By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – A bill to prohibit communities in the state from declaring themselves “sanctuary” cities or towns passed 13-10 in the state Senate Thursday along with a measure that would send to the voters the question of putting the first-in-the-nation primary in the state Constitution.
A bill to prohibit communities in the state from declaring themselves “sanctuary” cities or towns passed 13-10 in the state Senate Thursday along with a measure that would send to the voters the question of putting the first-in-the-nation primary in the state Constitution.
Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The latter vote passed unanimously while the so-called “Anti-Sanctuary Act” bill involved contentious debate and passed along partisan lines.
Senate Bill 132 would allow law enforcement to work with federal immigration authorities, or ICE to identify and arrest individuals.
The bill is here https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=914&inflect=2
It was opposed by Democrats who said they believe the bill is discriminatory and would discourage individuals, particularly minorities from coming to New Hampshire.
Proponents said it would only impact people here illegally. That number is estimated at 0.7 percent of the population. A similar bill in 2019 failed.
State Sen. Carrie Gendreau, R-Littleton, spoke in support of prohibiting sanctuary cities.
She told a story of a constituent from Pittsburg who took her on a tour of his property on the border with Canada and told her illegal immigrants were crossing his property.
Gendreau said they were bringing drugs and leaving codes such as sticks in the road to direct the way to go and there was a lack of enforcement.
She said one of the illegal entrants was one of the pilots who flew into the Twin Towers during 9/11.
“I do not support sanctuary cities,” Gendreau said.
Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth, vehemently opposed the bill saying it was based on hateful, national rhetoric that disparages certain people and keeps them from coming to our state, “forcing our communities to target certain individuals.”
The bill will reduce trust which has been built with law enforcement, she said.
Perkins Kwoka said organizations affiliated with white supremacist groups support the measure.
“I think we need to refocus ourselves on working together,” Perkins Kwoka said. “Instead of issues that are not needed.”
Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, rose in support of the bill.
He said he is not a fan of white supremacy groups “but this bill will not impact those who are here lawfully. We are letting the political rhetoric get the best of us,” he said.
New Hampshire is not a home rule state, Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said, “that is very important,” she said.
“This is not going to be a haven for illegal immigrants,” Carson said. “Either we are going to allow illegal immigrants to come here or we are not.
“These are people that are breaking the law…but our federal government for some reason can’t get its act together…in the meantime, the border, they are coming across. What are they bringing with them?” she said. “We’re not talking marijuana but serious drugs….we are in a situation where we have to do something.”
Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, opposed the bill saying that national rhetoric has entered the Senate chamber with this measure.
“What is the message we are sending to our immigrant community?” she asked. “With our lack of diversity, we should be opening our doors.”
The bill would mandate public safety to deal with ICE, regardless of their priorities.
Whitley said the body should be working to improve lives.
Whitley noted the Roman Catholic Diocese opposed the bill and the law enforcement community did not ask for it.
Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, asked, “who do we not trust, here?”
She said the measure would undermine the good work of local law enforcement to build trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
“This doesn’t send a good message of who we are as a state,” Soucy said.
FITN PRIMARY INTO STATE CONSTITUTION
Voters could be asked whether or not to add the first-in-the-nation primary into the state Constitution.
By unanimous vote, the Senate approved a measure to ask voters whether New Hampshire should protect the more than 100-year tradition.
While state law requires that the primary be held first, this would make it part of the Constitution.
The Democratic National Committee voted that South Carolina should go first and New Hampshire second in this coming election cycle in 2024, arguing that it is more diverse with more minorities represented.
If the state goes first, as Gov. Chris Sununu has assured it will, there would be penalties, the Democrats said.
The Constitutional Amendment would have required 15 votes in the Senate to pass, but it was favored 23-0 with Sen. William Gannon absent and excused for health reasons.
If approved by three-fifths of the New Hampshire House, it will go before New Hampshire voters on the November 2024 ballot.
Abbas asked fellow senators to support the measure to protect our first-in-the-nation primaries saying it is a celebrated tradition in the state.
“We have led by example. We should continue to do that,” he said. “We get it done the right way.”
Abbas noted the primary in a small state with an attentive electorate allows candidates to start with little money.
“There is no justification to take it away,” he added.
Perkins Kwoka also asked for support and said “here in New Hampshire, we pride ourselves on civic engagement” and over more than 100 years, it has taken the responsibility seriously with high voter turnout.
Soucy said she wanted to clarify that she did not think the legislation is needed.
“New Hampshire created the primary. We’ve nurtured its growth. It’s known the world over.”
She said we need to clarify “that no national party, any national party is going to take away our primary. It’s our primary. We are going to have it. I think the statute protects it,” saying likely the bill is “belt and suspenders” to ensure it stays.
DAY CARE CENTER TAX EXEMPTIONS TO STUDY
By a unanimous vote, the Senate recommended to the House a study committee under Senate SB 221 to give daycare centers property tax exemptions.
MUNICIPAL REVENUE BONDS FOR BROADBAND
The Senate passed an amended Senate Bill 222 to help unserved or underserved districts of the state which lack broadband access.
The bill is directed at creating communication districts, which would help the development of broadband by allowing access to developers for municipal revenue bonds.
ONLINE CHARITABLE GAMBLING
On a 12-11 vote, following a reconsideration, the Senate narrowly passed SB 104 as amended, allowing New Hampshire-based charitable organizations the opportunity to raise upper limits on wagers and stakes and to direct the net proceeds to a community college scholarship fund.
Some senators were concerned that it would reduce support for charitable gaming.
Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said she was concerned that education funding should come from entertainment. The proper spot for the funding to come from, she said, was the state budget.
Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, supported the measure and noted after the vote that, “This bill, in cooperation with gaming operators, will increase money going to our charitable organizations.”
“Affordable education for New Hampshire students is essential to the growth and development of our state,” he added.
MANDATORY RETIREMENT AGE FOR JUDGES
CACR 6 would ask the voters to decide if they want to see the mandatory retirement for judges go from age 70 to 75. Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, was the only one to vote against it.
It passed and moves on to the House on a vote of 22-1.
Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, released the following statement on the passage of Senate Bill 238:
“New Hampshire’s mental health crisis not only affects individual Granite Staters, but the overall health of our economy. I am proud to support SB238 FN, a critically important measure to help those Granite Staters struggling with mental health issues receive the care they need,” Birdsell said.
This bill would allow physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe non-opioid medication via telehealth, continuing a practice started during the pandemic. “This would greatly increase access to those struggling with mental health in our state, and therefore help address the mental health crisis we are currently facing.” Birdsell added with amendment it would not allow minors to receive treatment without parental consent.