With crossover now a few weeks behind us (check out our crossover report), we are nearing the final stretch of the 2023 legislative session. And, because it is spring break week for New Hampshire’s public schools, neither the Senate nor House will be in session this week. But, that does not mean that it will be a quiet week in Concord, as legislative committees will be taking testimony and/or holding executive sessions (aka when a committee votes on a bill) on a number of our issues.
Here's what is at stake this week:
- Protect Reforms to New Hampshire's Bail System: Last week the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee showed tremendous political courage when they voted to retain SB 252. While this vote makes it less likely that the legislature will roll back the state’s bail reform laws this session, which would result in the needless incarceration of thousands of Granite Staters, we are not in the clear yet. The Senate could still try to add these regressive bail changes to the state budget bill (HB 2) and/or try to amend them on to another piece of legislation. While we will continue to monitor this, we will also be back in the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday to testify in support of HB 46, which would establish a committee to study ways to strengthen the state’s bail system. Contact your Senators and urge them to support HB 46!
- Stop saddling thousands of people with felony records each year for drug possession. Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 473, which had passed the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support. This legislation would reduce first-time possession or use of controlled drugs from a class B felony to an unclassified misdemeanor and subsequent violations from a class A to a class B felony. As soon as tomorrow (4/25) the Committee could vote on the bill. Tell your senator to rein in this counterproductive and harmful approach to addressing drug use and support HB 473! Take action now!
- Rein in Government Surveillance and Police Power: It has been a few weeks since the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 624, which would require state and local law enforcement to provide public notice when they learn that a federal agency intends to conduct an immigration checkpoint. While these checkpoints have been sold to the public as focused on immigration enforcement, history has taught us what this is really about – using immigration as an excuse to expand government surveillance and policing near the border. In fact, a few years back a New Hampshire court found these checkpoints are used to circumvent the New Hampshire Constitution to go after Granite Staters for low-level drug possession. Email your Senator now and urge them to support HB 624.
- Using the state budget to fund harm. Last month the House removed two harmful provisions from HB 2, the policy side of the State’s proposed budget. Last week, the Senate Finance Committee began its work on HB 2, and we are concerned that the committee may try to reinsert these provisions into the proposed budget.
- Expanded policing and surveillance. Buried in the 200+ page original bill, under the guise of a manufactured northern border “crisis”, was a $1.4 million appropriation to establish a “Northern Border Alliance Program.” Unfortunately, history has already taught us what this is really about – using immigration as an excuse to expand government surveillance and policing near the border. A few years back, we heard similar justifications to support the use of so-called “immigration checkpoints,” which a New Hampshire court later found to be used to circumvent the New Hampshire Constitution to go Granite Staters for low-level drug possession. Email your Senator now and urge them to reject any calls to add these funds back into HB 2.
- Prison expansion. Fortunately, $40 million of the proposed $50 million “deposit” on the construction of a new prison was pulled from the House version of HB 2. This was good news, and we urge the Senate to reject any attempt to add this money back in. Since 2014, New Hampshire’s prison population has declined 35 percent and crime has decreased over 31 percent, showing that we can safely reduce our reliance on incarceration. While there are serious and horrific physical conditions of confinement that need separate and immediate action, we must not allow this to serve as justification for the construction of a possibly up to half-a-billion-dollar facility without a clear understanding of the future of incarceration in NH, including how we can continue to reduce our need for incarceration while increasing community safety. Click here to find and contact your state Senator and urge them to keep this money out of the budget.
Our legislators are accountable to the people, and your voice can make a difference. Thank you for taking action!
Want to learn more about the ACLU of New Hampshire’s 2023 legislative priorities? Check out our legislative page here.