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ROUNDUP: “GOP Agenda Takes a Big Hit in the House”

This year’s legislative session concluded last Thursday, and despite being in the minority, Democrats showed up in "bigger numbers" than Republicans and blocked "fundamental legs" of the NH GOP’s extreme and divisive agenda, which took "a big hit in the House" and ultimately "went down in flames.

House Democrats blocked Republican legislation that would remove local control from law enforcement, make the unaccountable and out-of-control school voucher program even more costly, and make it harder for Granite Staters to register to vote. House and Senate Democrats also successfully passed legislation that will increase affordable housing, feed hungry children, protect and enhance public safety, and expand fertility insurance coverage.

While Democrats spent this session focused on the issues Granite Staters care about, like affordable housing and childcare, lower energy costs, and reproductive freedom, the NH GOP made this session "more about the culture wars than anything of substance." Republicans "proposed draconian abortion bans, relentlessly attacked the LGBTQ+ community, made the wealthiest corporations richer and passed a multimillion dollar voucher program with no guardrails for accountability or transparency."

At a press conference before the session started, Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy said those extreme Republican bills “are a distraction, don’t help the public and are counter to ‘New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit.’” House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm and Democrats from across the state joined Senator Soucy at the press conference and made clear that while Republicans are fixated on the issues that divide us, Democrats are focused on “adequately supporting public schools and increasing the availability of affordable housing and childcare.”


  • Last month, a federal judge struck down a so-called “divisive-concepts law” passed by New Hampshire Republicans in 2021 that prescribes how teachers may instruct students about racism.

  • Also in May, Democrats in the House defeated [...] [a bill] to require public school teachers to answer parents when they ask about topics including changes to their child’s gender identity.

  • However, Republicans in the House and Senate passed on party-line votes a separate measure that expands requirements for notification of parents about sexual-education course material. [...]

  • Sen. Donna Soucy, of Manchester, the Senate Democratic leader, said in a news conference Thursday that such bills are a distraction, don’t help the public and are counter to “New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit.”

  • “The GOP agenda has become more extreme and more divisive,” she said.

  • “In four years that Republicans have held the majorities in both the House and Senate they’ve proposed draconian abortion bans, relentlessly attacked the LGBTQ+ community, made the wealthiest corporations richer and passed a multimillion dollar voucher program with no guardrails for accountability or transparency.”

  • Soucy said lawmakers should instead focus on issues like adequately supporting public schools and increasing the availability of affordable housing and childcare.

  • “That’s what we were elected to do, and that’s what Democrats will continue to do when we flip the state House and Senate this November.”

  • Another legislative session in the books and this one was more about the culture wars than anything of substance.

  • Thursday’s final day was a bit of a shocker as many of the fundamental legs of the Republicans’ neo-Libertarian agenda were ashes in a burn pile and no amount of House Speaker Sherman Packard’s ice cream could make it sweeter.

  • And truckloads of Koch Foundation money could not flip the scenario last Thursday.

  • The biggest blow to the GOP agenda was voting down the [...] expansion of the Education Freedom Account program that could have cost the state an additional $50 million to $55 million from the Education Trust Fund that provides the real state money for public education and not the Statewide Education Property Tax which simply shifts money from one pocket to the other before it is paid in the same old way with your property tax bill.

  • The three-year-old program has grown considerably and so has the cost to the trust fund, but lawmakers have been unwilling to put guardrails around it or ask for more accountability or transparency.

  • A mandated performance audit of the EFA program was stymied by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, but appears to be on track to allow the next legislature to digest its findings before deciding the program’s budget next year for the next biennium.

  • The compromise would have raised the income threshold from the current 350 percent of federal poverty to 425 percent making half the families in the state and 60 percent of the public school age students eligible for the program next year when the program was originally sold as providing alternative educational settings for students failing in the public school system from low-income families.

  • It is no secret, here or in other states with similar programs, that between 90 to 95 percent of the state outlay goes to grants to students in private and religious schools, or being homeschooled who were not in public schools when their parents applied for what amounts to a state subsidy for tuition or other costs the parents currently pay.

  • Another major loss was House Bill 1370, which would have made New Hampshire the only state in the country to require either a birth certificate or passport to register to vote if you were born in the United States or naturalization papers if a non-native citizen.

  • Opponents argued the bill would meet the same expensive fate as 2017’s Senate Bill 3, which the state Supreme Court found unconstitutional because it imposed unreasonable burdens on the right to vote.

  • And they noted the many problems with the hastily crafted compromise while supporters said it would provide more confidence in the system and fulfills the state’s obligation to ensure only qualified voters participate.

  • One of the GOP’s key issues going into the 2024 general election, immigration, also suffered a similar fate Thursday when House Bill 1292 was tabled on a 192-165 vote in the House after the Senate passed it on a partisan 14-10 vote.

  • House Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, effectively argued the bill should be tabled for the problems it creates for local law enforcement without additional money or training and would have counties facing litigation for holding federal prisoners in their correction facilities instead of those with state or local charges that they are allowed to house.

  • And she said local police will be asked to detain people on immigration retainers which lack due process, do not have warrants or oversight. “Hundreds have been held in error,” Smith said.

  • Without debate, the House again rejected a bill Thursday that would have outlawed so-called “sanctuary cities” and required local law enforcement to assist federal immigration officials. 

  • The House has defeated such legislation nearly a dozen times since 2006 and tabled similar legislation in May. 

  • Police chiefs from several New Hampshire communities disputed that, saying they alert federal officials if they arrest someone wanted on an immigration detainer. They said they opposed assisting with detainer cases when separate criminal charges are not involved. 

  • In a last-minute twist, the House held back a bill that would have imposed more stringent voter identification requirements on Election Day and required new voters to provide hard proof of their U.S. citizenship.

  • […] Democrats said there were not enough details for how the hotline would be staffed and operated, that not all polling places would have the cellular or internet service to access the hotline, and that the hotline would not help voters who were not born in New Hampshire and did not have documents stored by state agencies.

  • In a surprise move, Rep. J.R. Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican, made a motion to table HB 1370, arguing that the relatively late addition of the hotline option had been adopted without a hearing or sufficient discussion and that the bill was being rushed. That tabling motion passed, 223-141.

  • House and Senate Republicans had both expressed interest in raising the income limit for the education freedom accounts, which allow families to use state education dollars toward home school or private school expenses. 

  • [...] The vote failed, 168-185, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it.

Union Leader: Unrest in the ranks

  • This past week’s House session was a reminder to House GOP leadership not to expect the rank-and-file to roll over and magically change their minds.

  • On Thursday, House back-benchers — from both political parties — loudly signaled that they weren’t on board, rejecting numerous bills on the GOP priority agenda.

  • From education grants and anti-sanctuary city bills to changes in voter ID, Senate-backed initiatives went down in flames.

  • Packard and Co. also got bit again by the attendance bug, with House Democrats showing up in even bigger numbers this past week [...]

  • This helped derail many of these GOP priority bills.


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