No rest for the weary

What lawmakers are doing when you think they are home


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New Hampshirites know that the Legislature is part-time, meeting each year from January to May. What folks do not realize, however, is that legislators work on various other matters throughout the year.

Friday, Sept. 1, marked the end of the summer hiatus, and the beginning of fall activities at the State House. A review of the House Record shows the diversity of activity going on.

Among the big items concerned activity in the utility industry. Two study committees met on Sept. 5, regarding retained bills, and the Commerce Committee considered liquor and marijuana issues. On the 6th, two new commissions, focusing on the environment/health/drinking water, met.

Also scheduled on the 5th was the Committee to Study Education Funding and the Cost and Opportunity for an Adequate Education, established by House Bill 356; the Committee to Study Gold Star Number Plates; the Committee to Study Transmission Distribution Generation and Other Costs in the State’s Electricity System; and, interestingly, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee had a subcommittee meet to work on HB 287, a bill retained by the Legislature for further work, with the fascinating title of “Establishing a Committee to Study Decriminalizing Sex Work.”

In less exotic studies, the Executive Departments and Administration Committee was working on HB 168, relative to the definition of the New Hampshire Fire Code, a very important matter to all towns and cities as well as builders and those concerned about safe buildings.

A committee to study RSA 461-A Relative to Parental Rights and Responsibilities met that week, as did a committee to study temporary seasonal docks, a seemingly minor matter, except to those who live on all but the largest lakes in the state.

A subcommittee of the education committee was scheduled to work on Senate Bill 193-FN, “establishing education freedom savings accounts for students,” and the Public School Infrastructure Commission was scheduled to have its organizational meeting.

This is just a smattering of the various meetings and studies that are going on.

Also included was a summary of deadlines for the 2018 session. Wednesday, Sept. 6, was the first day to file legislative service requests for bills to be entered into next year’s legislative session, and that time period ends on Sept. 22. All bills have to be accepted by Oct. 27 and the legislative committees have to file reports on retained bills by Nov. 16. House legislation has to be introduced by Jan. 4, and Feb. 1 is the deadline for committees to report on bills that go to a second committee. March 8 is the last day to act on bills not going to a second committee. The House has to act on all bills by March 22, 2018, “crossover” day.

In the same journal was the governor’s veto message regarding HB 86, a bill that would have made it mandatory for zoning boards of adjustment to vote separately on the “five criteria” for granting a variance. Governor Sununu wisely determined that local zoning boards can decide how to act on granting variances. For those familiar with this topic and appearing before zoning boards, many believe that voting on the five criteria individually sometimes is a trap that keeps justice from being done by zoning boards so the governor’s action was hailed by those with that opinion.

Also included was a list of bills “laid on the table” in the last legislative session, along with a list of future meetings of note, including the Hillsborough County Executive Committee County Delegation meeting on Sept. 15, the NH Insurance Department’s public hearing on new workers’ compensation rate filings, the 43rd annual Bill White & Junie Blaisdell Ceremonial and Memorial Legislative Golf Tournament, and there is much more to come.

As can be seen, legislators are called into action for more than the regular session in the spring and, for their $100 per year, are asked to do much additional work on behalf of all of us all year long.

In that connection, the journal noted that members can receive mileage reimbursement for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the fall as they attend to their legislative business — small recompense for the public service they perform.

If you see your legislators, thank them for their continued public service.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups.

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