The New Hampshire State House remains closed to the public, but legislative business is underway with live-streamed sessions and Zoom hearings. Proposed legislation includes several life-issue and conscience-rights bills that are awaiting scheduling.
I should illustrate this post with a photo of a laptop screen instead of the State House. The screen is as close as we’ll get to the committees, until someone in COVID-19 authority declares otherwise.
A partial list
Here’s a partial list of bills, with legislation still being developed. Hearings are not yet scheduled for these measures.
Number of bill or legislative service request (LSR; that’s a bill-in-formation), title or analysis as printed in the bill, sponsors’ name/town with chief sponsor listed first:
- LSR 146, prohibiting public funding of abortions and establishing the New Hampshire foster care and adoption initiative fund. (Rep. Fred Plett, Goffstown)
- HB 233-FN, relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment. (Reps. Jordan Ulery, Hudson, and Walter Stapleton, Claremont)
- LSR 541, relative to the protection of fetal life. (Reps. Beth Folsom, Wentworth; Jeanine Notter, Merrimack; Linda Gould, Bedford; Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, Derry; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Sens. Regina Birdsell, Hampstead; Ruth Ward, Stoddard)
- HB 430, repealing the prohibition on entering or remaining on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health facility. This would repeal the unenforced “buffer zone” law. (Reps. Niki Kelsey, Bedford; Jeanine Notter, Merrimack; Linda Gould, Bedford; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Hershel Nuñez, Pelham; Matthew Simon, Littleton; Vanessa Sheehan, Milford; Tim Baxter, Seabrook; Sens. Jeb Bradley, Wolfeboro; Gary Daniels, Milford; Regina Birdsell, Hampstead; Kevin Avard, Nashua; Denise Ricciardi, Bedford)
- HB 434, prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions. (Reps. Vanessa Sheehan, Milford; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Kimberly Rice, Hudson; Debra DeSimone, Atkinson; Linda Gould, Bedford; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Matthew Simon, Littleton; Bill King, Milford; Diane Pauer, Brookline; Jim Creighton, Antrim; Sens. Denise Ricciardi, Bedford; Ruth Ward, Stoddard; Gary Daniels, Milford)
- HCR 4, a resolution recognizing the authority of states to enact laws protecting the lives of the unborn and calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose a human life amendment to the Constitution. (Rep. Max Abramson, Seabrook)
- LSR 791, protecting nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. (Reps. Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Bill Nelson, Brookfield; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Max Abramson, Seabrook)
A few notes
While the House and Senate have Republican majorities, I haven’t heard any chatter about giving these bills high priority within the GOP caucus. I expect COVID-19 policy, education choice, and the state budget to predominate.
Speaking at a Business and Industry Association online event earlier this week, Speaker of the House Sherman Packard said “all testimony will be virtual” – he meant online. While House committees might meet at the State House in modified hearing rooms (air filters are being installed, among other COVID accommodations), the public will participate electronically for now.
Senate committees are meeting online via the Zoom platform, which allows for public participation. As with the House, there is currently no provision for the public to be physically present with legislators during testimony.
The Senate has announced that it will allow “omnibus” bills this year. That’s one of the worst ideas held over from last year’s pandemic disruptions. Multiple bills will be bundled together in each omnibus, with a single hearing for each bundle. While that may be appropriate in an emergency, let’s hope the emergency doesn’t extend beyond this session. Making omnibus bills routine gives rise to a we-have-to-pass-it-to-find-out-what’s-in-it mentality.
There are more than 800 bills in the works, covering a myriad of topics including human trafficking, religious liberty, and allocation of state resources. Most will be dealt with by the end of May, with June to be dedicated to finalizing the state budget for the next fiscal biennium which begins on July 1.