Legislators okay changes to NH court system

Last week the New Hampshire Senate approved the so-call “circuit court bill” sponsored by Rep. Gary Richardson (D-Hopkinton) that will revamp the state’s court system.

“The reorganization would bring lots of staffing and management changes and reductions, with an overall projected savings of almost $1.5 million in staffing costs in the next four years,” wrote Senator Bob Odell (R-Lempster) in this week’s Capital Comments. “Our state courts are going to look different in the future.  While there is no change ahead for the Supreme Court and our superior courts, the new state circuit courts will replace the current probate and district courts and the judicial branch family division.  Each county will have a circuit court.”

The bill awaits action by Governor Lynch.

Visit Front Door Politics for background info; the Daily Dispatch (posted an article before the Senate vote) that puts the bill in context.

You can read the text of the bill via E-Lobbyist, another handy site.

Senate Budget Hearings Today | Front Door Politics

Today’s Daily Dispatch from Front Door Politics reports on today’s budget hearing in Concord. Click on the link below for the entire article.

Today’s Dispatch also mentions that the House budget would abolish the Department of Cultural Resources and defund the New Hampshire State Council of the Arts.

“If passed, that would make New Hampshire the only state in the country without an arts council or commission.”

Amongst those worried about these cuts are small business owners Sue and Steve Russell of Newbury. Sue and Steve are professional potters. You can read their opinion by viewing yesterday’s Sunapee News articles.

Now, back to today’s Dispatch…

Later today, the Senate Finance committee will hear public testimony for the first time on the overall $10.3 billion biennium budget passed by the House last month. Expect a long list of speakers to line up in Representatives Hall to support or oppose the myriad proposals for revenue and spending in 2012-2013. Senate budget writers have until June 2 to complete their version of the budget, at which point the House and Senate will have to hammer out any differences.

via Senate Budget Hearings Today | Front Door Politics.

Bill Tracker Upgrade and Updates | Front Door Politics

From Front Door Politics…

Bill Tracker: tracking the laws that matter to you. Search, sort, understand.Want to know who voted for what in the N.H. House and Senate? Our 2011 Bill Tracker now includes links to all roll call votes, as well as links to the text of every bill we’ve covered so far this session.

via Bill Tracker Upgrade and Updates | Front Door Politics.

Front Door Politics delivers jargon-free, non-advocacy reporting about state government written for the general public. We provide timely and accessible information as part of our mission: to foster a robust democratic process in New Hampshire by encouraging citizen engagement with state government.

They Said It! | Front Door Politics

They Said It! Tensions are running high in Concord this session, as the following references to demons, jalapeno peppers, and a hostile press in this week’s “They Said It!” reflect.

via They Said It! | Front Door Politics.

NHPTV and Rooms & Meals Go to Vote | Front Door Politics

In what is shaping up to be the busiest period yet for lawmakers this session, the House will meet twice next week to vote on dozens of bills — on Tuesday after Gov. John Lynch’s budget address to the Legislature and on Wednesday for its regularly scheduled session.Two bills that we have reported on this session in Front Door Politics — one to cut state funding for public television and the other to cut the state’s rooms and meals tax rate – will have full House votes next week.

Read more via NHPTV and Rooms & Meals Go to Vote | Front Door Politics.

Back to Basics: Repealing Public Kindergarten | Front Door Politics

More than three years after the Legislature mandated public kindergarten in New Hampshire, the debate has returned with a House proposal that would repeal the law.

via Back to Basics: Repealing Public Kindergarten | Front Door Politics.

Testing Tax Cuts | Front Door Politics

Republican leadership at the State House has made tax cutting and budget balancing top priorities and today, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold public hearings and may have executive session votes on nine tax-related bills.

They include three measures we are watching that could lead to tens of millions in tax cuts on tobacco sales, rooms and meals and gambling winnings — but possibly make budget balancing even more difficult.

Read more via Testing Tax Cuts | Front Door Politics.

Who Pays for Planned Parenthood | Front Door Politics

For the third time since 2007, legislation has been filed to cut off all state funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which runs six health centers in New Hampshire.

Planned Parenthood logoThe House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will hold the first public hearing on House Bill 228 Tuesday. While no state or federal funds can be used for abortions — except in the case of rape, incest, or danger to mother’s health — the bill’s primary sponsor claims the state’s taxpayers are paying for them, all the same.

Read more via Who Pays for Planned Parenthood | Front Door Politics.

Constitutional debate over federal health care action | Front Door Politics

A Constitutional showdown could be on the docket if New Hampshire lawmakers pass a bill set for a full House vote. The session has been cancelled tomorrow [February 2, 2011] due to snow, so the House will likely take up the bill next Wednesday.

(Photo: N.H. Attorney General Michael Delaney refutes the Legislature’s authority to demand that he take action against “Obamacare.”)

Republican-sponsored House Bill 89, which passed out of committee on a party line vote, would require the Attorney General to join some 26 other states in a lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform act passed last year. Attorney General Michael Delaney testified last month that the proposal itself was unconstitutional because the legislative branch can make laws but not tell the executive branch how to enforce them. He promised to challenge the law in court if it passes.

Read more via the Daily Dispatch from Front Door Politics

Postponing Changes to Education Funding | Front Door Politics

A year after a similar measure failed, a House committee will likely vote Tuesday on a proposal to postpone scheduled changes to education funding for New Hampshire cities and towns. The funding formula was settled on by the Legislature in 2008. It is due to change beginning July 1.

Sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Gould R-Derry, House Bill 34 would maintain current levels of education grant funding to municipalities for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The House Education Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday in executive session and could make a recommendation to the full House about the bill at that time.

via Postponing Changes to Education Funding | Front Door Politics.

Cold Case Unit Could Become Permanent | Front Door Politics

More than 120 unsolved murders in New Hampshire stretch back over four decades. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to make the state’s temporary investigative Cold Case Unit a permanent entity.

via Cold Case Unit Could Become Permanent | Front Door Politics.

Pondering Pensions | Front Door Politics

Public employees and unions are keeping a close eye on big changes to the New Hampshire Retirement System that could be coming down the pike — and on a newly created House committee on pension reform.

When the recession hit, the state’s public employee pension system was already battered from a decade of chronic underfunding. Now, lawmakers are looking for ways to deal with more than $3 billion in unfunded liabilities for future retirees. The pension system serves over 75,000 active and retired teachers, fire fighters, police officers and public employees from more than 450 New Hampshire municipalities.

via Pondering Pensions | Front Door Politics.

Redefining “Adequacy” in Education | Front Door Politics

Less than four years after a bipartisan measure in the Legislature met the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s order to define an “adequate education,” a Litchfield lawmaker has filed a bill to change that definition. Republican Rep. Ralph Boehm, vice chair of the House Education Committee, will present House Bill 39 for a public hearing in the committee on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Among other changes, Boehm’s bill would eliminate education in the arts, world languages, health and technology as part of the adequate education requirement for school districts that was passed in 2007 as part of House Bill 927.old fashioned red schoolhouse

via Redefining “Adequacy” in Education | Front Door Politics.

Pharmaceutical Take-Back | Front Door Politics

Unused pharmaceuticals increasingly fuel addiction and environmental concerns, but two new bills could help keep New Hampshire’s excess medications off the streets and out of the water supply — while getting some of them to patients for whom costly pills are largely out of reach. Read more via the Daily Dispatch…

Snow Day: Public Hearings Rescheduled | Front Door Politics

Withdrawing state funding for public television and repealing the moratorium on school building aid are among the public hearings that were cancelled today due to the snow.

via Snow Day: Public Hearings Rescheduled | Front Door Politics.

PS: Front Door Politics posted an update on the Republican’s investigation of state Democratic Party leader Rep. Mike Brunelle. “The hearing scheduled for Jan. 13 has been indefinitely postponed. A special hearing is now scheduled for Jan. 27, at which legal experts will be consulted to determine the validity of the Republicans’ case against Brunelle.” Read more via the Daily Dispatch…

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