REFLECTIONS FROM CONCORD

Jim Cerny, editor and photographer


Capitol dome, Concord.

As a monthly feature, our two State Representatives for New Castle and Rye (District 18) – David Borden and Will Smith – have volunteered to report their highlights and thoughts on the legislative process and specific bills.

The Web site for the New Hampshire General Court is easy to navigate and is a mother lode of information, including pages for each representative's bill sponsorships and voting record, plus the text and status of bills. For convenience we provide direct links to the text of any bills mentioned in the reports below.

For existing laws, the NH RSA is available online and searchable by keywords.

(For the curious, order of presentation was selected at random and we will reverse the order each month!)


Will Smith.

Will Smith writes …

Here is a quick overview of New Hampshire House of Representatives activities that I feel are of particular interest to citizens of Rye and New Castle.

Our NH House and Senate each have about 20 committees, which deal with various subjects. These committees hold public hearings on bills that have been introduced, and then vote on whether or not to recommend them. A bill passed in either House or Senate moves on to the other legislative body. Bills passed by both proceed to the Governor for signature.

I will keep you informed about the activities of the Judiciary Committee, to which I am assigned, as well as important bills of the House as a whole. To date, the Judiciary Committee has held hearings on 28 bills, and will soon make recommendations to the House. HB 281 would increase the limit for small claims court from $2,500 to $5,000. HB 291 would establish a pilot program that requires prospective jurors to participate in only one trial or spend only one day waiting for assignment. HB 379 would exempt certain collective bargaining meetings from the right-to-know law. HB 62 would require girls less than15 years old to undergo counseling before having an abortion. HB 436, HB 453, and HB 684 concern the definition of marriage (number of people, gender, etc.).  

Questions of the state budget are of particular importance, as it has been estimated that the 2009 budget may have a $65 million deficit, and the 2010/11-budget deficit could be 10 times that. The House will vote on HB 30, estimated to save $16 million, on February 4. Casino gambling is the subject of several bills, including HB 593 and HB 461. There are several bills to increase property taxes and/or institute an income tax, such as HB 642 and HB 656; I am opposed to these.

HB 521, which I am cosponsoring, would save the state education trust fund about $32 million, which should help our "donor town" problem. On February 5 there will be a hearing on a Constitutional Amendment (CACR 2) that would place control of Education funding back with the Legislature, and which would be a big step towards eliminating donor towns. HB 367 and HB 368, which I oppose, would increase reporting burdens on parents of home-schooled children.  

HB 626 would require a photo ID for voting, and HB 669 would eliminate Election Day voter registration. HB 160 would reduce the duty to retreat in self-defense.

You can find out more about these bills and others if you go to www.gencourt.state.nh.us. If you feel strongly about a bill, you can contact me at will.smith@leg.state.nh.us, or you can go to the public hearings to testify. It was interesting that HB 427, that would require horses to be licensed, was withdrawn after hundreds of horse owners came to the public hearing to protest the bill!




David Borden

David Borden writes …

New Castle’s Bob Bossie was in the New Hampshire Senate years ago. When I was first elected to the state legislature four years ago, his advice was that I should take out two old laws for every new law I sponsored.

Only gradually have I realized the wisdom of this advice. Every year the legislative branch in New Hampshire writes several hundred new laws and does little to reduce the burden of past laws.

Last year a neighbor had a dispute with the Department of Transportation (DOT) over who was responsible for white paint which was splattered on his vehicle from a newly painted crosswalk. The state spent at least $2,000 in determining whether they should reimburse my neighbor for a problem which cost him $200 to fix. DOT was only following a procedure which had mandated years ago by a well meaning legislature.

Because the state government is in a serious budget crisis this year the legislative branch and the state agencies are taking a hard look at the work being done by the executive branch. Health and Human Services (Headed by Commissioner Nick Toumpas of Rye), the Department of Environmental Services, the Department of Safety and the Department of Transportation in particular are rethinking their work and their mission. For example, DOT realizes that a better rail system would save on wear and tear on the highways and ultimately save vast amounts of money in the state budget.

I have sponsored HB 488 to set up a commission to support lean and responsive government in tough economic times. More on this effort in future issues of Rye Reflections.

I am obsessed with the idea that New Hampshire could become energy independent. The benefits of reducing our energy consumption and getting more of our energy from renewable sources are enormous. During the past two years my committee, Science Technology and Energy, has helped a number of energy efforts get signed into law.

This year a lot of our focus in on helping to see that these efforts bear fruit. For example, the State Biodiesel Commission, which I chair, was successful in getting a bill passed last year to allow the state to purchase 5% biodiesel to power its diesel vehicles and heat its oil-heated buildings (home heating oil is the same as diesel fuel). We are working hard to ensure that this fuel is made locally so that our economy gets a boost and that the 2 million gallons of waste cooking oil generated in the state’s restaurants is converted by NH biodiesel producers into a usable product.

Both Will Smith and I ran against the donor town concept which was a mess. The House Ways and Means committee is exploring all sorts of other ways to fund the state government in lean times.  

Personally, I am not enthusiastic about expanded gambling and would favor a tax which was less regressive than the property taxes which are having a devastating impact on families with fixed incomes.  

Finally, it is important that whatever stimulus funds are available actually create jobs at the local level. I am working closely with the local government center in the hopes that local "Shovel Ready" projects are considered.




February, 2009



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