Reform Caucus Legislative Update

#8, February 16, 2018

What you need to know in a nutshell 

As the result of actions taken on Feb. 13 and 15 and previously (see Bill Summary below):

All our bills have had their first hearings and executive sessions, so there will be no more hearings and executive sessions before Crossover. At this point, it looks like all the remaining House bills will be scheduled for floor votes on Feb. 22. 

HB 1773 and SB 440 are officially dead for the session having been voted down by the full House and Senate. 

HB 1540, HB 1666, HB 1667 were voted Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) out of House Election Law on Feb. 13 and put on the Consent Calendar, giving them but a small chance of passing when they reach the floor (likely Feb. 22, maybe spilling over to March 6).  

HB 1368 and HB 1524 were voted ITL out of Election Law on the 13th on party-line votes and will be on the Regular Calendar with only slightly better chances of survival on the floor (likely Feb. 22). 

One surprise is that the House voted on Feb. 15 to Table SB 33. And in spite of the difficulty in getting it off the table for a vote this session, it means that while on life support, it still has a chance. Disclosure has strong support by voters of all political stripes and SB 33 has already passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote.

What happened last week

Some Good news from the Senate.  On Feb. 15 the, Senate passed SB 363 banning political donations from foreign nationals by a 24-0 vote. No question there seems to be strong bipartisan support for getting the outside money out.

In the House, not a banner week.  One piece of somewhat good news, as noted above is that SB 33 was tabled on Feb. 15, so it is not officially dead yet, albeit on life support. This is an accomplishment by this session’s standards because it was on the Consent Calendar with an ITL recommendation and Rep. Marjorie Smith pulled it off. Very rare to get anything but an ITL when it is on the Consent Calendar with an ITL recommendation.  

Otherwise not so good in the House. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, House Election Law summarily voted ITL on all our bills before them:  HB 1368 (closing the LLC loophole for getting around donation limits), HB 1540 (ranked-choice voting), HB 1666 (redistricting), and HB 1667 (corporate donation ban and top donor identification on political advertising).

The ITL votes on HB 1666 (20-0), HB 1667 (20-0), and HB 1540 (19-1) were bipartisan and strong (as indicated) and these were all put on the Consent Calendar as ITL. Only HB 1368 with an 11-9 vote is going to the floor on the Regular Calendar, but because it was a party line vote  (11 Republicans for ITL, 9 Democrats against), chances aren’t good of overturning the ITL on the floor.  

As expected, the fate of these had all been decided by the Republican Leadership and Caucus beforehand and there was little discussion as the committee seemed to understand that the executive session was essentially an exercise in rapidly going through the motions to ratify the done deal.  The goal (as the Chair said repeatedly) was to exec all 30 bills in a couple of hours, and she succeeded.  This made the pre-determined votes official so they can go to the floor ASAP for a vote to get them on the floor for the February 22 session.

In effect, no time for discussion, clarification, and debate was built in and it ended up taking only about 6 minutes on average to dispose of each bill – even though discussion and debate are supposed to be the purpose of an executive session (especially for these bills that did not have a subcommittee).  Another clear signal of how much this was your classic ramrod session was how short the motions for ITL on the bills were – and how they relied primarily on vague ideological statements (e.g. it’s anti-business and anti-free speech) that had little connection with the bills as well as misinterpretations and outright misrepresentations of the bills. 

The only bill with any significant discussion was HB 1368 where Rep. Porter did an excellent job in correcting the misrepresentations and omissions in the ITL motion and in clarifying the important need and purpose of the bill. The 11-9 ITL vote on HB 1368 was on party lines with all Republicans voting for ITL and all Democrats voting against – and it is not on the Consent Calendar.

Also, Rep. Porter brought in an amendment to HB 1667 designed to take out the unpopular section that required disclosure on campaign materials of the top five donors paying for the materials. Unfortunately, the amendment as drafted for her did not do this so she had to withdraw it resulting in the 20-0 ITL vote because this unpopular disclosure provision remained in.  

Bill Status Summary

HB 1368 (closes LLC loophole): ITL House Election Law 11-9, 2/13/15

HB 1524 (constitutional amendment): ITL State-Federal 10-7, 2/6/18

HB 1540 (ranked-choice voting): ITL House Election Law, 19-1, 2/13/18

HB 1666 (redistricting reform):  ITL Election Law 20-0, 2/13/18 on Consent

HB 1667 (bans unlimited corp. donations): ITL Election Law 20-0, 2/13/18 on Consent

HB 1773 ** (civic-dollar election option): ITL House 214-135, 2/8/18

SB 33** (closes disclosure loophole): Tabled House 162-155, 2/15/18

SB 363(bans foreign donations): OTP Full Senate 24-0, 2/15/18

SB 440 (raises penalties on finance violations): Killed with Interim Study, Senate VV, 2/15/18

** Priority 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 $500, $250, and $200 for candidates for Governor, Executive Council, and Senate, respectively. 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: House Election Law. Prime sponsor: Rep. Cushing. Status: ITL in the House 214-135.

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: House 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: House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs. Prime sponsor: Rep. Read.

HB 1540 institutes ranked-choice voting in races for N.H. House and Senate, governor, Executive Council, US House, and US Senate. Ranked choice allows voters to vote for candidates by order of preference. It results in representation substantially closer to the proportion of Democratic, Republican, and third-party voters in a district than does the current winner-take-all system. More complete explanation at Fairvote. Committee: House Election Law. 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: House 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: House Election Law. Prime sponsor: Rep. Read.

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

Links to contact information for key committee members

House Election Law (for most ODA priority bills)

House State-Federal Relations & Veterans Affairs (for HB 1524)

Senate Election Law & Internal Affairs (for SB 440)

Full House Roster

Full Senate Roster

Link to supporting documents for specific bills

ODA State House page

To contact ODA

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

Olivia Zink: [email protected]; (603) 661-8621 (cell)

Gordon Allen: [email protected]; (603) 588-2742

Rick Bourdon: [email protected]; (603) 795-2818; (603) 759-1888 (cell) 


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