House Reacts to Harmony’s Murder; Also Set New Energy Plan

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Paula Tracy photo

The House of Representatives is pictured meeting Thursday.


CONCORD — The House Thursday voted to suspend its rules to allow a bill after the deadline to require anyone who commits a class A felony to be present during the judicial process.

The genesis of the bill is the murder of five-year old Harmony Montgomery by her father, Adam Montgomery, who has to be compelled to attend his sentencing scheduled for May 9.

Rep. Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, told about the father moving the girl’s body to different places until the ground thawed and he could bury her remains, although her remains have yet to be found.

The state has strong victim’s rights laws, he noted, but the victim of a rape can be at the trial and look at the defense table and the perpetrator could be absent because New Hampshire law does not require the person charged to be present at the trial or the sentencing unlike federal requirements the accused be at the arraignment, jury selection, trial and sentencing.

His proposed bill would require anyone charged with a class A felony to be present during the judicial process, but could be exempted with motions by the defense or prosecution, Shurtleff told the House.

He said he wants to introduce the legislation now, because Adam Montgomery is scheduled for his sentencing on May 9, and the prosecution has filed a motion to compel him to be present, but the judge will decide.

Shurtleff’s request to introduce the bill after the deadline was approved on 286-67 vote, easily meeting the two-thirds majority requirement.

Energy Policy

The House adopted a bill setting energy policy that one legislator said puts the state’s thumb on the scales in favor of fossil fuels and away from renewable and clean energy.

But supporters of House Bill 1623 said current plants and sources of energy are under attack as the market transitions to renewable energy and away from carbonization,

Rep. Tony Caplan, D-Henniker, said the bill’s energy policy is the antithesis of current policy here and nationally and called the proposal extreme and an attempt for the state to establish its own management system.

But Rep. Michael Vose, R-Epping, said the move to remove carbon from the system challenges the reliability of the electric system.

“This bill acknowledges the responsibility of New Hampshire to guarantee for the health of its citizens and to protect our supply of power,” Vose said, adding it asserts the state sovereignty over non-Congress mandates that would close the power generation in the state.

The bill was approved on a 184-168 vote and now goes to the Senate.

Disease Spread

The House approved a bill that would change mandated vaccine requirements for communicable diseases.

House Bill 1194 would remove the word infectious from the definition of non-communicable disease having the effect of removing various infections that are not spread by person to person contact such as Legionnaires disease but leave the immunization requirement intact for diseases like measles or chickenpox.

Tetanus is exempt from the prohibition under the bill.

Supporters of the bill said the change will leave it up to the individual to decide whether or not to receive immunization for diseases not transferred by person-to-person contact.

A person has a right to sovereignty in making medical decisions under a patient’s bill or rights and informed consent,” said Rep. Wayne MacDonald, R-Londonderry, “that carries over to vaccination requirements.”
He said the US Supreme Court has set the grounds when government may override the concept and mandate vaccines.

But opponents to the bill said it would tie the hands of public health officials at a time when climate change is allowing the migration of diseases into places where they did not occur.

They said the bill could put the public health at risk and would tie the hands of public health officials.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said COVID has shown it can easily be transmitted by touching doorknobs and mosquitos can easily infect people with malaria.

“Do you want to the put the public health at risk,” she said, “and handicap public health services with a non-logical and unscientific assertion.”
The bill passed on a 191-171 vote and now goes to the Senate.

Child Care

Doing away with the requirement that day care centers collect information on the vaccination status of their students was approved by the House.

Supporters of House Bill 1213 said it would not change the state requirements for vaccines or religious exemptions, but just the paperwork they said is burdensome for small centers without large staffs.

But opponents said it would take away one of the most effective public health prevention measures medical providers have with vaccines.

They said it would encourage parents not to immunize their children,

The bill passed on a 189-173 vote and now goes to the Senate.

No Medicaid 

The House voted to prohibit the use of state Medicaid funds for gender reassignment surgery for minors.

Opponents said House Bill 1660 goes far beyond what the House passed earlier this year that forbids gender reassignment surgery, would set up a two-tier system of health care for the state, one for those with resources and the other for the poor, and is discriminatory.

But supporters said the House and many others believe any reassignment surgery should not be performed on minors and should wait until the person is an adult.

They also said the surgery would take state resources away from other needs and huge liability questions remain.

The bill was approved on a 193-169 vote and now goes to the Senate.

Lawmaker Residency

A bill was tabled that would have required the Attorney General’s Office to notify the results of investigations into a lawmaker’s residency to the leaders of the two parties in which body the lawmaker serves, the House or the Senate.

House Bill 1629 was tabled on a 329-19 vote after the Attorney General informed the House Speaker and Minority Leader of a new protocol that information about investigations into a lawmaker’s residency would be provided to both parties in the future.

The genesis of the bill was the residency of former Rep. Troy Merner of Carroll who was elected in 2022 to represent a district he did not live in but was sown into office and voted on legislation during last year’s session including a number of key bills.

The House Speaker was informed by the Attorney General’s Office that it was investigating Merner’s residence the day before he was sworn into office, but he was not asked to resign until a final report by the attorney general in the fall.

Democrats were not informed about the investigation into Merner’s residence.

The state constitution requires a representative to live in the district he or she represents.

Merner is currently facing several charges including voting fraud.

Garry Rayno may be reached at Garry is’s State House bureau chief and has worked as a reporter for 40 years.

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