Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, out of an abundance of caution the General Court has suspended all legislative activities through May 4th. During this time, the State House will be closed to legislative members, legislative staff, and visitors.
No in-person caucus of Republican members is scheduled at this time. Republican members may receive information for conference call caucus by email.
CONCORD – House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) issued a statement relative to the June 30th House session during which the session agenda included dozens of omnibus bills containing subject matter that the House did not have time to thoroughly vet. In some cases dozens of Senate bills that had not yet received a public hearing or committee work in the House were attached to or completely replaced the content of House bills.
“Our log jam agenda today reflects the fact that Democrats refused to compromise one iota with Republicans. They chose to shortchange the legislative process, skip steps, and rush through these massive bills rather than work in a bipartisan manner with House Republicans,” Hinch said. “Democrats even abandoned the usual protocol of committees of conference, and placed us in this all-or-nothing position, having to vote against bills that may have parts we like, but too many parts we don’t like. It is a bad way to do things, it sets a terrible precedent, and our state deserves better.”
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack), Deputy House Republican Leader Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) and House Republican Policy Leader, Rep. Kim Rice (R-Hudson) confirmed today that no contact from House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord) or any member of his leadership team has been received since the House session one week ago on Thursday, June 11th. Republicans had hoped that they would have a change of heart.
“Our mantra in recent weeks has been that Republicans are eager to finish our work, and do our jobs as legislators, but we can’t move forward if we are excluded from the planning process,” House Republican Leader Dick Hinch said. “In the newspapers last week, and during last week’s House session, we made it clear that we are awaiting that phone call from the Speaker or his team acknowledging that it’s time that they fulfill their end of the agreement we made in March, and that we would work together. Our phones have not rang with such a call. We continue to know nothing.”
“The ball is in their court,” Rep. Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) added. “It’s unfortunate that the Democrats have dug in on their position to not have Republican input on how the House should complete our work for the term. We eagerly signed on to the concept of the Speaker’s Committee on Legislative Continuity, but our one phone call meeting in March doesn’t cut it.”
“I can’t believe it has been 7 days with no outreach from the Speaker on this,” Rep. Kim Rice said. “Republicans believe there is a huge opportunity to work this out, but Democrats seem to have given up on the process, or any bipartisan agreement.”
Rep. Hinch concluded, “Democrats had a chance to mend fences. They had a chance to come into this unprecedented period with an open mind and inclusive process. Instead, they unfairly denied us the opportunity to have an up or down vote on a meaningful proposal to provide business tax relief. They’ve stuck to their rushed and flawed scheduling plan that shortchanges the legislative process without taking a moment to work with us on something we could all agree on. Their highly partisan form of governing is pushing aside the spirit of cooperation we thought we had in March.”
The House could not act on a number of bills on Thursday, June 11th after a vote to adopt new deadlines failed to achieve the necessary ⅔ majority vote. The House is also precluded from taking up several Senate bills without similar deadlines. Action on those bills can still occur if new deadlines are adopted on June 30th. Since June 11th, Speaker Shurtleff has not proposed an alternate schedule for House Republicans to consider. If an agreement was reached, a vote could be taken on June 30th to adopt a schedule of deadlines, and House business could proceed. The House has until the end of the term, or until the Speaker adjourns from this year’s session, to complete the legislative process.
Reps. Hinch, Packard, and Rice were appointed by the House Speaker to serve on the Speaker’s Committee on Legislative Continuity. On Tuesday, March 17th each received an email from the House chief of staff explaining the duties of the committee, which were to “investigate any necessary legislation, changes in House Rules or possible constitutional amendment,” with regard to ongoing House business.
The committee met once, briefly, over the phone. A subsequent meeting was cancelled, and no other meetings have occurred.
DURHAM – House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) issued the following statement after the House voted to not allow late drafting and introduction of legislation that would prevent a 12.5% tax increase on New Hampshire’s businesses. The motion to suspend rules failed 154-174.
“By rejecting this simple modification to our tax law, Democrats are saying that they are OK with increased taxes on our struggling small businesses during a global pandemic and economic recovery.”
“This is not a dramatic change in policy. The time is now to act on this urgent need for our businesses to know their taxes will not go up and they can get our citizens back to work. Piling tax increases on top of a difficult recovery will drag out our recovery even longer.”
“Democrats have stated they’d rather ask businesses to ‘wait and see’ if the legislature does something in 7 months. That doesn’t make sense. The January 1 rate hike is affecting their decision making now, this year. 7 months of uncertainty is not what we were elected to deliver, but that’s what Democrats voted for today.”
DURHAM – House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) issued a statement following the House vote on a House Rules amendment sponsored by House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord) that would have established deadlines for House business that rushed and skipped steps in the legislative process. The amendment was not developed in consultation with Republicans in the House.
“In March, Republicans agreed to a process proposed by Democrats that would have produced a bipartisan roadmap forward,” Hinch said. “Democrats did not hold up their end of the bargain. Republicans don’t believe they should support a plan that they had no input on, and shortchanges the legislative process.”
Hinch continued, “My Republican colleagues and I are genuinely eager to complete the work we were elected to do. It’s time for the Speaker to fulfill his duty of representing the entire House of Representatives, not just take orders from his partisan leadership team. There is still time to work collaboratively, and Republicans have the will to do so.”
The House voted on Thursday 199-143 to adopt an amendment to House Rules that would have modified deadlines allowing the House to move forward on leftover House bills and allow committee work and action on Senate bills. It failed to reach the ⅔ majority needed to pass the amendment.
by Rep. Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack)
On March 12th, the NH House of Representatives voted to amend the Rules which govern our body and the way we do business, to include a provision that would allow for modification of our schedule given the emerging public health threat of COVID-19. The rule change (65b) required concurrence of leadership of both parties. A true bipartisan agreement had emerged after a winter of partisan wrangling.
That day, the Speaker of the House, Steve Shurtleff, announced that he would be forming a bipartisan committee to oversee the processes involved in keeping the House operational during the public health crisis. Members of both parties would serve on the committee. On Tuesday, March 17, an email was delivered from the Speaker’s chief of staff with the details for the “Committee on Legislative Continuity”. The duties of the committee were to “investigate any necessary legislation, changes in House Rules or possible constitutional amendment.”
The committee met once, briefly, over the phone. A subsequent meeting was cancelled, and no other meetings have occurred since March. Republican leaders received one-on-one phone calls from time to time from the Speaker, but that fell short of our expectations, to say the least.read more…
CONCORD – House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) offered statements following House Rules Committee Action on Wednesday where House Democrats denied the ability for a Republican bill to come forward that would eliminate the possibility of business tax increases in the coming year. The committee also voted along party lines for a Democrat supported timeline for completion of House business, which Republicans said lacked clarity and bipartisan input.
On disagreements on a timeline moving forward, Hinch offered the following assessment.
“Republicans have a roadmap forward. We have a realistic and comprehensive set of dates for deadlines that we believe meets the needs of a thorough legislative process,” Hinch said. “We are not here to obstruct and we agree that the people’s work needs to be addressed. But we are here to ensure the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the spirit of the rule the House adopted in March, is not pushed aside during this pandemic.”
Hinch continued, “Republicans have a number of concerns about the proposed schedule in the Democrat plan, such as a very quick time frame for public hearings on Senate bills, when the House has little experience in running virtual public hearings. The House held its first remote public hearing on a bill yesterday, and there were several concerns brought to my attention about its function and execution. Asking us to process dozens of bills on this platform in a matter of a week or two seems like it would cause problems. In addition it skips long established steps in the process including committees of conference.”
Pertaining to Democrats’ rejection of Republicans’ business tax relief proposal Hinch offered the following remarks.
“By not allowing this simple modification to have an up or down vote by the House is the same thing as Democrats saying that they are OK with increasing taxes on our struggling small businesses by as much as 12.5% during a global pandemic and economic recovery,” Hinch said. “By rejecting this proposal, Democrats may have decreased our economy’s ability to bounce back quickly, and prolonged the time it will take for our small businesses to recover.”
“The Speaker and Majority Leader said that they believe this is not urgent, and can wait until 20201. My message is that we cannot wait. Our businesses cannot wait, “ Hinch continued. “The rate is scheduled to change on January 1, well before legislation could be fast-tracked through the House and Senate. Businesses are making decisions now and will be through the rest of this year based on the prospect of that rate change. This affects their hiring decisions this year. This affects their ability to purchase capital equipment this year. To ask businesses to ‘wait and see’ if the legislature does something in 7 months doesn’t make sense,” Hinch concluded.
“Democrats love taxes. This is a demonstration that they are willing to pursue higher taxes even in the worst of times for many businesses. It’s like kicking them when they’re down.”
The motion to recommend the Democrats’ schedule passed by a party line vote of 5-4.
The motion to deny introduction of Republicans’ business tax relief proposal passed by a party line vote of 6-4.
CONCORD – A group of over 130 House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Steve Shurtleff today asking him to support and help expedite legislation that would prevent business taxes from increasing by as much as 12.5%.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) will present the proposal to the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, and ask for the committee to allow the legislation to be drafted and acted on by the legislature prior to the conclusion of the current legislative session.
“This proposed legislation is a Republican response to the COVID crisis. We worked with our members of the House Ways and Means Committee to come up with a reasonable way to help protect our job creators at this very critical time,” Hinch said. “The last thing we should be doing is kicking our small businesses when they are down. This legislation provides certainty to our business community that our economic recovery will not be hampered by increased taxes.”
Hinch continued, “There is an urgent and compelling need for the legislature to take positive steps to aid our small businesses. This is a necessary first step. When the trigger mechanism in current law was adopted, the legislature could not have foreseen the economic catastrophe caused by a pandemic. This is not an issue we can kick down the road to next year. We need to act now.”
“I hope Speaker Shurtleff and House Democrats do not block this legislation. This needs to be a bipartisan effort. Our businesses cannot afford a 12.5% tax increase. Every small business owner or employee in New Hampshire should call or email their Democrat legislators and urge them to support this concept.” Hinch said.
The letter was emailed to Speaker Shurtleff on Friday. The proposed legislation is included in the letter.
The House Republican Office will continue to collect signatures from House members in support of the legislation.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) announced Tuesday that House Republicans have been largely boxed out of discussions on planning and scheduling for the upcoming House session, and setting policy priorities at the House committee level.
“Back in March, the Speaker set up a bipartisan committee to work on planning for the continuity of House business and legislative operations during this crisis. That committee held one conference call months ago, and has not met since. We are just being informed at what the Democrats have already decided to do. That’s not bipartisan cooperation,” Hinch said. “Republicans are being denied a seat at the table.”
In addition, the Speaker has made statements suggesting he instructed his policy committee chairs to reach out to the ranking Republican members of House committees to get their input on bills of priority.
“Despite the Speakers’ statements,” Hinch said, “I’m hearing very little from ranking members about two-way communication between Democrat and Republican members. In some cases there has been no communication, and in other cases, it has been one-way communication, with Democrats providing a list of their priorities to Republicans with no chance for discussion or input.”
“Given the lack of communication and cooperation we’re experiencing, you’d think that the Speaker has deemed most of the 160 member House Republican Caucus non-essential, and sent us home on furlough,” Hinch said.
Hinch continued, “‘We could have spent the last two months working on a bipartisan plan to get the people’s business done, and work on solutions to ensure House business is able to move forward safely. We could have spent the last two months discussing shared policy priorities for the remainder of the term. Instead we have mostly a one-party decision making process.”
“We don’t know if House Democrats have a plan to help manage our future budget shortfalls. We don’t know if they have a plan to help our small business community stay afloat. We don’t know if the Democrats plan on ramming through their income tax proposal yet again. We don’t know what the Speaker has in store for the House aside from a June 11th session. That is not leadership during a crisis. I’m not seeing a clear plan, or a plan at all, frankly.”
“House Republicans met via teleconference today to discuss these concerns. We absolutely agree that the House needs to get back to work, and we want to get back to work. But the consensus opinion was that unless the Democrat leadership team in the House opens up their closed decision making process, Republicans will be reluctant to enable the rule changes needed to move forward. Democrats have politicized this crisis on a regular basis, and without transparency, we can only assume they are not acting in good faith.”
Background: In March, the House voted to amend House Rule 65 to allow for the modification of deadlines in the event business was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and require concurrence with the Republican leadership. If Republican leadership does not concur with the proposed modifications, there would need to be a ⅔ majority vote on the House floor to suspend House Rule 65(b) for any business to move forward.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) called on Democrat Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord) to scrap a proposed plan to purchase electronic voting equipment costing possibly “in excess of $200,000” for when the House reconvenes on June 11th, and seek to be reimbursed by CARES Act funds for that cost.
“I agree that the House should get back to work, but this proposed budget shows poor judgment given the tough times we are facing. We’re asking state and local governments to tighten their belts as we deal with revenue losses due to this crisis, and we have businesses, organizations, and families that need assistance. Spending in excess of $200,000 on handheld voting devices and other equipment for legislators instead of spending those dollars where it’s really needed seems insensitive, to say the least. The House operated for a century without any electronic voting gizmo, and spending this amount at this time is blatantly wasteful considering CARES Act money could go somewhere where it is needed more. We need to get back to work, and we need to pursue the safest, and most economical way to do the people’s business, not the flashiest.”
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) issued a statement in response to a letter signed by Democrats members of the House to Governor Sununu demanding that he issue an emergency order requiring all citizens to wear face masks when in public.
“CDC and public health guidance we currently have in place are reasonable. New Hampshire citizens are being responsible in following them. Municipalities have the ability to take further steps if they feel it’s necessary. What Nashua believes is right for their community may not be right for Littleton or any other similar community, and we have to recognize that. It does not seem to be the New Hampshire Way to stop people on the street who choose not to wear a mask. It is unenforceable, and it will create more chaos. Business and individuals can currently make choices to avoid unnecessary contact with people, with or without masks, and to make this a government mandate goes too far.”