NASHUA BULLETIN                                  June 11, 2015

 

Welcome to the Chamber's weekly legislative newsletter, The Advocate!  With the start of the new year comes the start of NH's state legislative session.  For those of you who have been active with our Chamber for a while, you already know to expect this legislative newsletter in your inbox each week. It provides a recap of what happened in Concord each week, and previews what is coming up in the following week that pertains to various business interests. We hope you find this weekly publication informative, and a great way to stay attuned to what is happening in Concord that impacts southern NH's business community!

 

House and Senate Begin Committee of Conference Deliberations

This week, the House and Senate began the final phase of the session, the meetings of committees of conference on some 44 bills that were passed in differing versions by the House and Senate, where there is still disagreement by the two bodies on what the final wording of the bill should be. These committees have the task of trying to reach agreement.

 

How does this process work? In Congress and in many state legislatures, committees of conference often conduct all their business behind closed doors. Here in New Hampshire, however, committees of conference meet in public. This is not to say that everything happens in public - important discussions and negotiations frequently and necessarily do go on behind closed doors - but the committees always have public meetings and in many cases they do conduct their discussions and negotiations entirely in front of any members of the public who care to attend. 

 

The conferees from the Senate and the House are appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker, respectively. Each committee is made up of four House members and three Senate members (and since the House conferees represent 1/100th of the members of the House, and the Senate members represent fully 1/8th of the Senate roster, it is fair to say that the Senators get a major work-out on the days when the committees of conference meet).

 

Committees of conference need to reach unanimous agreement.  If just one member of the committee refuses to sign off on the committee's report, the bill dies (a dynamic that obviously gives the upper hand in the negotiations to any side that ultimately is willing to let a bill die if no agreement is reached). Frequently, however, the Speaker or the Senate President will replace isolated committee of conference members who are hold-outs against what would otherwise be a unanimous committee.

 

The agreed-upon final amendment to the bill is presented to the full House and Senate as a so-called "report" from the committee of conference. At that point, the House and Senate cannot further amend the bill - the bodies can only vote up or down on the agreement as worked out by the committee of conference. This year, the House and Senate rules require that all the committee of conference reports be signed off by June 18th, so by this time next week we will know how everything turned out. The House and Senate will vote on committee of conference reports on June 24th.


Budget Negotiations Begin (HB 1 and HB 2)

Today is the first meeting of the biggest committee of conference of all, the committee to address the proposed State budget and the budget trailer bill (HB 1 and HB 2). This committee of conference always lasts for many hours and across a number of days. Often it includes at least one meeting that runs into the wee hours of the next day and, in some budget years it even features the notorious all-nighter. But as beautiful a sight as is sunrise on the dome of the State House as viewed from the windows of the House Finance Committee across the street, no one wants that to happen again, and for a number of reasons it does not seem likely to be in the cards this year. The House and Senate are both controlled by majorities from the same party (although that is not a guarantee that there will be no friction in a committee of conference - the last HB 1 all-nighter happened when both the House and Senate were in Democratic hands). Moreover, the Senate President and the Speaker are legislative veterans with an expert understanding of the budget process and they seem to have had excellent lines of communication throughout the session. Putting all that together, it would be a surprise if many of the differences between the House and the Senate were not able to be worked out in advance of the first meeting of the committee. Also, in an interesting twist, the Speaker himself will be a member of the committee, a rarity in recent memory.

 

This is not to say that there will be no disagreements. But if you enjoy budget committees of conference for the spectacle offered by raised voices, walk-outs, and marathon sessions, this is probably not the year for you. If you want to watch an implosion happening, you'll just have to watch a Red Sox game.

 

Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce | (603) 881-8333 | http://www.nashuachamber.com
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