Judiciary Committee at HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.gov.

I plan to attend the committee meeting on the 14th. Keep an eye on the Leaven for the Loaf Facebook page, where I’ll report on the votes as soon as they’re cast.

Fetal homicide: The House bill (HB 156, Griffin’s Law) had its public hearing in the Criminal Justice committee on February 7, and the committee has taken no public action since then. The Senate bill (SB 66) will get a vote in the full Senate Thursday, February 16.

Abortion statistics (HB 471), which had a public hearing February 7, is still awaiting action in the House Health Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.


A reminder of what happens without a fetal homicide law

As House Bill 156 gets its initial hearing this week before the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, bear in mind why this and other attempts at fetal homicide legislation keep coming back.

Don’t bother to tell me I’m repeating myself. I’m going to keep right on repeating myself until New Hampshire adopts a fetal homicide law.

Read the Lamy decision handed down by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2009, particularly pages 9 and 10. It’s about real people, real death, real loss, real injustice.

Joshua Lamy is in prison now, serving time for a number of convictions arising from smashing his car into a Manchester taxi at over 100 miles per hour in 2006. He appealed one conviction, for causing the death of a child in utero, successfully arguing that in the eyes of New Hampshire law, there could be no crime because there was no victim.

The taxi driver, Brianna Emmons, was seven months pregnant. Her injuries were severe enough to call for an emergency cesarean. She named her baby Dominick. Two weeks later, he succumbed to “perinatal asphyxia resulting from maternal abdominal trauma” (State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy,  158 N.H. 511).  Those two weeks weren’t enough to make Dominick Emmons a victim under New Hampshire law. The Supreme Court Justices reluctantly recognized that fact.

The Court’s decision, written by Justice James Duggan,  was unanimous. Duggan frankly acknowledged that existing law left the Court with no other choice than to overturn the homicide conviction regarding the baby: “Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

That was eight years ago. House and Senate agreed on a bill in 2012, only to see Governor Lynch veto it. Override failed narrowly. More recent attempts have foundered over differences between House and Senate bills.

Ponder the fact that ACLU-NH has called for its supporters to show up in force to oppose HB 156. Abortion advocates in New Hampshire have never been able to stomach fetal homicide bills, even though the bills would not apply to any fetal death caused with the consent of the mother.

The ACLU has nothing to worry about if the pro-life supporters of HB 156 snipe at the pro-life supporters of the Senate’s version. Senate Bill 66 would go into effect at a much later gestational age (8 weeks in the House version, viability in the Senate). Yes, the House version is preferable.

But calling into question the good will of the supporters of the Senate bill serves only to give aid and comfort to people who want to make sure the next hundred-mile-an-hour driver who hits a pregnant woman and causes the death of her child gets a pass for the child’s death.


Attend the February 7 hearing on HB 156 if you’re so inclined: 2:30 p.m., House Criminal Justice committee, room 204 in the Legislative Office Building. You can register your support by signing the sheet on the committee table and indicating “For the bill.” If you wish to testify, fill out a pink card, available on the committee table.