By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Tuesday’s meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee was scheduled for live-streaming, but the state’s YouTube page instead displayed the message: “This channel doesn’t have any content.”
It appears to be the latest in the state’s assault on the public’s right to know after House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, on Friday appointed three partisan state representatives to the Committee to Review Authorizing Governing Bodies of Municipalities to Hold Virtual Meetings and to Study Remote Access to Meetings Under RSA 91-A, excluding any House Democrats from the committee.
One of those appointed is Rep. Jordan Ulery, R-Hudson, whose biographical information says he “strongly supports the Right-To-Know law in New Hampshire and believes that Part I, Article 3, of the New Hampshire Constitution does not advocate anonymity in society, but rather that it promotes social, civic interaction.” Indeed, he supported Senate Bill 395 in the 2018 legislative session which would have expanded access to public records. The bill ultimately was voted inexpedient to legislate.
However, Deputy House Democratic Leader Rep. David Cote, D-Nashua, said Ulery is one of three Republicans who have a record of voting against measures to allow for remote participation in the legislature. Ulery had voted for the establishment of the review committee as part of a Right-To-Know amendment that did pass.
Rep. Kurt Wuelper, R-Strafford, is a sponsor of House Bill 729, which also was voted inexpedient to legislate. It would have streamlined the process for filing a Right-To-Know appeal. Like Ulery, he supported sending the question of remote access to a committee to review how it might be implemented.
The third appointee, Rep. Bob Greene, R-Hudson, supported a bill prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodations to people who have declined medical treatment, medical testing, or vaccination, or because they refuse to use a medical device. He voted against both budget articles.
Packard has offered protective gear to the public as a way of assuring them that it is safe to attend committee meetings in person in Concord. He noted that there is a new air filtration system; personal protective equipment is readily available; and he said, “I’d like to remind everyone that while face coverings are not mandated within the State House and Legislative Office Building, you should strongly consider wearing one. I’d also ask all who enter our buildings to act with courtesy and respect the personal decisions individuals have made regarding mask use.”
Asked about the canceled livestream of the Ways and Means Committee meeting, Packard’s information officer, Jennifer Tramp, pointed to a duplicate entry on the House calendar that did not include the option of the YouTube livestream.
“I apologize for the inconvenience, as the Ways and Means Committee Work Session is not being livestreamed today,” Tramp responded.