There is some good news to report on the legislative front. The Senate passed HB 555 without amendment which means it is on its way to the Governor’s desk. HB 555 is the bill that restores the right to vote to those in prison for a misdemeanor or awaiting trial.
The Senate also passed HB 326. It, too, is on its way to the Governor’s desk. This one will make my friend, Jan, happy. This bill provides that the clerk can provide an electronic copy of the absentee ballot request list to a candidate or their designee. Previously only paper copies were available.
The Senate also passed HB 315 which makes municipalities eligible for net metering credits up to 5 MW. This opens the door for several municipalities who have been waiting to launch large solar or other renewable energy projects to lower the electrical costs for municipal governments. However, this bill contains a senate amendment which means it must go to a committee of conference** before heading to the Governor’s desk. The Governor has given every indication that he will sign this bill.
Housekeeping Bills Passed
The Senate passed several housekeeping bills by voice vote but only after passing an amendment to the bill. These bills are headed to a committee of conference** in early June. HB 285 speeds up the removal from the checklist of voters who have moved or died. HB 523 was amended to remove the need to be photographed twice when the applicant does not have a valid photo id — once when registering to vote on election day, and once before actually casting a vote.
**A quick explanation of the term “committee of conference.” At the end of each legislative session in NH, if the House and Senate have passed two versions of the same bill, representatives of the two bodies must meet in conference to find agreement on a single wording for the bill, and then the bill must be repassed by both houses.
Possible Good News on Voter Suppression
The Senate re-referred (retained) HB 292. HB 292 was designed to make it harder to vote absentee if the ballot is sent to an address other than the one on the checklist. A similar senate bill (SB 54) was retained by the House. Whether these bills or the voter identification requirements contained in these bills are out of the picture until next year remains to be seen. They could always appear as an amendment to a must-pass bill in a committee of conference. Too soon to celebrate.
The NH House Rebels
The House Election Law Committee flexed its muscle with a non-germane (not relevant) amendment to SB 89. In essence the amendment says that if the federal government passes the “For The People Act of 2021” NH need only abide by it for federal offices and can continue to set other voting requirements for state and local elections. “For The People Act of 2021” is an federal effort to override the voter suppression bills being pass across the nation.
If the amendment is passed by the full House and survives the committee of conference and if the federal law is passed, NH will have two separate requirements for voting — one set of requirements that applies to federal offices, and another set of requirements that applies to state and local offices. In essence, a voter may qualify to vote for President or U S Congress, but not quality to vote for the Governor and other state offices. Aside from being perplexing to voters, it will double the work and increase the cost of conducting elections in NH.