Reform Caucus Legislative Update

#2, January 6, 2018

It's all happening at once. In the next two weeks, six of seven ODA priority bills will either be voted on or heard, and we've scheduled important meetings and events.

What you need to know

(1) Tuesday, Jan. 9: SB 33 (disclosure of independent expenditures) comes up for a vote in the House. We urge House members to support full disclosure by voting NO on interim study and YES on ought to pass. And we urge citizens to contact their representatives on this issue.

(2) Wednesday, Jan. 10: meeting of the Reform Caucus, Noon-1 p.m., New England College, 62 N. Main, Concord. Free food!

(3) Tuesday, Jan. 16: Lobby Day and hearings on HB 1773 (civic dollars), HB 1368 (LLC loophole), and HB 1667 (prohibiting campaign donations by businesses/donor identification on political ads)

The Details

(1) SB 33. This holdover from 2017 closes the loophole that allows independent spending groups to avoid registering with the Secretary of State and filing expenditure reports.

Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the bill was retained in House Election Law. In November, committee members deadlocked 10-10, which would have sent the bill to the floor with no recommendation. Later, upon reconsideration, they opted for interim study, a recommendation that would delay action until after the 2018 election.

Some supporters of interim study worry that the bill casts too wide a net, requiring, for example, the League of Women Voters to register and file spending reports in order to put out voter guides. In fact, the bill only affects organizations making "expenditures," which are defined in NH election law as funds used to support the success or defeat of a candidate or candidates. The League and similar groups would not be affected.

We believe the bill's language is rock solid as is and requires no further study. It should be implemented right away so that we don't go through another election cycle without a full accounting of electioneering spending. We urge House members to support full disclosure by voting NO on interim study and YES on ought to pass. And we urge citizens to contact their representatives on this issue.

When: Tuesday, Jan. 9, late in the session. Where: House Chamber.

(2) We invite all interested legislators to lunch and a start-of-the-session luncheon meeting of the Reform Caucus that ODA initiated last year. We'll talk about priority bills for 2018 with special emphasis on HB 1773, Open Democracy's new proposal for citizen-funded elections. If you are sponsoring one of ODA's priority bills (see below) or other relevant legislation and are willing to supply 1-pager(s) for distribution at the luncheon, please contact Olivia Zink at olivia@opendemocracy.me.

When: Wednesday, Jan. 10, noon-1 p.m. Where: New England College, 62 N. Main, Concord.

(3) Please join us for a Lobby Day on January 16. We will meet at 4 Park St. Suite 304 at 10 a.m. for coffee, bagels and discussion of the bills being heard that day. We will supply fact sheets, talking points and other literature. We'll then head over to the Legislative Office Building to sign in, make our presence known, and for those who wish, testify at hearings for three important bills: HB 1773 (civic dollars) at 10:50 a.m., HB 1368 (LLC loophole) at 11:30 a.m., and HB 1667 (prohibiting campaign donations by businesses / donor identification on political ads) at noon. More detail on these bills below.

We need a large showing of people at the hearings. Afterward we'll return to 4 Park St. for lunch. Please RSVP to doreen@opendemocracy.me if you can make it.

When: Tuesday, Jan. 16, 10 a.m.. Where: Open Democracy Office, 4 Park St. Suite 304 (one block north and east of the Capitol) and room 308 in the Legislative Office Building (LOB).

Looking ahead

The week of January 8-12 will be a busy one. Besides the three hearings on Tuesday, January 9, HB 1524 (U.S. constitutional amendment) will be heard on Wednesday, Jan. 10, and HB 1666 (redistricting) will be heard on Thursday, Jan. 11.

Looking back

The week of January 1-5 saw passage of HB 372, the full Senate voting 14-9 in favor along party lines. Another 2017 holdover, HB 372 as amended would effectively prevent out-of-state college students and others with “temporary” residency in the state from voting here. The bill now returns to the House and perhaps a Committee of Conference. The Governor has weighed in against the bill as currently written.

Bills supported by ODA

ODA top priorities

HB 1773 provides voters with four $25 "civic dollar" certificates to donate to candidates who qualify by limiting their maximum donation from private donors to $250. The bill also includes other reforms, e.g., stronger requirements to ensure the "independence" of SuperPACs and candidate campaigns, and a new campaign finance enforcement structure. Committee: Election Law. Prime sponsor: Rep. Cushing.

SB 33 closes the loophole that allows independent spending groups to avoid registering with the Secretary of State and filing expenditure reports. The 2017 bill was passed by the Senate, retained in House Election Law, and recommended for interim study, which would effectively delay action until after the 2018 election. Prime sponsor: Sen. Bradley.

Other bills of particular interest

HB 1368 closes the loophole allowing a donor to create multiple Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) to get around campaign contribution limits. Committee: Election Law. Prime sponsor: Rep. Porter.

HB 1524 calls on the NH Legislature to support an amendment to the US Constitution allowing regulation of money in politics and prohibiting partisan advantage as a factor in drawing voting district boundaries. Committee: State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs. Prime sponsor: Rep. Read.

HB 1666 requires redistricting to be repeated after analysis of election results reveals partisan bias as measured by an "efficiency gap" exceeding 8%. Committee: Election Law. Prime sponsor: Rep. Knirk.

HB 1667 prohibits businesses and unions from contributing directly to candidate campaigns except through "segregated funds," i.e., corporate and union PACs. The bill fixes language found unconstitutional in a 1999 court case, a decision that, in effect, legalized direct contributions from corporate treasuries. HB 1667 also requires political committees to list their top five natural-person donors in electioneering communications. Committee: Election Law. Prime sponsor: Rep. Read.

SB 440 provides civil penalties for violation of the law pertaining to campaign contributions. Committee: Election Law and Internal Affairs. Prime sponsor: Sen. Lasky.

To contact ODA

Open Democracy Action: 4 Park Street Suite 301, Concord, NH 03301; Office: (603) 715-8197 

Olivia Zink: olivia@opendemocracy.me; (603) 661-8621 (cell)

Gordon Allen: wgordonallen@gmail.com; (603) 588-2742

Rick Bourdon: rick.bourdon@gmail.com; (603) 795-2818; (603) 759-1888 (cell)


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