Senate Passes Bills Making Name Changes Harder for Felons and Easier for Charter Schools To Get Building Aid

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Paula Tracy photo

State Senate in session on Thursday.


CONCORD – Bonnie Sitomer, who says she was a victim of sexual assault by a former North Conway counselor, sat in the gallery of the state Senate Thursday as it passed a bill she helped along that forces stricter rules for violent felons who want to change their names and try to erase their past.

The vote was unanimous 24-0 and the amended House Bill 1003 moved immediately back to the House where it was expected to pass and be sent on to the governor.

Sen. Howard Pearl, R-Loudon, introduced Sitomer and other victims of felons, who he said courageously testified about the issues they had with felons who changed their names. 

The state presently has no prohibitions or rules related to such name changes.

The victims came from as far as Albany, N.Y. to hear the vote on the bill on the Senate Floor.

The measure makes it harder for such felons to change their names.

Pearl said he was surprised that there was not already a law dealing with this and said the measure would close a loophole.

“I know it has been a difficult and emotional time for you,” Pearl said to Sitomer and thanked her and the other victims of other cases for their strength to come forward to testify.

Sitomer says she was sexually abused by a counselor and only found later that he was a convicted felon who had changed his name from Peter S. Dushame to Peter D. Stone.

Duchame was imprisoned after being convicted of crashing his car into a motorcycle parked along the FE Everett Turnpike in Nashua on Oct. 1, 1989, killing fourth grader Lacey Packer.

Duchame had five previous drunk driving convictions at the time. As Peter Stone, the Associated Press reported he has now been charged with felonious sexual assault.

Sen. Denise Ricciardi, R-Bedford, said in this state you can murder someone or violently harm a child and change your name while still in prison to start your life over, leaving victims to wonder where their perpetrator is and how to track them.

Violent offenders will have to show a convincing case why the name change is necessary, she said before a name change is granted under the bill. This will offer accountability and peace of mind for victims, she said.


A bill that would allow chartered public schools to receive state school building aid passed the Senate on a voice vote, with many Democrats opposing it.

House Bill 354 allows for charter schools to be eligible for building aid but doesn’t guarantee it. Previously, public charters were the only public schools barred from applying for building aid and this measure, which has passed the House, would change that.

The current grant disbursement plan, which is similar to a typical loan term, states that 5 percent of the eligible grant amount will be distributed annually for 20 years, and no more than 10 percent will be distributed until construction and verification of the final cost is finished.

State Rep. Donovan Fenton, D-Keene objected and said school building aid should be reserved for public schools, noting many are aging structures in need of help.

House Bill 354 passed on a 3-2 vote out of the Senate Education Committee.

He said he was concerned about taxpayer funds going to private boards rather than elected school boards. 

Fenton also said there are cases of charter schools that folded and those under investigation for fraud and embezzlement.

It passed on a voice vote along partisan lines.

After the vote, Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard released the following:

“This bill puts all public charter schools on level ground in the Building Aid Program. Current law prohibits public charter schools from receiving aid unless the facility is owned by the school district, but another section says charter schools can receive grants. This bill repeals the prohibitive section and allows for charter schools to be eligible for school building aid.

“Charter schools will now be able to receive financial assistance towards the construction or renovation of K-12 facilities. These schools are often maintained by donors and other stakeholders as of now. With this bill in place, the charter schools can now access help in ensuring their buildings are maintained,” Ward said.


The Senate eliminated a barrier to high school graduation which now requires students to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

“Graduation should depend on academic achievement, not on paperwork. HB 1066 ensures that no high school senior is denied from receiving their diploma simply because they chose not to fill out a FAFSA application,” said state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton. 

“We encourage students to pursue their options, including college financial aid. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has fumbled this year’s FAFSA process, leaving thousands of graduating seniors in the dark about their higher education options.”

He said the federal government needs to “fix the FAFSA fiasco,” and the state should not leave it as an obstacle for New Hampshire seniors…”


The Senate passed House Bill 1579 that provides an extra $200 per student in a merged school district for two years, intended to help save taxpayers money. 

The bill has already passed the House.

Town representation in the district may vary based on town size as well as the overall cost savings. Sen. Lang and Sen. Carrie Gendreau, R-Littleton are the co-sponsors.

The amended bill now goes back to the House.

“This bill gives our small towns another tool to reduce duplication and provide savings for local taxpayers,” said Gendreau.


The Senate killed a bill along partisan lines that would allow the Northern Border Alliance program funds to lapse and not be automatically upped annually. It also killed a bill that would require reporting, including the race of individuals and residency of those who were encountered by the law enforcement alliance on the 58-mile border with the Canadian province of Quebec in House Bill 1528.

About $1.4 million was approved last year to help bolster police security, as urged by the governor.

Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, said there has been an increase in the number of illegal border crossings in the northern Swanton sector from New York to New Hampshire and some have come in with the drug fentanyl.

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, opposed the efforts to kill HB 1054 which would require reporting data on the crossings in New Hampshire. She said data has found that over a 15-month period through December 2023 the border patrol only had 21 apprehensions and encounters in New Hampshire.

“That number does not seem to indicate the existence of a crisis on New Hampshire borders,” she said.

She said the bill would provide the state with clarity to understand what is happening and make “prudent, sound decisions” on the extent of the problem or lack thereof.

But Sen. Gray said, “We’re not getting the help we need from the federal government,” at the northern border.


Allowing fentanyl test strips to be legal to allow users to test purity and making other drug checking equipment no longer considered contraband under HB 470-FN was killed.

Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst said there were those who believe passage would be a harm reduction tool.


Related to forest carbon credits which are new to the state and provide landowners a new form of income by not cutting their trees rather than logging and enrolling them in long-term carbon credit programs, the Senate agreed to establish a forest carbon commission under House Bill 1709 and another bill relative to the same issue in House Bill 1697-FN.

This has become an issue in the state’s north country as the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Tract, 146,000 acres in size, has been sold to a buyer who is in the carbon credit business, impacting the logging economy. Communities relying on tax revenue from logging want to explore other ways to get revenue from those who enroll in carbon credit programs.


House Bill 1186 which would prohibit tracking gun and ammunition purchases by credit cards was passed by the Republican majority and ordered to the Finance Committee.

Chandley suggested an interim study on the bill to consider the impact.

But Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, released the following statement after the passage of the bill.

“Granite Staters should not have to fear judgment from credit card companies by purchasing a firearm with a credit card. This bill changes the name of the charge so that a firearm purchaser’s privacy is maintained. For firearm sales, ammunition, and firearms accessories, firearms retailers do not have to provide a firearms code to a payment card issuer or payment card network. This keeps specific purchases for firearms owners anonymous. However, if the attorney general has reasonable cause to believe that someone may commit a violent act, they have the power to examine witnesses and documents necessary to the suspicion.”


The Senate on a voice vote passed House Bill 1698-FN which allows for the use of drones for the aerial application of pesticides. It particularly helps bee farmers, advocates said.

Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, and Pearl released a statement that the bill helps farmers apply crop treatments more effectively and economically. Drone usage not only helps farmers’ crops but also helps combat inflation. Using drone technology to assist with pesticide treatment allows for precise targeting and minimizes chemical runoff into unintended areas. This effort also helps modernize farming techniques in New Hampshire.


A bill that would repeal the prohibition of the possession or sale of black jacks, sling shots and metallic knuckles was sent to interim study.

Sen. William Gannon, R-Sandown, said these objects are no longer considered acceptable in society.


The Senate also passed House Bill 1386-FN, relative to prohibiting the disposal of lithium-ion batteries in solid waste landfill facilities, composting facilities, or incinerators.

Avard said after the vote that the disposal of these items “need to be handled carefully due to their extremely flammable nature. This bill’s goal is to update the definition of electronic waste and ban the disposal of lithium-ion batteries. Adopting this updated waste management plan helps reduce toxicity in the waste stream and increases safety for public works employees. Preventing disposal of these batteries promotes recycling of precious metals like lithium and improves public safety by reducing the risk of fires at waste management facilities.”


The Senate passed a bill to support jobs for first responders under HB 182-FN, free speech on campuses in HB 1305, revision of an interstate social work license compact and privacy protections for minors in HB 1260.

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