Editor’s note: Will update through the day Thursday. Click here to watch live.June 11, 2020 at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire
2:08 p.m. update
The House began its action much like it ended three months ago with a partisan divide as Republicans voted not to change House rules to allow legislation to move forward without a super majority, which would doom many remaining bills.
The House met Thursday at the Whittemore Center in Durham due to COVID-19 and the need for face covering and social distancing instead of Representatives Hall in the State House.
Republicans opposed the rule change saying the new deadlines do not allow enough time to do the work needed to complete the session. The proposed rules would have the House act on all Senate bills by June 25 and final action on all bills June 30.
“This change will not allow us to do the people’s business,” said Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, noting the schedule also does not allow for negotiations with the Senate on bill changes.
“That is ridiculous,” she said. “We are abdicating our duty to do the people’s business.”
But others said these are extraordinary times and the legislature needs to continue to do its work.
“This is a difficult schedule, but these are difficult times,” said Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole. “It is better to say because it is difficult, we will to do as much as we can as well as we can to work for the people of New Hampshire.”
The Republican leadership claims they were left out of the planning process and not involved in determining the legislative priorities for the remainder of the session and said they could not support changing the deadlines.
But House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff called the allegations “a preposterous and an outright lie.”
Republicans sought Democratic support to block likely increases in business tax rates because revenues for those levies will be 6 percent or more below the budget plan due to the economic shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic. The trigger was included in the budget compromise passed last year.
Democrats said the change in the budget law to block the rate increases is premature and does not have to be done until next year when better, more reliable information would be available.
Without the rule change every bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass the House.
House Minority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, sought to introduce a bill that would have blocked the likely increase in business tax rates that were included in the compromise budget package approved last year after Sununu’s veto.
The law requires business enterprise and profits tax rates to increase to their 2018 level if revenues are 6 percent or more below the budget plan.
The trigger would be activated after the state comprehensive financial audit is released in December.
Under the law the business enterprise tax rate would increase from .6 to .675 percent, and the business profits tax would increase from 7.7 to 7.9 percent Jan. 1.
House Majority Leader Douglas Ley, D-Jaffrey, said lawmakers need to make an informed decision based on data that will not be available until December, not create tax policy on the back of a napkin.
Instead of making a decision with the data and discussion needed for good tax policy, Ley said, Republicans are presenting “what some might characterize as a political opportunistic proposal.”
But Hinch argued the state’s businesses that are struggling to stay alive under the coronavirus shutdown cannot wait until next year.
“The message is this cannot wait, our businesses cannot wait,” Hinch said. “This is not an on-the back-of-a-napkin approach.”
After the vote, Hinch said Democrats are saying they are OK with raising taxes on businesses struggling to survive the pandemic.
“Democrats have stated they’d rather ask businesses to ‘wait and see’ if the legislature does something in seven months. That doesn’t make sense,” Hinch said. “The Jan. 1 rate hike is affecting their decision making now, this year. Seven months of uncertainty is not what we were elected to deliver, but that’s what Democrats voted for today.”
The House also voted down a resolution that would have overturned a number of Sununu’s executive orders that restrict various activities and set limits on meetings.
The resolution sponsored by Rep. Andrew Prout, R-Hudson, would have ended restrictions on residents, and prohibited any extension of the state of emergency order.
He said the resolution would reestablish the legislature as the primary governmental policy decider and reclaim its statutory authorization to decide spending and revenue issues.
But the Republican leadership opposed the resolution saying the governor would be making several announcements that afternoon that would please those backing the resolution.
The attempt to suspend the rules failed on a 280-57 vote.
InDepthNH.org will be updating throughout the day with our photos, tweets and Garry Rayno’s story covering the proceedings remotely.
Rep. Debra Altschiller tweeted “Training by @nhhouseclerk
on using the voting clickers, where are the WCs & emergency exits. I was personally told “there will be NO throwing of fish!” on the 1st vote. What’s up w/that?”