By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – The House Education Committee ended on a sour note Tuesday after testimony on gender- and transgender-legislation when the Republican sponsor of a bill that schools would no longer supply free menstrual products to girls accused a Democratic Representative of demeaning his bill.
Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, told Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, that he plans to file a complaint against Rep. Tim Horrigan, D-Durham, with House Speaker Sherman Packard accusing Horrigan of misrepresenting his bill during committee testimony.
“As an experienced Representative I believe (Horrigan) knew or should have known that he was misrepresenting my testimony and my bill and he did so in an intentionally derogatory and insulting manner … to mock or diminish the substance of what we are talking about,” Edwards said.
Horrigan had said: “I strongly oppose this bill. Even though I’m a man and women my age are long passed menopause, I still find this a really offensive bill.”
Period products are as basic a need as toilet paper, Horrigan said.
Edwards said his bill is simply a way to bring state law in line with the New Hampshire Constitution that doesn’t allow what are known as unfunded mandates.
“The current RSA mandates it, but doesn’t pay for it. It’s up to us to fix it,” Edwards said.
Passed in 2019 and signed by Gov. Chris Sununu into law, the law now says high schools and middle schools must provide period products at school for free. Edwards’s bill instead says the schools must make “reasonable efforts” to do so.
When Edwards again told Ladd as a professional courtesy that he will file the complaint against Horrigan, Rep. Douglas Ley, D-Jaffrey, told Edwards, “Go ahead and do it.”
Edwards told Ley that he hadn’t been recognized to speak.
Ley snapped back: “I’m a member of the committee, Representative. You are not.”
Chairman Ladd said it was the end of the day and he wanted to end the meeting in a polite manner.
See the full committee meeting here with Rep. Edwards’ and Rep. Ley’s comments near the end at 7:05. https://youtu.be/oii7lvtT8Uw
Elizabeth Canada of Planned Parenthood said New Hampshire should be proud of trailblazing free period products in schools. She quoted Sununu when he signed the bill saying students could now “learn without disruption – and free of shame, or fear of stigma.”
Chairman Ladd’s bill, HB 198 on transgender school sports, also stirred controversy.
It would amend the Opportunity for Public Education Without Discrimination adding an exception:
“The provisions of RSA 354-A:27 relating to opportunity for public education without discrimination of a civil right shall not apply to a biological male by birth participating in all-female high school and postsecondary sports recognizing the physiological differences between the biological sexes in athletics.
“These differences limiting athletic teams to sex specific biological teams ensure that biological females have equal athletic opportunities,” the bill states.
Ladd said disregarding the physiological differences between boys and girls means disadvantages and danger for girls.
“It’s the girls who are being discriminated against,” Ladd said. If this bill is not passed, it “could lead to the end of girls’ sports,” he said.
In the interim, there was personal testimony from people mostly opposed to the bills sharing stories of their embarrassment and inability to participate in schooling when they didn’t have access to tampons or sanitary pads.
And testimony from girls and their families and medical providers who spoke about the growth they experienced participating in sports as they were transitioning.
Christy Hegarty told the committee: “Look at how hard these kids are having to work to convince you to be able to play on the field.”
Hegarty said she has three daughters, one specifically who turned 16 this week who has testified at the State House about what it is like being a trans girl in the state of New Hampshire.
“I continue to be impressed and in awe of her and all of the folks who have to fight so hard to just be here,” Hegarty said.
Since the House and Senate committee meetings have been posted because of COVID-19, a couple of members have been forced to apologize for making sexist and anti-LGTBQ+ comments. Others have apologized for racist and anti-Semitic postings on social media.
On Wednesday, The House Judiciary committee will hear legislation that will make zoom hearings continue after COVID-19.
That meeting can be watched here when it starts Wednesday at 9 a.m.: https://youtu.be/V_fFTORMaL0
You can watch House committee meetings and sessions online. If you subscribe to NH House Live Stream on YouTube, you will even get an email alert when a committee or session goes live:
There is a NH Senate Live Stream on YouTube but wasn’t as up to date as the House’s. You can go to NH.gov streaming video site for the Senate.