This is a big week for civil liberties in New Hampshire, with major votes to advance harm reduction policy, strengthen bail reform, and rein in police abuse and power. The Senate will have both committee and floor votes this week while the House will just be taking committee votes.
Here are the specifics:
- Marijuana legalization: HB 639, which would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults, will have its Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Tuesday and will likely be on the Senate floor on Thursday. While far from perfect, this bill would end the needless ensnarement of thousands of people -- disproportionately Black people -- in NH’s criminal justice system every year. Take action now - urge your Senator to support HB 639!
- Expand New Hampshire’s Harm Reduction Strategy: On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on HB 287, which would remove drug testing equipment, including fentanyl test strips, from the definition of drug paraphernalia. Under current law, the possession with intent to distribute lifesaving drug testing equipment is an unclassified misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,000. Drug testing kits are a data-driven approach to saving lives and reducing harm in New Hampshire. Email your state Senator and urge them to support this legislation!
- Protect Reforms to New Hampshire's Bail System: This Thursday the Senate will vote on HB 46, would establish a committee to study the use of court magistrates throughout the state court system to supplement or replace the current bail commissioner positions. This is an important bill because one of the main arguments raised by those seeking to roll back bail reform centers around the fact that bail commissioners, who are not trained judges, make the initial bail determination and release people who pose a danger to the community. But, there has been no data provided to show that this is in fact happening, particularly on a scale that would warrant major revisions to the bail statute. If this is a true concern of bail reform opponents, then HB 46 would create an opportunity to study the bail commissioner system and the potential benefits of replacing bail commissioners with magistrate judges. This legislation enjoys broad bi-partisan support. Contact your Senators and urge them to support HB 46!
- Stop saddling thousands of people with felony records each year for drug possession. This Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote 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. 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: This Thursday the Senate will vote 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.
- Don’t further erode trust between our communities and law enforcement: This Wednesday the House Municipal and County Government Committee will vote on SB 132, a discriminatory and harmful bill that would force our local New Hampshire police to do ICE's bidding. It would necessitate that police engage in federal immigration enforcement, including aiding in the detention of individuals who the federal government is looking to detain. Immigration detainers are not signed by a judge, do not go through due process, and are not related to criminal activity. Immigration detainer requests are when DHS asks local law enforcement to lock up a person without a warrant or judicial approval, merely based on the say-so of one DHS agent. That’s right – if passed, this law would require NH law enforcement to cage people without any due process. When local police detain individuals simply due to their alleged undocumented status, they create an environment where these individuals—including victims of domestic violence—are afraid to call for help and report crimes. This makes our communities less safe. Take action now!
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.