NASHUA BULLETIN                 May 20, 2016
Bulletin No. 17
Welcome to the Chamber's weekly legislative newsletter, The Advocate!  This newsletter is our recap of what happened in Concord each week during the legislative session, and a preview of what is coming up in the following week that pertains to various business interests. Although we will be letting you know about legislation that we think is of note, don't hesitate to tell us about bills that you may be familiar with and which you think are worth our review. We exist to serve you, our members.

Senate Puts End to Rail Funding in Ten Year Plan (HB 2016)
As you've all no doubt seen, last Thursday night the Senate rejected a floor amendment to HB 2016 (the Ten-Year Transportation Infrastructure Plan) offered by Senator Bette Lasky that would have restored $4 million in federal funds to complete further work on the Capital Corridor Rail Project.  The vote was 11-13, largely along party lines, except for a lone Republican vote in favor of the amendment cast by Nashua Senator Kevin Avard.

Senator Lasky led the floor fight on behalf of the proposed amendment. In her eloquent attempt to convince her fellow Senators to pass the amendment, she returned to a theme that we heard come up frequently in the public hearings on the bill: rail as an investment in the future. As Senator Lasky summarized it, "Young people want rail, and they want it from Boston." In the end, though, the amendment failed by just two votes.

Needless to say, we are tremendously disappointed at this result. It is unfortunate that, although almost half the members of the House and Senate approved the idea of restoring the rail funding, a little more than half proved to be implacably opposed to any continuation of work on rail. We cannot help but recall the testimony of Nashua attorney Bill Barry at the Senate public hearing on this bill, concerning the message that New Hampshire would be sending to millennials (workers that the state supposedly is trying to attract to New Hampshire) if the legislature refused to proceed with the work on rail.  Now, the result that Attorney Barry warned about has indeed come to pass.

It is important to keep in mind that there have been setbacks along the way in the past, and we have been able to rebound from them and continue moving forward.  We will be continuing our efforts, and we will be consulting with our allies to see what can be done to advance the cause.

On behalf of the Chamber, a huge thank-you goes out to Senator Lasky for valiantly leading the fight on this, and to Senator Avard for casting a vote for his constituents.
A Far Different Senate Next Year
A few weeks ago, we reported on changes that were coming in the Senate due to decisions by two of the senators to run for other offices, and one of the senators to accept appointment as the Commissioner of the Banking Department.  Now, three more senators have announced that they will not be running for re-election:  Senator David Pierce of the Upper Valley, Senator Molly Kelly of Keene, and Senator David Boutin of Hooksett.  This is significant news. The Senate has just 24 members. So even if all the remaining senators decide to seek re-election, and even if all of them are re-elected, fully 25% of the Senators next January will be brand new to the Senate.
Committee of Conference Time
Last Thursday marked the last day that the House and Senate were able to vote on bills.  The next phase of the session began on Friday: it is Committee of Conference time.
We thought you, our readers, might be interested in how this fairly mysterious part of the legislative process actually works.

In many cases where a bill gets amended in the second body, the body that originally passed the bill will just agree to the changes, and then the amended bill heads off to the Governor for review and a decision whether to sign the bill, veto the bill, or let the bill become law without signature (which is what happens if the Governor takes no action).

In cases where the originating body does not agree to the changes made in the second body, however, the House and Senate almost always will form a Committee of Conference that has the task of trying to work out a compromise (in the rather rare circumstance where the first body does not agree to the amendments and does not ask for a Committee of Conference, then the bill dies).

Committees of Conference are made up of four House members and three Senators, appointed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President, respectively. In contrast to what happens in Congress or in many other states, committees of conference in New Hampshire meet in public session (this does not mean, of course, that all of the discussions among the conferees must take place, or do take place, in public session).
The Committee of Conference produces a report, which recommends the House version of the bill, the Senate version of the bill, or some compromise amendment. Each member of the Committee of Conference must sign off on the final report of the Committee; if even one member does not sign, the bill dies. Typically, however, bills do not die in that fashion, because the Speaker or Senate President will usually replace a conferee that is a sole holdout against an agreement.

There is a limit to what the members of the Committees of Conference can do by way of changes to bills. The House and Senate rules essentially require the conferees to stick to subject matter that was in the House or Senate version of the bill.

The full House and Senate also are limited in what they can do with the Committee of Conference reports. Unlike regular bills that are subject to being amended on the floor, Committee of Conference reports can only be voted up or down in their entirety, and no floor amendments can change what the Committee of Conference has agreed to. If the full House or Senate doesn't like what the conferees have agreed to, the only option is to vote down the report - the bill cannot be separately amended on the floor.

All the Committee of Conference reports need to be signed off by the end of the day on May 26, and the House and Senate meet the following week to vote on the reports (the House has already scheduled its session for June 1). The deadline for action is June 2, so as hard as it is to believe, we have less than two weeks left in the 2016 session!

Tracy Hatch
President & CEO
Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce 
Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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May 6th, 2016
April 29th, 2016 
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March 11th, 2016
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Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce | (603) 881-8333 |
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Nashua, NH 03060