Fight Over Firearms in the House Expected First Day Back

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Nancy West photo

Reps Hall is pictured on Organization Day earlier this month.

By Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough
Straight Talk

CONCORD – As I write this—it is Sunday, December 30—I’m looking forward to an interesting and very busy week ahead at the State House. Our first, official House session is Wednesday, January 2, as prescribed by the state constitution.

We will have two orders of business that day. First, the House will be joined by the Senate to hear the Secretary of State report on the vote totals for Governor and Executive Council members. This does not take very long, but it is interesting to hear the report in the old-style, formal language of tradition. It keeps us connected to the past.

Then the Senate will leave us on our own, to vote to on some amendments to ethics guidelines and the House rules. This is where things will get interesting.

One of the rules we will be amending is Rule 63, the one that currently allows concealed carrying of firearms in the House chambers and gallery.

Despite what you may have heard, the prohibition on firearms in the House chambers goes back to 1971 and was enacted when Republicans were in control. (They were in control of most everything back then, remember?) It was repealed in 2011, under Bill O’Brien’s speakership, put back in place under Speaker Norelli in 2013, then repealed again under Speaker Jasper in 2015. This year’s amendment puts the ban back in place, and my gun rights colleagues are up at arms about it. (Sorry.)

The Second Amendment people will be holding a rally for their rights on the State House grounds, so we’ll get to greet them as we walk in to session. There are other, different groups rallying that day too, so there should be quite a crowd.

I’m sure we will be hearing impassioned speeches from colleagues on the floor of the House as well. They will be worrying about how we will all stay safe if they can’t bring their guns to work. Their hearts are in the right place I guess, because they only, after all, want to protect us if some “bad guy with a gun” opens fire in Reps Hall. I try hard to envision what this scenario would look like. Four hundred of us in the hall, and 50? 75? maybe more “good guys” taking aim and firing at that bad guy all at once, from all directions.

Somehow, that just doesn’t make me feel safer.

My prediction is the amendment will pass, and that there will be lawmakers breaking the rules these next two years.

On Thursday, we will meet again, this time to watch the Governor’s inauguration. There will be many honored guests and lots of pomp and circumstance, and a speech by the Governor himself. I sit in the front row now, so will have to give up my seat for one of the guests. I’ll probably dress a little fancy.

So far, 890 bills have been filed by House and Senate members, with more most likely to come. The House deadline for filing has passed, but the Senate still has time. I am responsible for eight of them—four as the result of my work with the NH Commission on Deafness and Hearing Loss, two dealing with education issues that I filed on behalf of constituents, and two dealing with Election Law. One Election Law bill deals with the postponement of town elections in March, which I hope has a better chance of passing this time around.

I spent some time this morning reading through the list, and I got through 200 of them before I called it quits. There are some interesting ones.

One group of Republican legislators has filed LSR 19-0005, relative to enforcement of immigration laws and the prohibition of sanctuary policies. I believe all of them were active in the President’s election campaign in NH.

And one group of Democrats, all from Nashua, filed LSR 19-0443, relative to welcoming communities. All the state reps elected in Nashua this year are Democrats. Many of their constituents are recent immigrants. It makes sense they would want to be welcoming.

A group of Republicans filed LSR 19-0150, relative to contingently reducing the rate of the interest and dividends tax and repealing the tax in 5 years. There goes another source of revenue, ensuring we won’t be able to afford something we need in a few years’ time. School funding? Meals on Wheels? Who knows.

A group of Democrats filed LSR 19-0151, establishing a state minimum wage and providing for adjustments to the minimum wage. NH does not have a minimum wage now. We use the federal rate. All the other New England states have a higher minimum wage than we do. And although we have a low unemployment rate, this statistic might shock you: According to a December 20 report from WMUR, more than 4,000 school-aged children are homeless in NH. Yes, there are working parents who earn minimum wage. An increase would help.

A group of Republicans has filed LSR 19-0190, repealing the prohibition on texting while driving. It will be interesting to hear the reasoning behind this one.

And a group of Democrats has filed LSR 19-0019, requiring background checks for commercial firearms sales. This bill closes a loophole, but guarantees my email will be filled with angry demands to vote no.

Don’t despair of us ever working across party lines for the good of the state, however. There is one bill that has gotten bi-partisan support. LSR 19-0028, relative to the legalization of cannabis and making appropriations therefor. The Governor has vowed to veto this bill if it passes both chambers.

Hold on to your hats, folks. 2019 is going to be quite a ride!

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