The 2013 New Hampshire General Court Session began on December 5, 2012. If it turns out anything like the last odd-numbered session, it could last for three years. (The 2011 session began at 12:01am on December 1, 2010 and ended just before lunchtime on January 4, 2012.) I represent Strafford County District 6 (Durham and Madbury.)
2011 and 2012 were pretty wild because the Republicans won the 2010 midterm election by a landslide and selected the inimitable Bill O'Brien as Speaker.
Speaker Terie Norelli (with Bill & Hillary Clinton)
This time around, he was replaced by the woman he replaced two years earlier, Terie Norelli. Everyone calls her Terie, even O'Brien. Rep. Norelli is a much more interesting person than Rep. O'Brien. But she's a much more boring Speaker of the House: she follows the rules and is fastidious about honoring the traditions and precedents of her 329-year-old institution. (Contrary to rumor, none of the original members are still serving.) She will be overshadowed by O'Brien, for a while at least.
Ex-Speaker O'Brien won re-election to the House by just 71 votes, and he was sitting in the back row on the first day. This was just a temporary assignment: seats in the back row are actually considered desirable and most everyone except O'Brien was secretly (or not so secretly) hoping he gets stuck in a crappy seat in the middle of a middle row. (When the seat assignments were released on December 27, he got a pretty good seat, 4-94.)
I will be serving on the House Judiciary Committee and the Executive Committee of the Strafford County Convention. My old committee, Petitions & Redress of Grievances was eliminated, along with the Constitutional Review & Statutory Recodification Committee.
I mentioned O'Brien's seating assignment earlier, but not mine: I will be in 4-75, two seats in from an aisle. Rep. Mary Gorman was my seatmate in 2011-2012, and she will be my seatmate again; she gets to sit one seat in from the aisle. The coveted aisle seat goes to the chair of the powerful State-Federal Relations & Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Robert Theberge. I will be sitting right in front of arch-conservative Rep. Al Baldasaro, who will doubtless make his presence known at every opportunity. We Democrats have to sit next to Baldasaro because Speaker Norelli decided to do away with the practice of seating members by party. She stated:
I am particularly enthusiastic about the seating for this term because many of you had expressed interest in having House members of both parties sit among each other in the House Chamber rather than continue the long-held practice of being separated by party affiliation. I enthusiastically support this idea and have devised a seating plan that will reflect this change. It will allow everyone the opportunity to get to know members from both caucuses, as well as encourage us to discover some of the common goals we all share as State Representatives.
I am not too keen on this idea, because I think it will make it harder for the Democratic caucus to stay organized. Even though I am reasonably bipartisan, I have expressed no interest at all in her idea. But, I will get used to it. Speaker Norelli says the practice of seating members by caucus originated in 1995, but actually it appears from the old House Calendars that this practice is a little more recent than that, like maybe 1999 or 2001 (but, in any case, to me it seems ancient.)
I have my name on several bills.
My bill puts the laws regarding domicile, residence and voting back the way they were pre-2012. O'Brien's Republicans rewrote the law to scare college students away from voting. (The students went ahead and voted in Durham and other college towns anyway.)
This bill repeals a complicated voter ID bill rammed through by the Republicans in the dying days of O'Brien's reign of error. Some Democrats are working toward a compromise with the Republicans which would keep some form of voter ID in place. This bill (in its original form, at least) isn't their compromise: this one just repeals voter ID, period. It has attracted a fair amount of attention even though it's not even a bill yet: for example, it was the subject of the lead story on New Hampshire Public Radio on Christmas Eve.
We had long lines at polling places across the state on Election Day 2012, although ironically the new voter ID seemed not to be the main cause. The backup was mostly because of the huge number of walk-up registrants and the duplicative paperwork they had to fill out. They have to fill out a registration form and (typically) two additional affidavits, with almost exactly the same information on all three documents.
Currently it is illegal to show anyone else your ballot, and it is also illegal to sign it or to put any other identifying mark on it. This bill would extend the prohibition to posting a picture of your marked ballot (or someone else's marked ballot) on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.
This bill sets up a nonpartisan commission which will draw up redistricting plans after each decennial census. The legislature would still have the final say, but this bill would make the process fairer and more timely. In 2011, the House redistricting process was both partisan and dilatory: no work was done by the House redistricting committee for weeks or even months at a time before the Republicans abruptly sprang into action right before each deadline. (There were, basically, three legislative deadlines: at the end of calendar year 2011, in mid-January 2012, and finally in mid-March 2012. And oh yeah, the Governor vetoed the grossly unconstitutional final product, and it took the Speaker half a month to get around to the veto-override vote.) See:
If HB 127 passes, the state minimum wage would initially be set at $8.00 an hour. Every two years, the commissioner of labor would have the (not too time-consuming) task of recalculating the wage based on the "Consumer Price Index for all Urban Customers, Northeast Region." The legislature would then have to approve the new minimum wage.
HB 501 simply restores the state minimum wage, which was abolished in 2012, and sets it to $8.25. (That's one dollar an hour more than the federal minimum wage.)
This is a repeat of HB 1183, which lost in 2012. It is inspired by an incident during the March 31, 2011 budget bill debate when Speaker O'Brien closed the visitor's gallery for two hours while the deliberations continued. If my bill becomes law, the House (or Senate, as the case may be) will have to go into recess whenever the gallery is closed. My bill would also clarifies that the availability of streaming video is not a valid substitute for opening the gallery. Ed Mosca has catchily dubbed this bill "The Mob Rule Bill." See:
This bill restores the right to a court-appointed lawyer in family court. This was abolished to save $1.3 million a year in the 2011-2012 budget. If I am not mistaken, every other state in the union affords this basic right to indigent parents. I was under some pressure to withdraw the bill, because it costs money at a time when there is no extra money, but I went ahead with it anyway. (The governor has proposed restoring $300,000 in funding.)
Even though I am personally not very popular with the petitioners who came before the Redress Committee, this extraordinarily unwise budget cut was an issue which many petitioners brought up in 2012. For example, see:
HB 670: "relative to marital masters."
Marital Masters were somewhat less popular than the court-appointed lawyers, but they too serve a useful purpose.
HB 1136 (2012): "relative to special state elections." (I was one of the few Democrats who got anything at all passed in 2012, and my bill made a difference right off the bat. Two newly-elected Democrats resigned before the session even started, and the resultant special elections took place much sooner than in previous years, thanks to my bill.)
My January 19, 2014 "Re-Election" Letter (which refers in passing to the 2013 Budget Bill)