Lawmakers’ calendar is full

Plus, the McQuaid-Trump electoral drama evokes past Union Leader political feuds

Long anticipated, both winter and 2016 have arrived, the former somewhat late and the latter right on time. Ski area operators breathed a sigh of relief as cold weather and white precipitation blanketed the state midway between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, reminding people from the cities to the south that skiing and other winter sports were available.

Getting down to work, the 2016 NH Legislature was set to begin work for the year at 10 a.m. Jan. 6. The first order of business is to deal with committee of conference reports, those recommendations on bills that were retained by committees for further work during the 2015 session. 

Accompanying the first meeting of the Legislature is a caucus in each party to allow members try to agree on strategy.

Obviously, in 2016 that strategy also will have an eye on the primary and election. 

In the even-numbered year, the deadlines for action show a more truncated schedule. 

In the House, Jan. 6 was the last day to introduce legislation. Thursday, Feb. 4, is the last day that House bills that require action by two committees have to go to the second committee. Feb. 11 is the last day for the second committee to act on House bills. March 3 is the last day for committees to report out House bills considered by only one committee, and March 10 is the last day for the House to act.

Thursday, March 17, is the last day for committees to report all House bills for action on the floor. In New Hampshire, all bills have to have action and none can be thrown in the wastebasket by the chair of a committee, as often happens in the U.S. Congress and other state legislatures. 

Crossover day, the day that bills introduced and passed in one body need to be reported to the other, is Thursday, March 24. 

The Senate has a similar schedule and sends its bills to the House and receives the House bills set over on crossover day. Once the Senate bills get to the House, April 14 becomes the last day to report Senate bills going to a second committee from the first committee. Thursday, April 21, is the last day to act on Senate bills going to a second committee. Thursday, May 5, is the last day to report all remaining bills, and May 12 is the last day to act on all remaining Senate bills so that House action on bills will be completed that day.

But that is not the end of the process. When the House passes a Senate bill in a different form from that passed in the Senate, a committee of conference has to be formed by May 19. Obviously, bills passed by the House in the same form as in the Senate go on to the governor for signature or veto or are allowed to become law without the governor’s signature. Bills defeated by the second body are dead. 

After the conference committees meet, May 26 is the last day for members to sign committee of conference reports and June 2 is the last day for the House to act on committee of conference reports so the Legislature aims to be done at the beginning of June, earlier than it typically is finished in odd-numbered years, which also includes consideration of a state budget. 

For the $100 a year that they are paid, state legislators certainly work hard.

In an interesting bit of electoral drama, at the end of December, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the NH Union Leader, exchanged words after McQuaid and the paper endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and McQuaid wrote a front-page editorial comparing Trump to a well-known bully in the movie, “Back To The Future.” Trump responded calling McQuaid a “low-life,” among other things.

This is reminiscent of the days when the Manchester Union Leader, under publisher William Loeb, actively participated in New Hampshire primary politics, tweaked candidates and elicited reaction from them.

Loeb, well known for his colorful language, called candidates all manner of names, and reportedly made Maine Senator Edmund Muskie cry in front of the Union Leader, after making detrimental remarks about Muskie’s wife. That was 1972.

While older readers will remember Loeb’s antics, observers could only smile at the fun Joe McQuaid must be having in his reprise of the Loeb playbook and how he got Trump to bite so quickly. The difference this time, however, is how many who never agreed with Loeb agree with McQuaid!

Voters should consider carefully whether a vote for Mr. Trump is a responsible action or is a vote strengthening the Democrats’ chances in the November election. 

Regardless, we are in the midst of the action of the presidential primary now in both parties, and how it plays out will be fascinating as well as historic. 

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

Categories: Cook on Concord