For those who don’t want to wait a week…
OK, I got a lot of material to cover in this column, so I’ll try to be brief and to the point. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that one before.
On the budgetary front, the House passed House Resolution 11 “A resolution affirming revenue estimates for fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013”, the purpose of which was to set a spending cap based on realistic revenue expectations, as well as anticipated loss of revenue from future tax and fee reductions. Call it an exercise in common sense – only spending the money you have in your pocket.
This relates to two bills that were recently passed by the House and subsequently tabled for future action: HB166 (lowering the meals and rooms tax from 9% to 8%) and HB37 (reestablishing the exemption to the communications services tax for the first $12 of the monthly gross charge for residential telephone service).
I voted in favor of both of these tax relief measures, but voted against the majority on the measure to table HB166. My reason being that the revenue estimates in HR11 included the loss of revenue from repealing the meals and rooms tax, but did not take into account a loss of revenue for the reestablishment of the exemption to the communications service tax. That $5 million/year was not in this round of tax cuts used to arrive at our self-imposed sending limit.
The bills were tabled as passed bills, so that when the House and Senate get together to reconcile the budget, we’re not plugging in hypothetical tax cuts, but rather actual tax cuts that have been vetted in committee before the voters and passed by the House. Also, at that time, we’ll be able to review our original revenue estimates to see how the numbers are comparing to actual revenue.
With regards to Governor Lynch’s newly released budget, I have heard from quite a few people who are concerned about the very real potential for down-shifting of costs to the cities and towns.
The Finance Committee is looking at this matter very closely, and Speaker O’Brien, quoted in Foster’s Daily Democrat (2/18/11) has stated, “The problem is at the state level and it’s going to be solved at the state level.” I will do my best to keep everyone updated as the process or resolving these concerns moves along.
Another significant and headline-making vote was the passage of SB1, the bill to repeal state-mandated “evergreen clauses” in union contracts. This passed easily by a 282-70 vote, and Governor Lynch has stated he will allow this to go through without a veto.
A couple more bills pertaining to labor unions were addressed as well, the most prominent one being HB474, the “Right to Work” bill. The bill gives employers the right to choose not to join a union as a condition of their employment, and was amended to remove a union’s obligation to represent any employees who choose not to join. I voted with the majority in passing this bill by a vote of 221-131. There were quite a few absences that day, so it will be one to keep an eye on should the governor make good on his promise to veto this bill, should it make its way to his desk.
I voted against the majority on the other labor-related bill, HB185, which would have given towns local control over whether or not to recognize public sector bargaining units of fewer than ten workers. I believe that the people of New Hampshire are quite capable of making such decisions at the local level where they belong.
Another bill making headlines – and serving up a generous helping of controversy, was HB89, a bill requiring the state’s Attorney General to join the ongoing lawsuit challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I voted with the majority to pass this bill by a vote of 267-103, and to send a message to Washington that we will stand up for our state’s sovereignty and push back against such federal overreach.
On a related note, I also voted in favor of HB125, a bill commonly referred to in other states as a “Firearms Freedom Act”. This bill would exempt firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition made and sold in New Hampshire from federal law and regulation. By a vote of 240-120, we put the federal government on notice that we will not allow the commerce clause to be used to regulate and restrict intra-state commerce. Though, there were quite a few of us who would have rather seen this bill written more broadly to cover more than just firearms.
By the time you read this, the House will have voted on HB519, a bill that would have New Hampshire withdraw from the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I voted with the majority (13-5) in the Science, Technology and Energy Committee supporting the repeal of the existing RGGI law. What was passed as a global warming/climate change bill has evolved into, or rather, has revealed itself as to what it was originally intended to be – a hidden tax on energy companies.
Proponents of the bill have argued that the revenue generated has been used for a lot of worthy projects helping low-income residents with energy efficiency projects and creating jobs in the “green energy” field. I don’t doubt that some of the funds generated by this program were used in a beneficial manner, but would rather see a more up front an honest approach to achieving those goals. To tax only those customers of power generating companies that have deemed “polluters” is unfair, especially when one considers the classification of carbon dioxide – a necessary building block of life on our planet – as a pollutant.
Another bill, about which I received a lot of feedback from people in town, was HB113, which sought to prevent the University System of New Hampshire from using monies received from the state general fund to support New Hampshire Public Television.
That bill was amended to clarify that its intent was to eliminate all state funding of New Hampshire Public Television. While I understand the need to save taxpayer dollars and minimize the role of government, I felt this amendment went too far and could not support the bill as amended. I felt that NHPTV funding was absolutely something we needed to look at as a place where we could reduce state spending (keeping all options on the table, so to speak), and would have rather taken an approach to keep such funding decisions with the legislature.
Public television can, and has provided New Hampshire residents with a means of keeping tabs on the actions of their government. When I went online to get more information on the public hearing of HB113, the first website that came up was the NHPTV website, where there was video footage of the hearings posted. Promoting openness and transparency in government, via the sharing of such information – news stories, photos, videos, etc. – is something I will always support.
Lastly, there was a public hearing on the 17th for two bills that would have repealed same-sex marriage in New Hampshire. My support for marriage equality, based on my belief that you cannot advance the cause of individual liberty for yourself while denying it to others, is well known, so I won’t go into further detail here. Though I was unable to attend the hearing, I did submit written testimony to that effect to the House Judiciary Committee.
Once again, I seem to have faltered significantly in my efforts to be brief. For those who want up-to-date notification of important floor votes, my Facebook page (soon to be directly linked to my Twitter account as well) is the best place to go. I will continue to post the more important roll call votes there as they happen.
You can also follow what’s going on, and throw in your own two cents at my Brentwood Citizens Forum website (https://brentwoodforum.wordpress.com), which I will try to keep as current as possible. If you want to drop me an e-mail, my house e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.