Wild Ride coming up for NH lawmakers
By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
With elections looming, a less controversial 2022 legislative session is not a good investment for either party.
Controversial issues are plentiful as they are in every election year, and heightened partisan warfare should make this coming session one to remember.
The Republican right wing has had a very successful session this year, probably more than they imagined: the country’s most extensive school voucher system, an abortion ban and more, influencing discussions of the public education on race and discrimination, harnessing the governor’s extended emergency powers and “medical freedom” to blunt public health measures during the pandemic.
Despite propaganda about the size of the state’s biennial budget, it remains overall more expensive than that of the previous biennium, but limits the expansion of the state’s most critical agency today and in a near future: the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
What more could the GOP right wing want that it didn’t achieve in 2021? Many.
Let’s start with the bills from the last session that the House held up for more work or that the Senate referred to one of its committees.
The House is due to act on its several hundred bills that were held up in January, and House Speaker Sherman Packard hopes to do so during the first week of January, while also acting on the House bills to which the Governor Chris Sununu vetoed it.
Among the known contentious bills, three relate to redistributing the state’s political borders to bring them into line with the latest U.S. Census data, including a major change in the state’s two congressional districts that will displace around 35%. state residents from one district to another.
The proposed changes to the electoral law would strengthen the qualifications of voters and a bill would institute provisional ballots for those without photo ID or who have recently moved.
One bill would increase the minimum wage and another would raise the minimum age for marriage. Neither is going anywhere.
Other bills would legalize marijuana and allow home growing of plants.
The right to privacy is also spelled out in a bill that will be implemented in January.
A particularly controversial bill would extend “education freedom accounts” to local school districts, using local property tax money for private, parochial and alternative schools and homeschooling. A school district would have to “buy in” to the program and this would seem to be a big barrier for most districts.
Another bill would prohibit any public entity from requiring an employee’s vaccination if they object.
There are also dozens of new bills that would ban warrants requiring vaccinations, including a bill that bans private companies from practicing the practice.
Others would prohibit schools or other public and private entities from imposing mask warrants, and others would allow the use of unapproved drugs for humans to treat COVID-19.
Another bill would require a COVID-19 vaccination for students to attend schools, and another would repeal the “medical freedom” bans passed this year.
Making a person’s immunization status a “protected class” is also the subject of a bill coming to the 2022 session.
And another to hear this spring would expand exemptions to avoid the COVID-10 vaccine.
The remaining bills from the 2021 Senate session would expand the state’s lethal force law, require medical care for any live born fetuses, suspend all local gun regulations, and protect civil liberties for a period of time. emergency state.
The House has a bill to repeal the law banning abortions after the 23rd week of pregnancy approved last year. It would also eliminate the requirement for a woman to undergo an invasive ultrasound before any abortion procedure.
The House will also debate a bill reflecting the anti-abortion law passed by Texas last year. The United States Supreme Court has allowed the law to continue until arguments before all nine justices are heard.
The bill would end abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which many women do not know if they are pregnant and encourage private citizens to report violations by patients, doctors or anyone helping. circumvent the ban.
Additionally, a proposed constitutional amendment would put Roe’s reproductive rights against Wade into the state’s constitution, a hedge if overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Another bill would repeal buffer zones around clinics that perform abortions.
A biological father could ask a court to prevent a woman from having an abortion, under a bill to be introduced in 2022.
The law passed during the 2021 session to prohibit any education that discriminates against a race or ethnicity as superior or inferior, or inherently racist, etc. resulted in two federal lawsuits by teachers’ unions as well as other educators, parents and organizations.
Groups claim the law is too vague and endangers teachers’ careers without clear guidelines on what can and cannot be taught.
Complainants also claim it violates First Amendment rights and the long tradition of academic freedom.
This next session would push the bans forward with a Cold War teacher loyalty law that also bans teaching socialism and communism as well as the country’s racial and ethnic history in a negative light.
Several bills will address several issues related to the freedom of education account that have surfaced, including the definition of a disabled child and a program audit after the first year.
The storage of ballot papers from voting machines is the subject of a bill, in light of the missing ballots in Bedford and now in Laconia.
Other bills deal with voter qualifications by imposing greater restrictions and eliminating some approved in the past.
Several members of the current legislature would be barred from running for re-election if a bill targeting representatives who seek New Hampshire’s secession from the union if passed.
Lawmakers will debate several privacy bills that the government can take up.
Recently, voters approved a constitutional amendment protecting privacy and several bills seek to clarify the intent.
After several attempts, several years ago, the legislature passed a law prohibiting “conversion therapy” for minors. The 2022 session includes a bill repealing the law.
Background checks would be required for all firearms purchases under one bill, and town halls would have to be broadcast virtually under another bill.
The House and Senate meet again on January 5, with the House also meeting on January 6 and possibly January 7 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Manchester, in what was once known as Central New Hampshire.
The Senate will meet at the State House.
A lawsuit brought by several House Democrats who are medically compromised to participate virtually has not been settled by the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which initially sided with the Democrats but has agreed to hear the arguments again this fall.
While masks are not required for House sessions, there are both masked and unmasked sections, and the Packard office sent instant in-home COVID-19 tests to all House members this week.
While the House and Senate hope to complete their work by the end of May, lawmakers face a mad race to get there with all the controversial issues to be settled.
Garry Rayno can be reached at [email protected]
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on State House and state events for InDepthNH.org. During his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for Union leader New Hampshire and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage has spanned the spectrum of news, from local planning, schools and school boards, to national issues such as deregulation of the electrical industry and presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London. He is the New Hampshire Press Association Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.