Down in Concord

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.
— Groucho Marx

The House has passed 82 bills and has killed 89. There are about 380 House bills left to consider. March 14 is the last day for the House to act on most bills. Some bills, mostly those that have a fiscal impact, go to a second committee. Those bills have a deadline of March 28. The monster budget bills have a deadline of April 7.

In my last column, I mentioned that it is rare for the House to overturn a committee recommendation. Perhaps that statement jinxed the proceedings because, lo and behold, the House did it again, twice.
HB 325, relative to public employee suggestions for cost-saving measures, would reward state employees with a cash bonus for any cost-saving suggestions they make. The committee recommended Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) on a split decision. The House vote was a very rare tie vote with the Speaker voting to create the tie. Since a tie vote is not enough for a motion to succeed, there was then a motion to pass the bill, which then passed by a 199-162 vote.
HB 388, provides civil immunity to the owner of a firearm in the event the firearm is stolen and used in the commission of a felony or a misdemeanor. The committee recommended ITL by 12-6 but the House defeated that motion by 167-192, then passed the bill by 211-151.

As I forecast last time, the House killed on a voice vote, HB 330, which would have allowed counties to adopt an income tax. It voted by 201-135 for an increase in the tobacco tax, voted 192-161 against slowly reducing the business enterprise tax, and repealed the education tax credit program by 188-151.

In an earlier column I wrote against HB 148, which proposed to change the way New Hampshire casts its votes for President. Our electoral votes would have been awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, even if New Hampshire voters went overwhelmingly for the other candidate. The House Election Law committee has recommended to kill that awful bill and I trust the full House will go along next Wednesday.

In last week’s column I wrote about four bills with public hearings on 2/19 or 2/21. HB 617, raising the gas tax, not only had a hearing it had a committee recommendation. Sadly, but not terribly surprising, the committee recommended to increase the gas tax – by a whopping 83%! The House will vote on 2/27 so there is time for you to contact your representatives and oppose this tax increase. They likely will respond that our roads and bridges badly need maintenance, but that answer is a non sequitur. It is not necessary to increase taxes; what is needed is to set priorities to use our existing taxes for road maintenance. The new taxes – amounting to $1 billion over the next decade – allow them to spend more money on other programs.

Four gun bills had lengthy – almost all day – hearings in Reps’ Hall. I estimate 80-100 people showed up, overwhelmingly on the side of law-abiding citizens having the right to bear arms in defense of self, family, and community. I spoke in favor of HB 451 and HB 609, and against HB 290 and HB 396. All four bills are scheduled for committee Executive Sessions on 2/28. My guess is that the two bad bills will be recommended ITL unanimously, and the two good bills will be ITL’d on party line votes.

The week of February 26-29, there will be another 26 public hearings, and the House will vote on 103 more bills. Here are some of the more interesting bills to be heard:

HB 544, repealing the prohibition on a state health exchange (part of Obamacare). Almost weekly there is more evidence that we were wise last year to prohibit a health exchange. Obamacare will cost much more than originally promised, it raises taxes on almost everybody (not just the “rich”), and it is costing jobs. Instead of lowering the costs of health care, it is increasing those costs. We should avoid every possible connection with it. But Democrats all too often judge a program by its intentions, not by its results. Obamacare “intends” to reduce health care costs so therefore they think it actually does. HB 544 is a step toward entrapment in the tentacles of the Obamacare monster. It should be defeated but the Democrats are calling for full steam ahead toward government-run health care.

HB 606, relative to community rating, actually would reduce health insurance costs so naturally the Democrats will oppose it. “Community rating” was then-Governor Shaheen’s plan to reform health insurance. It quickly (and predictably) led to the departure of most insurance companies and some of the highest health insurance rates in the country. HB 606 would reverse that bad decision and eventually bring more competition and lower costs back to the New Hampshire insurance market.

We still don’t know much more about Governor Hassan’s proposed budget because she has not delivered her draft of HB 2, which is an essential part of the budget process. By law it was due on February 15.