It might be cold outside, yet the temperature inside the Statehouse continues to be warm as we face busy days. This past week I introduced five of my prime sponsored bills as well as stepped up to support the rights of women to control their own healthcare and to preserve reproductive rights choices by testifying in support of repealing the 24-week abortion ban. In doing so, I once again witnessed the stark differences in the two parties, which underscored the stakes in this fight.
Five Prime Sponsor Bills
This past week, five of the bills for which I am prime sponsor were up for their initial hearings. The Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Act (SB 407) will make postpartum care available for twelve months after the last day of pregnancy, providing women and other birth givers with the services they need to recover from pregnancy and birth and to nurture their infants and give them a healthy start to life. This bill passed out of the Senate HHS with bipartisan support. Now it heads to the Senate floor and to the Finance Committee. Right on its heels is SB 408 which creates parity in the facility fee reimbursement schedule between freestanding, licensed birthing centers and hospitals. This will head to the floor also and be considered in the Finance Committee.
Another win for the NH EMS & Trauma community is the advancement SB 337 which was also voted out of the Senate HHS committee with bipartisan support. This bill allows NH to benefit from robust and comprehensive emergency medical and trauma services data analysis which is available from national institutions and which we do not currently have the capacity to conduct within state government. An important component of this bill is protecting the privacy of care recipients.
I did ask for a pause on one of my bills, SB 419, which would codify our 13 Public Health Network as I continue to hold conversations among stakeholders. SB 419 would lay the foundation for our public health infrastructure. COVID-19 has shown how critical our public health infrastructure is, and the purpose of this bill is to ensure that we have a coordinated response across the state into the of addressing public health emergencies.
Unfortunately, one of my bills related to property tax relief was voted out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee as “Inexpedient to Legislate.” SB 338 would enable municipalities to charge a local occupancy fee of up to $2 per occupancy per 24-hr period for the purpose of augmenting funding for the cost of municipal services associated with increased tourism and transient traffic. The fee is paid by the temporary occupants of hotels or airbnb’s and will primarily impact non-NH residents. The bill creates a cost-recovery option for communities that experience strain on their municipal services due to tourism and transient traffic. Although many communities may not choose to adopt this option, for communities like the City of Lebanon, this could be a source of an estimated $250,000-$450,000 annually, which would help offset funds that otherwise must be raised by property taxes. I was disappointed that this bill did not pass out of Committee with a favorable recommendation, but we will keep working at it. Property tax relief is an important priority for me because I know it is a huge part of the cost of housing in New Hampshire.
A Stark Difference in Priorities
What really struck me this week is the stark difference in priorities both between the Senate and the House, and particularly between the parties. This week, while I was in one room testifying on postpartum healthcare for moms, introducing a bill on how to provide parity between freestanding birthing centers and hospitals, and introducing a bill on public health networks and strengthening our public health infrastructure, next door and upstairs from where I was, Republican legislators were introducing and testifying on bills that would have New Hampshire secede from the Union and relating to teacher “loyalty” oaths. The difference in priorities is stark.
I am driven every day to keep addressing the needs of our families and our taxpayers. We are not out of COVID. We are still in an economic recovery. We need to be focusing on that. Spending time talking about whether we should be part of the US or whether teachers should be forced to take a loyalty oath is not a good use of time. During this pandemic, teachers have shown that they are incredibly loyal, showing up for our children despite health risks in the midst of a public health crisis. Meanwhile, many Republicans won’t even wear a mask while they are in public settings and have prohibited remote participation in Session, even for legislators with serious health concerns.
Families at the kitchen table are talking about their jobs, the cost of housing, and the price of gas for the cars and to heat their homes during these cold winter days. They deserve to have their needs addressed by the New Hampshire Senate and House. And that is what I am committed to doing as your State Senator.
Click here and watch my Friday for NH Senate District 5 update for the past week.
Looking ahead to Week 4
This week I introduce 3 more bills for which I am prime sponsor.
SB 334 is enabling legislation that would allow municipalities to create a registry of vacant and abandoned properties, which can create blight in neighborhoods and cause public safety concerns, such as arson. The intent of this bill is to support revitalization and public safety in our communities by allowing cities and towns to track vacant and abandoned properties. It will help advance local initiatives in West Lebanon in particular and is being co-sponsored by Lebanon State Representative Laurel Stavis. This bill is being heard in the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee on January 26, 2022 at 1:15pm.
SB 336 is a request from the Judicial Branch to clarify how and where qualified family mediator interns may participate in family work. Internships are an important part of training for family mediators, and this bill will help ensure that family mediator interns receive appropriate training. This bill is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 25, 2022 at 1pm.
SB 339 will exempt certain entities at NH Department of Safety from the physical quorum requirement of RSA 91-A:2, increasing accessibility and allowing for greater participation of people across the state through remote meetings. This bill is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 25, 2022 at 1:15pm.
Although testimony is not being taken remotely, you can “sign in” virtually to register your support or opposition to legislation. In order to do this, go to the New Hampshire Legislature home page at http://gencourt.state.nh.us and scroll down to “Links to Meeting Schedules.” You will see a link for “House Remote Sign In” and another link for “Senate Remote Sign In.” There are also detailed instructions should you need them. You can help me by signing in in favor of my proposed legislation. Your support means a lot to me.
If you have any questions about what is happening in Concord or if you would like to share your thoughts on pending legislation, please do not hesitate to reach out. I welcome your ideas on how we can continue working together for a more inclusive, prosperous New Hampshire for all of us.