2021 legislation coming into focus

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.

State House 2020 Preview

New Hampshire legislators have filed legislative service requests for 2020, indicating the kinds of bills we’re likely to see when House and Senate convene in January. To date, 795 LSRs are on record, and more may be on the way.

Among the proposals:

  • Born-alive legislation, to ensure that children who survive attempted abortion are given appropriate medical support.
  • “Prohibiting abortion in certain cases”: LSRs can be very vague, sometimes intentionally so, with clarity and precise language coming only when the bill based on the LSR is finally released. The sponsors on this one look encouraging in any case.
  • A heartbeat bill. Iowa passed a heartbeat bill in 2018 that was struck down as unconstitutional earlier this year. Whether NH’s proposal is identical remains to be seen.

Then there’s LSR 2600, which should be setting off alarms:

“[R]elating to reproductive medical decisions. Providing that the state shall not infringe or unduly inconvenience the right of reproductive medical decisions.”

That’s not a proposed bill. It’s a proposed amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution. Sponsors thus far: Reps. Timothy Smith, Timothy Harrigan, Catherine Sofikitis, Sherry Frost, Chuck Grassie, Heidi Hamer, and Arthur Ellison.

I’ve been concerned that the privacy amendment recently added to the state constitution might be misinterpreted to protect the abortion industry. That’s nothing compared to this proposed amendment, which would embed abortion unambiguously into New Hampshire’s constitution in the guise of “reproductive medical decisions.”

The texts of bills should be available next month, with hearings beginning in January.

State senate primaries 2016: Districts 1, 2, 8

Part one of a review of state senate primaries

The 2016 primary election in New Hampshire will be Tuesday, September 13. You can obtain a sample ballot from your town clerk or from the Secretary of State’s web site under “Election Information.”

Of the 24 state senate races, nine have primary contests in one or both parties. I haven’t surveyed or interviewed the candidates, but there are voting records available for those who are incumbents or who have held office before. Here’s a look at state senate primary races, with voting records on some life-issue bills I’ve followed in the 2015-2016 session. If one of your local candidates has no record to go by, it’s time for you to reach out with friendly questions. September 13 is coming up quickly.

Find selected 2016 life-issue votes at this link. 

Find selected 2015 life-issue votes at this link.

I am counting on New Hampshire readers to let me know if there are candidates I have mistakenly listed as not having held state office before. I’ll make corrections as needed.

District 1:  There is a Republican primary between Rep. Leon Rideout and Dolly McPhaul. The incumbent senator, Jeff Woodburn, is unchallenged on the Democratic side. McPhaul has no voting record on the life issues of which I’m aware.

Rideout has been a leader on fetal homicide legislation. (For more about Griffin’s Law and other fetal homicide bills, see this page with links to coverage of hearings.) He has a pro-life voting record. Look for his results at the links above, under Coos County district 7.

District 2:  There is a Republican primary between Rep. Brian Gallagher and former Rep. Bob Giuda. Both have pro-life voting records. Gallagher has a very strong pro-life voting record over the past two years for Belknap County district 4 (see links above).

Giuda served in the House from 2001 to 2006, and during that time he supported parental notification for minors seeking abortion (voting against an “inexpedient to legislate” motion on HB 1380, 2/15/02; and then voting “ought to pass” on HB 763, 3/25/03); he supported a partial-birth abortion ban (voting against an “inexpedient to legislate” motion on HB 1220, 3/17/04); he opposed public funding of abortion (voting against an “inexpedient to legislate” motion on HB 1253, 2/19/04); and he supported effective informed consent for abortion (HB 1340, 3/17/04; HB 399, 3/9/05). In 2001, he voted to abolish New Hampshire’s death penalty (HB 171, 4/5/01; the bill failed by fewer than 10 votes).

District 2 is an open seat, with incumbent Jeanie Forrester now running for Governor.

District 8: There is a Republican primary between Jim Beard and Ruth Ward, neither of whom has a State House voting record. Neither candidate’s web site mentions any stand on the right to life. District 8 is an open seat, as former Senator Jerry Little has been appointed New Hampshire’s Banking Commissioner.

Jim Adams, Exec Council candidate: life is “the most important gift we have”

Jim Adams, candidate for Executive Council district 4
Jim Adams, candidate for Executive Council district 4. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

While at the State House waiting for the recent Executive Council meeting to begin, I met Jim Adams. He’s running in the Republican primary for Executive Council district 4, in hopes of taking the seat away from incumbent Chris Pappas. Our chat didn’t rise to the level of a formal interview, but he said something to me that I thought was worth taking down.

When I was in Vietnam, I was a hospital corpsman, eighteen years old. I dealt with the human wreckage of war. I had no opinions [on] pro-life; that was not as prominent as it is today.

I had a  young Marine who was badly injured. It was easy for me to see he was not going to make it. He grabbed my left arm and held onto it so tight I could barely get started [assisting him]. I was doing everything I could. You have to keep them focused, because if they don’t look in your eyes, they see how bad it is, they go into shock. He’s wanting his mother; all the things people think happen at that time, most of it does. He was hanging on to his life with every fiber in his being. And he slowly started to let go of my hand. He was not going to make it.

At eighteen years old, when I saw how hard that young man was trying to hang on to his life with every fiber in his being, I saw that life is the most important gift we have, and one should never be taken as a matter of convenience.

That’s one way to start a conversation about the life issues. Mr. Adams’s web site, under the heading “Fight for Your Family”, mentions his opposition to using funds to “support abortion.” I encourage district 4 voters to pursue specifics with Mr. Adams and with his GOP primary challenger, Joe Kelly Levasseur.

On the Democratic side, incumbent Pappas is unopposed. Pappas has voted twice in Council for public funding for abortion providers.

(District 4 includes the city of Manchester and the towns of Allenstown, Auburn, Barrington, Bedford, Bow, Candia, Chichester, Deerfield, Epsom, Goffstown, Hooksett, Lee, Londonderry, Loudon, Northwood, Nottingham, Pembroke, and Pittsfield.)

Watch for reports from Pro-Life Women’s Conference in Dallas

I’m stepping away from my usual beat for a trip to Dallas, Texas and the Pro-Life Women’s Conference hosted by And Then There Were None and the Alice Paul Group. I’ll post updates via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@leaven4theloaf) while I’m on the scene June 24-26, and I’ll add follow-up posts when I return.

This trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors of this blog. I’m grateful to my readers for this opportunity.

You can read about the conference at its web site, and you can see from the list of speakers why I’m giving up a weekend to fly halfway across the country. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what I see here in New Hampshire is all there is to the pro-life movement. As you’ll see from the variety of affiliations among the speakers – Secular Pro-Life, New Wave Feminists, Guiding Star Project, Democrats for Life, BraveLove, to name just a few – there’s much more to the pro-life mission.

Let’s say I’m expanding my comfort zone, not stepping outside it.

I’ll see a few familiar faces in Dallas, including New Hampshire neighbor Darlene Pawlik of Save the 1, who blogs at The Darling Princess.  I’m glad she has this opportunity to tell her story to women from around the country.

I’ll keep you posted.