The legislature is currently not in session and is scheduled to begin its activities in January 2022. In 2021 Speaker Shurtleff submitted a request to the NH Supreme Court for guidance about " in person meeting", and received a ruling that indicated that remote participation , e.g. via Zoom under the proper verification, could be seen as "in-person participation and voting". Despite that ruling, the Republican leadership decided that while they would allow Zoom participation at committee meetings and hearings, they would mandate in-person participation at regular sessions of the entire House of Representatives, despite the Covid pandemic that already killed former Speaker Dick Hinch. Even though the NH Senate was conducting business using remote Zoom participation, and even though there was no masking (and later no vaccination requirements in place) House leadership would require all members to meet and vote in-person. That is why during the 2021 session the House was forced to meet in-person at 2 sites at UNH and 1 site in Bedford.
The Democratic House leadership filed a lawsuit on behalf of House members who had preexisting conditions or medical issues making it dangerous for them to meet with other members, some of whom were not masked or vaccinated. That lawsuit is now a federal lawsuit and has been joined by various disability rights groups and the Department of Justice, claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. House leadership was asked to make appropriate accommodations for those House members but refused to do so. A decision from this federal lawsuit is now pending. This could affect how the House meets in the 2022 session beginning in January.
During the 2019-2020 session I sponsored 3 bills, of which all were passed in the House, but due to the pandemic, no final action was taken in the Senate. My first bill requested that a study committee be established to evaluate the opportunities in New Hampshire to create microgrids. A microgrid is essentially an energy island that can operate both connected but also islanded (not connected) to the grid. This microgrid would essentially provide energy to all the users within the microgrid, and would generate its own energy both from conventional fossil fuel generators or renewable energy sources. A recent bill called "Community Power" could be a vehicle to use such microgrids locally. My second bill would have slightly increased the vehicle registration fees (they have not changed for more than 13 years) to generate more revenue for highway and bridge maintenance, with the final fee be linked to both the weight of a vehicle and the miles per year travelled by that vehicle, and that a portion of the newly generated revenues be made available for Type II noise abatement (the kind that Pannaway Manor is waiting for).
My third bill was one that asked the agencies of the State of NH to replace the current radiation monitoring system with modern real-time monitors to detect radioactive emission in the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone around the Seabrook nuclear power plant. However, in the meantime the Citizens' Initiative, of which I am a part, has raised $42,000 in private donations and together with C-10 has facilitated the installation of 5 real-time monitoring devices in New Hampshire generating data which has been available to the public since October 2020. I am assuming that the NH agencies in charge of such monitoring will ultimately join and collaborate with that network. (more information about both the Citizens' Initiative and the Road Registration Usage bill, see the Links to Docs - Section State Issues).
Finally, I agreed with the majority of the House and Senate that NH should abolish the death penalty (which was lethal injection) and replace it with life without parole. This resulted in an emotional and passionate debate and was an important moment in New Hampshire history, when despite a veto by the Governor, the NH House with a bipartisan vote eliminated the death penalty with a 2/3 rds. majority by only 1 vote. My support was based on the morality of the death penalty, but also on the financial burden of this punishment for our state. Experts have estimated that an execution (currently NH has one black man on death row) would cost 5-10 times as much as the cost of life in prison-without parole and NH would first have to build its own execution chamber at considerable cost to allow it to execute anyone. Of course, additionally an execution will always have the possibility of killing an innocent person, so that the only reason left for this punishment is revenge, which does not bring anyone's loved one back.
Since our legislative session was cut short by the pandemic, many good bills that I supported never received a final vote: Examples include: Increasing the minimum wage to $12/hour, providing support for our biomass industry, increasing the net-metering cap from 1MW to 5 MW to support the renewable energy industry, providing more support for energy efficiency programs, raising the RPS-Renewable Portfolio Standard (renewable energy targets set for our utilities) to require more renewable energy be provided to NH residents, passing a family medical leave insurance program and more aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in our state.
The 2019 legislative session included the passage of a budget that, after resolution of issues with the Governor, provided more aid to municipalities, schools and general assistance, while at the same time not increasing business taxes. On the other hand, many good bill, some with bipartisan support, were passed only to be subsequently vetoed by the Governor. These bills included a minimum wage increase, increasing energy efficiency programs, targeted aid for education, and more support for renewable energy. Unfortunately, a 2/3 rds. majority was not reached to override most of these good bills.
On the positive side, the Governor finally gave a green light for offshore wind energy by agreeing to join the federal taskforce formed by BOEM (the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management), which works to approve offshore wind energy leases. I am grateful to have been appointed to this taskforce representing New Hampshire. This taskforce is comprised of representation from NH along with Maine and Massachusetts.
In the 2020 session the Governor also signed a bill sponsored by Senator David Watters to create an Offshore Wind Energy and Port Development Commission to promote economic development of offshore wind energy to benefit New Hampshire. I am excited about being appointed to this commission which has a lot of work to do before wind energy starts to flow into NH's energy network.
While it was understandable in 2020 for the Governor to issue an emergency order including specific restrictions, he also insisted that there be no oversight of how he spends federal appropriations designated for New Hampshire. While a majority of the legislature found this situation unacceptable, there was no resolution of the conflict either by the courts or by way of a compromise between the Executive and the Legislative branches.
The 2020 legislative session got off to a positive start when many forward-looking bills were submitted with respect to energy issues (Net-metering increase to 5 MW and energy efficiency funding, and increasing the electric vehicle charging station network), as well as bills to make vehicle registration fees more equitable, while earmarking funds to support the construction of sound abatement project for Type II sites. Other good bills included red flag protection orders regarding firearms, protective orders against the exploitation of elderly residents, criminal justice reforms, gun safety laws and additional funding of education. Unfortunately, in March 2020 as the result of the pandemic, all activities in Concord came to a sudden halt, and have not resumed at a normal level.
One lowlight of the abbreviated session was, the time devoted to issuing reprimands to 13 Republican State Representatives, who after having been given over 1 year to attend a Sexual Harassment Training course, refused to do so, even though by House rule this was required (passed on a 284 to 92 vote) of all representatives, staff and employees at the State House (made necessary by past incidences). Only 7 of these representatives were issued reprimands, while 6 others were spared when time ran out for the House to meet. In addition, after this incident, Republicans blocked efforts to extend sensible legislative deadlines that were casualties of the pandemic, but suggested that they could agree if Democrats retracted all 13 reprimands. Democrats, however, refused to be blackmailed.
During the 2021 legislative session I was proud to join a bipartisan majority to vote down, with a veto-proof majority, the constantly returning version of "Right to Work". This type of bill is better described as a "Right to Work for Less" bill, since it undermines labor unions and the required wage negotiations so that NH workers are more at the mercy of employers. These types of bills are part of a national effort by anti-labor PACs and they ask local legislators to support them in exchange for campaign donations. At the close of the 2021 session Governor Sununu signed the new 2021-2022 budget which, in my opinion, is both cruel and dangerous. (see Link to Docs Section- State Issues)
During the summer of 2020, a number of the Democratic members of the ST&E committee, along with a state senator and other energy stakeholders, put together a white paper titled: "2020 Action Plan for NH Renewable Energy" (this document can be found on this website: go to Links to Documents, then State Topics, then 2020 Action Plan). In addition, during the 2021 session I collaborated on 3 different energy OpEds, an energy strategy for NH with a fellow State Rep. , an energy and environment piece with the League of Conservation Voters, and an energy and technology submission with the Union of Concerned Scientists (see Links to Docs Section- State Issues).