It’ll be interesting to see if any of the Republican committee members on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will be sporting the strings of fake pearls they wore for the public hearing on a “red flag” law when they meet this Wednesday to vote their recommendation on the bill, HB 687.
If so, one representative wearing the pearls at last week’s contentious public hearing will definitely not be among them.
Rep. Dennis Fields, now serving his 17th term in the House representing Sanbornton and Tilton, wants it known that he was unaware of the meaning behind the pearls when he was handed them on his way into Tuesday’s hearing.
“I thought it had something to do with Mardi Gras,” he said on Wednesday morning, after an evening of inquiries from the national press. “I never meant any disrespect to anyone.”
Other representatives wearing the pearls, including David Welch of Stratham, Scott Wallace of Danville and Daryl Abbas of Salem, were well aware that the costume jewelry served to signal their support for the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire and opposition to the red flag bill.
Even though Democrats have a majority, this committee vote is hard to predict, given due process concerns raised by the ACLU-NH, the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and well-respected legal experts like UNH law professor Albert “Buzz” Scherr.
It’s possible some amendments will be presented to address those concerns, such as retaining the traditional rules of evidence in red flag hearings before a judge. Those hearings would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily keep guns out of the hands of people in crisis when there is evidence that they pose a serious risk of harming themselves or others.
The committee could also vote to retain the bill, so that amendments can be considered over the summer, with the goal of voting it to the House floor in 2020, the second year of the biennial session.
Or the committee could send it to the House floor with an “ought to pass” recommendation. Supporters of the legislation may well cite polling that was paid for by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and was released on Thursday.
In addition to the red flag bill, the committee is scheduled to vote on HB 514, which creates a seven-day purchase waiting period before a licensed dealer can sell a firearm.
The polling company SurveyUSA randomly surveyed 1,100 New Hampshire adults from Feb. 26 through March 5. The poll, with a margin of error plus or minus 3.7 percent, claims that legislation allowing for the gun control measures is supported by majorities of Democrats and Republicans statewide.
A bill to enhance compliance with a state law that requires financial disclosures by high-level state employees and certain board or commission members will move forward, albeit with a substantial amendment.
The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend HB 150 ought to pass, as amended.
The amendment reduces the fine for non-compliance from $5,000 to $50, and requires the Attorney General to tell anyone who has failed to file that they have 30 days before the fine kicks in.
“The committee is concerned that the list of people who are required to file these statements of financial interests is too broad, and not kept up to date,” says committee member Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom.
“The committee plans to examine the requirement, the list of those who should file financial statements and how it is kept up to date over the summer and fall, which it can do without a bill in front of it. In fact, the initial data as we attempt to enforce this law should be enlightening.”