Now that the House has completed action on its bills and is moving on to Senate-passed bills, it’s time to take stock of legislation that was neither approved nor killed, but tabled. Tabled bills will die at the end of the session unless revived, which at this point would take a two-thirds vote.
A bill sponsored by Democrats to revoke a school-choice education tax credit was tabled, even though Republican supporters of the program came braced for battle and draped in the yellow scarfs of the school-choice movement.
This was a fight that Democrats apparently did not want to have, as the March 19 vote to table the bill, 332-19, was one of the most lopsided votes of the session so far.
“House Democrats firmly believe public money should be used only for public schools. However, given that some Granite State students have come to rely on this tax credit, we want to make sure we identify the best way to move forward before passing new legislation,” said Majority Leader Rep. Doug Ley, Jaffrey.
HB 632, sponsored by Rep. Joelle Martin, D-Milford, would have ended the program that allows businesses to take a credit against their business taxes for donations to a fund that provides scholarships to private schools for low-income students.
The scholarship fund has never come close to attracting the $5 million a year in tax credits the law currently allows. The state has only issued credits worth $1.4 million since the program started in 2014, and has assisted 600 students in that time.
The Democrat-controlled Senate also had a bill that would have watered down the tax credit program, according to critics, by lowering the cap on tax credits to $3 million.
That bill, SB 318, was tabled on March 28, much to the chagrin of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse, who criticized Democrats for tabling a bill to which he is opposed. Eight of the 10 Republicans in the Senate voted against the tabling motion.
“New Hampshire has one of the best K-12 education systems in the country, but we need to continue to provide alternative educational opportunities for children who benefit from school choice,” Morse said. “Voting this legislation inexpedient to legislate would have been better, but our Democratic colleagues again tabled the bill rather than debate and take a tough vote.”
State Rep. Cassandra Levesque, D-Barrington, has attracted national attention for her effort to raise the marriage age in New Hampshire — something the 19-year-old has been working on for the past three years.
Before being elected to the state Legislature in November, she succeeded in getting legislation passed that raised the marriage age from 13 for girls and 14 to boys up to 16 for both, in 2018.
She’d originally hoped to see the marriage age set at 18, and persisted in that goal with HB 378, filed at the start of the current session.
But that bill was tabled in a 251-99 vote on March 19. Levesque emerged disappointed but as determined as ever. She said the tabling motion came as no surprise, as it was discussed in a meeting of Democratic reps before the vote.
“They were concerned that a lot of the same arguments would come back, so they wanted to make sure the bill is strong and that we have every aspect of every argument against it countered,” she said. “The bill will be stronger next time and I’m definitely not giving up.”
Circumstances affecting young military brides and the impact of a new marriage age on existing laws are among the issues cited by opponents.
“We just passed legislation last session regarding marriages under age 18. That legislation had only been in effect for a little over two months, so we thought it important to see the effect of that legislation before making another change,” Ley said.
The Executive Council will hold a public pardon hearing on Wednesday at noon for Alain Ata, owner of Ataboys Auto Service in Manchester.
Ata immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon with his family as a boy in the 1990s, but ran afoul of the law in his teens. He was arrested in 2004 on burglary and conspiracy charges, plead guilty and spent more than two years in jail.
Now he’s facing deportation to Lebanon unless he gets a pardon from the governor and council.
Ata holds an employment authorization card and driver’s license that has to be renewed annually because of his immigration status and criminal convictions. The rest of his family have become U.S. citizens.
The motion to schedule the hearing passed in a 3-2 vote at the March 27 council meeting, with councilors Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, and Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, opposed.
Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, made the motion to hold the hearing and was supported by Democrats Andru Volinsky of Concord and Mike Cryans of Hanover.