A Note on Death Penalty Repeal

Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has vetoed repeal of the state’s death penalty law. As I write, the House will vote on an override in just a few hours. Whether enough votes are there is anyone’s guess. It’s going to be close. The Governor is fighting hard to have his veto sustained.

He considers capital punishment to be a way of supporting law enforcement. As the granddaughter of a cop and the niece of two others, I don’t, but that’s not what this post is about.

It’s odd that in a year when the Governor has promised that he’ll be vetoing all kinds of bills, he’s putting such a high value on vetoing this one. It’s his first veto, and he’s facing a Democratic House and Senate. I have heard from Republican legislators about the pressure being brought to bear by party brass to back up the Governor’s determination to keep the death penalty on the books.

I got a faint whiff of the pressure myself this morning at an informal gathering of political acquaintances. I’m an undeclared voter (that’s Granitespeak for “independent”), but I was admonished by someone who should know better that I had to back the Governor on this one, and tell my reps to do likewise.

A conscience vote was fine when the bill first came through House and Senate, I was told, but that was then and this is now. Now, it’s not a conscience vote. It’s a matter of supporting the Governor. The Dems are doing this on purpose, timing this, trying to make him look bad.

The Governor, by the way, touted a 64% approval rating in April, making him the third-most-popular governor in the nation. He doesn’t need my pity.

I’ve been involved in politics all my adult life. I understand horse trading, whipping votes, and how arms need to be twisted now and then. But never, least of all now, have I had any patience for considering a life-issue bill to be a matter of conscience in March and a matter of saving face two months later.

This is the kind of thing that makes “undeclared” the largest bloc of voters in New Hampshire.

Opposition to the death penalty is something of a stumbling block to a lot of people who are pro-life in other respects. Some of those people are Republican legislators who voted against the repeal bill earlier this session and will vote to sustain the veto. They’re not giving the party whips any heartburn. They will be consistent.

The Republicans who voted in favor of death penalty repeal are the ones getting the lectures now. They’re the ones I’m thinking about as the vote nears. I hope they’ll be consistent, too.

N.H. Considers Death Penalty Repeal Again

Update, 5/4/19: HB 455, described in this post, passed House and Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Sununu. An override vote has not yet been scheduled.

A veto by Governor Chris Sununu last June stopped a bill to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty statute. Undeterred, advocates of repeal have brought forth another bill this year, HB 455. It just received an “ought to pass” recommendation from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee on a vote of 11-6. I’m glad to see that.

The repeal effort picked up a powerful advocate this time: Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston). He’s the committee’s ranking Republican and former chairman.

I went to the recent public hearing on HB 455 to sign “the blue sheet” indicating my support. I’m a registered lobbyist with a client that does not take a position on capital punishment, so as I entered the room I had to take off my orange badge and become just another member of the general public losing time from work in order to weigh in on the bill. I caught just the end of Rep. Welch’s testimony.

As quoted in a New Hampshire Union Leader report, Rep. Welch announced he had abandoned his longtime support for capital punishment. “Now I’ve resolved my positions. I’m consistently prolife and will not vote for the death penalty.”

Remember that the next time you think someone’s views on the right to life are set in stone.

I’m going to thank Rep. Welch. I’m not sure he’s hearing a lot of that. Emotions run high when capital punishment is up for debate.

A legislator who’s a friend of mine testified in strong opposition to repeal. She reminded her colleagues of a horrific murder in New Hampshire that occurred during a home invasion, and how the murderers were not covered by the death penalty statute at that time – unjustly, in the legislator’s view. (The statute has since been amended to include murders committed during home invasions.) She considers her support for capital punishment to be advocacy for the woman, Kimberly Cates, who was a victim of that violent crime.

I understand that, even if I don’t agree with the conclusion. I also understand the legislators who cry out about the hypocrisy of their colleagues who oppose the death penalty but who vote pro-abortion every chance they get. Believe me, I understand their frustration.

A House vote is still some days off. I’m looking forward to a roll call.

Tracking N.H. General Court’s 2018 Votes and Preparing for Next Election

As April draws to a close, most of 2018’s life-issue bills in Concord have been settled one way or another. Below, you’ll find links to the votes so you can see how each of your state representatives voted.

vote checkmarkAccountability isn’t the only reason to keep an eye on voting records. The filing period for next fall’s state elections runs from June 6 to June 15. That’s only a few weeks away. Have you ever thought of running for office, or encouraging a friend to do so? Has one of your state representatives decided not to run again? Does someone need a challenge who didn’t get one in 2016? Continue reading “Tracking N.H. General Court’s 2018 Votes and Preparing for Next Election”

N.H. Legislators Try Again to Repeal Death Penalty

Two years after repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty law failed on a tie vote in the Senate, the Senate has approved SB 593 on a 14-10 vote. The bill would change the penalty for capital murder to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole.

SB 593 has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee where a hearing is yet to be scheduled.

SB 593 has a long bipartisan list of co-sponsors, led by Sen. Kevin Avard (R-Nashua). In an op-ed published in the New Hampshire Union Leader two days before the Senate vote, Sen. Avard wrote about his reason for introducing the legislation. An excerpt:

SINCE THE DEATH penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1973, for every 10 people who have been executed across the country, one person has been exonerated. Can we continue to live with a 10 percent wrongful conviction rate in capital punishment cases? I cannot, which is why I have introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire.

I have reached the point where no argument made in favor of capital punishment can overcome the reality that having the death penalty inevitably means that innocent people have been and will continue to be wrongfully convicted and executed. The only way to guarantee that the innocent are not wrongfully executed is to abolish capital punishment.

A Union Leader news report published the day after the Senate hearing on the bill said that people testifying in opposition included the president of the N.H. Chiefs of Police Association, the chief steward of the Manchester Police Patrolmen’s Association and president of the New Hampshire Police Association. The report also said that Governor Chris Sununu has threatened to veto the bill in the form passed by the Senate.

Filed So Far: Some Bills for 2018

More than 800 bills have been filed so far by New Hampshire legislators for 2018. Here are a few on which I’ll be reporting, with links to the texts of the bill where available. The Senate hasn’t released all its bill requests yet, so watch for updates in future posts.

HB 1707: The “Abortion Information Act,” requiring the physician who performs an abortion, or the referring physician, to provide the pregnant woman with certain information at least 24 hours prior to the abortion, and to obtain her consent that she has received such information. Sponsors: Reps. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Victoria Sullivan (R-Manchester), Kevin Verville (R-Deerfield), and Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester).

HB 1680: The “Viable Fetus Protection Act,” to restrict post-viability abortions. Sponsors: Reps. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead), Jeanine Notter, and Victoria Sullivan.

HB 1721: to prevent coerced abortions. Sponsors: Reps. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford), Mark Pearson, Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Dan Itse (R-Fremont), Jeanine Notter, Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry), Duane Brown (R-Wentworth), and Carl Seidel (R-Nashua).

LSR 2222 (no bill number assigned yet), relative to conscience rights for medical professionals. Sponsors: Reps. Kathleen Souza, Dan Itse, Al Baldasaro, Jeanine Notter, Linda Gould (R-Bedford), James Spillane (R-Deerfield), Kurt Wuelper, Carl Seidel, Jess Edwards (R-Auburn), and Mark Pearson.

HB 1511: amending the fetal homicide law to make it effective at 8 weeks of pregnancy (instead of the 20-week standard in the law signed by Gov. Sununu earlier this year), and removing the law’s exemptions for actions performed by, or at the direction of, the pregnant woman. (I’ll have plenty to say about this one after New Year’s Day, and I doubt I’ll please the sponsors.) Sponsors: Reps. Kurt Wuelper, Linda Gould, Al Baldasaro, Kathleen Souza, Jeanine Notter, and Dan Itse.

HB 1503: authorizing minors 16 years of age and over to independently consent to medical procedures. Sponsor: Rep. Caleb Dyer (L-Pelham).

HB 1671: abolishing the death penalty in New Hampshire. Sponsors: Reps. Delmar Burridge (D-Keene), Caleb Dyer, Ellen Read (D-Newmarket), and Donovan Fenton (D-Keene).

LSR 2748 (no bill number assigned yet): establishing a committee to study end-of-life choices. Sponsors: Sens. Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover) , Bette Lasky (D-Nashua), David Watters (D-Dover), Dan Feltes (D-Concord), Jay Kahn (D-Keene), Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester), and Reps. James MacKay (D-Concord) and Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom).