NH State Representative Tom Cormen

My votes in the NH House session
of January 3–4, 2024

In these two session days, the House took up bills from 2023 that had been retained in their committees. Committees could not decide how to report out these bills in time for a decision in 2023. Instead, they continued to work on these bills during the fall and reported them out in November. There were a total of 209 such bills. Of the 209 bills, 145 were originally on the consent calendar, but five were removed from consent by the request of at least 10 representatives and were moved to the regular calendar, which originally had 64 bills. (The consent calendar comprises bills that came out of committee with a non-controversial recommendation, and the House voice votes to approve the committee reports on all of these bills in one motion.)

Initially, it looked as though it was going to be a tough two days for the Democrats, but as it turned out, it was a mixed bag. Some of the losses really hurt, however. Discussions of some of the bills appear below the table.

Representative David Meuse, a terrific Democratic legislator from Portsmouth, has written about several of the bills on his website. I will refer to Rep. Meuse’s website for discussions of these bills.

A couple of motions appear in the table that have not appeared in my lists before. “Interim Study” means that the committee may continue working on the bill. In theory, that is. It’s really “death with dignity” for the bill. “Recommit” also sends a bill back to its committee, but in a more serious way.

Bill Motion Type of vote My vote Result of vote Notes
HB 185-FN OTPA Roll call Nay OTPA 202-172
HB 475 OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 535-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 225-FN Interim Study Voice Yea Interim Study
HB 227 ITL Voice Yea ITL ITL motion passed after Interim Study motion failed on roll call vote 182-193
HB 645-FN OTPA Division Yea OTPA 340-33
HB 113 ITL Voice Nay ITL See discussion below
HB 470-FN OTPA Roll call Yea OTPA 212-161 Discussion on Rep. Meuse’s website
SB 249-FN OTPA Division Yea OTPA 361-7 Discussion on Rep. Meuse’s website
HB 147 Table Voice Yea Table
HB 267 Table Voice Yea Table
HB 354 OTPA Roll call Nay OTPA 190-177
HB 437-FN Table Voice Yea Table
HB 439-FN Table Voice Yea Table
HB 505-FN Table Voice Yea Table
HB 553 Table Voice Yea Table
HB 577-FN-LOCAL Table Voice Yea Table
HB 628-FN ITL Roll call Nay ITL 195-178
HB 651 Table Voice Yea Table
SB 151-FN ITL Voice Nay ITL Voice vote on ITL after OTPA motion failed 183-186
SB 218-FN-A Table Voice Yea Table
HB 115 OTP Division Nay OTP 281-82
HB 116-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 345-FN ITL Roll call Nay ITL 207-170
HB 350 ITL Roll call Yea ITL 248-128
HB 447-FN OTPA Division Yea OTPA 311-62
HB 463-FN OTPA Division Yea OTPA 195-172
HB 369 Table Division Yea Table 322-54 Tabled after OTPA motion failed 186-187
HB 602-FN OTPA Division Yea OTPA 226-145
HB 559-FN Indefinitely Postpone Roll call Yea Indefinitely Postpone 201-174
HB 644-FN OTPA Division Nay OTPA 196-178
HB 468-FN-A OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 546-FN-LOCAL Table Roll call Nay Table 190-187 Tabled after ITL motion failed on roll call 186-189
HB 601-FN-LOCAL ITL Roll call Nay ITL 189-188
HB 620-FN ITL Roll call Nay ITL 188-185
SB 239-FN Interim Study Division Nay Interim Study 186-185 Deputy Speaker Stephen Smith voted to break a tie
SB 263-FN ITL Roll call Nay ITL 191-183
SB 267-FN ITL Division Nay ITL 189-188
HB 264-FN ITL Division Nay ITL 191-185
HB 368-FN ITL Division Nay ITL 190-185
HB 619-FN OTPA Roll call Nay OTPA 199-175 See discussion below
HB 283 OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 314-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 396 OTPA Roll call Nay OTPA 192-184
HB 652-FN ITL Voice Yea ITL
SB 255-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 190-FN ITL Voice Yea ITL
HB 232-FN Table Roll call Nay Table 190-182
HB 301 Table Division Yea Table 359-13
HB 313 ITL Division Yea ITL 188-184
HB 194-FN OTPA Roll call Yea OTPA 194-179
HB 434-FN ITL Voice Yea ITL
HB 166 ITL Division Yea ITL 319-53
HB 381 ITL Voice Yea ITL
HB 458 OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 609-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 631-FN ITL Roll call Nay ITL 192-180
HB 229-FN OTPA Roll call Nay OTPA 187-182
HB 375-FN Table Division Nay Table 185-179
HB 570 Table Division Nay Table 187-180
HB 121-FN ITL Roll call Nay ITL 192-176
HB 450-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 494-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
SB 112-FN OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
SB 190-FN ITL Voice Nay ITL
HB 499-FN Table Division Nay Table 200-164
HB 144-FN ITL Roll call Yea ITL 297-63
HB 512-FN ITL Roll call Yea ITL 286-69
HB 518 OTPA Voice Yea OTPA
HB 526 Recommit Division Yea Recommit 203-145 Recommitted to Committee

HB 185-FN

This bill changes just four words in the statute about shared parenting, from “frequent and continued contact” to “approximately equal.” The problem is that “approximately equal” does not always result in the best outcome for the child and can even work to keep children in domestic violence situations. Unfortunately, the bill passed.

HB 227

This bill would dictate to banks what criteria they may use when deciding on business loans, prohibiting them from considering anything other than financial metrics. Banks would be prohibited from considering, say, social impacts. The committee recommendation was to refer for Interim Study, but that motion failed 182-193 (I voted no), and then the ITL motion passed on a voice vote.

HB 645-FN

This was a difficult bill for folks to wrap their heads around. That’s because it has to do with blockchains, but is not about cryptocurrency. The best way I can describe this bill is to copy part of the majority report of the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, written by Rep. Keith Ammon (a Free-Stater with whom I occasionally agree, and this is one of those times).

The increasing use of blockchain technology has led to the emergence of new enterprises known as “Decentralized Autonomous Organizations” or “DAOs.” A DAO enables people to pursue coordinated projects using predefined rules (codified in software) deployed on public blockchain networks. In contrast to traditional legal entities, which typically involve delegation of authority to centralized management, a DAO allows participants to govern themselves directly over a decentralized computer network. Because DAOs are new, most states have not yet adopted legal entity statutes that reflect their unique structures. The bill, as amended, would clarify the legal status of DAOs by enabling DAOs to register with the Secretary of State on a public DAO registry, making New Hampshire one of the leaders in the United States in a manner that would attract positive economic activity and good jobs to our state. The bill instructs the Secretary of State to implement procedures for a DAO registry, including identifying a qualified person (such as the UNH InterOperability Lab) to serve as the technical administrator of the DAO registry. To give the Secretary of State sufficient time to perform these tasks, the bill would delay the effective date of the DAO registry until January 1, 2025.

HB 113-FN

This bill would have repealed the statewide physical fitness requirement for police officers. New Hampshire is the only state with such a requirement. The Democratic position is that law enforcement is a tough, dangerous, and physically demanding job. Indeed, it can be.

During the 30-second voting period on the OTP motion, I initially pressed the red button to vote No. Halfway through, however, I changed my mind and pressed the green button to vote Yes, voting against my party. I’ve voted against my party before, but this was the first time I’ve changed my mind during the 30-second voting period. Why did I vote to repeal the fitness requirement? Because not all police officers do physically demanding work. A good example was one of my father’s best friends, a New York City policeman named Al Piras. He was overweight and could not have run half a city block after a perpetrator. But that was not his job. His job was to work with the community to foster relations between the community and the police. It would be a shame to lose people like him from our police forces.

HB 354

This bill allows charter schools to participate in the state’s school building aid program. Although I support the Ledyard Charter School in downtown Lebanon, charter schools are managed by private boards and have no fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. We have a little under $50 million available for school building projects now, and it would take several years just to clear the projects already in the queue approved by publicly elected school boards. The bill passed on a roll call vote, where I voted No.

HB 628-FN

This bill would have required all non-public schools and education service providers that accept public funds to perform background checks on all employees and volunteers. The argument against was that most already do that. Still, it seems like a good idea to put it into statute, but the bill failed on a roll call vote.

SB 151-FN

This bill, requested by the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council, would have required that we educate children about mental health as part of the curriculum. It would not have provided diagnosis or treatment of mental health conditions. It simply would have required education. The OTP motion failed on a party-line vote, 183-186.

HB 115

This bill changes the date of the state primary election (not the presidential primary) from the second Tuesday in September to the third Tuesday in August. My party recommended to vote in favor, but I voted against changing the state primary to August because I feel that too many people will either be away or not yet engaged with politics in August. The bill passed overwhelmingly anway.

HB 345-FN and HB 350

These were the bills for ranked-choice voting (RCV). HB 345-FN was the “enabling bill,” which would allow municipalities and parties the option to use RCV. HB 350 would have required RCV statewide. For an election with a single winner, RCV is straightforward. As long as no candidate gets a majority of votes, remove the candidate with the fewest votes, and now give those votes to the next-preferred candidate on each individual ballot. For example, had New Hampshire used RCV in 2000, ballots for Ralph Nader would have eventually been counted for other candidates (probably Al Gore). In that way, you can vote for the candidate you truly want but know that your vote won’t be wasted. For elections with multiple seats available, such as many of the state representative elections in the larger towns, the procedure is quite a bit more complicated—in fact, I had trouble understanding it. I voted for HB 345-FN, since it simply allows for RCV, but against HB 350, which would have required it. Both bills failed.

HB 559-FN

This bill was Indefinitely Postponed, which means we won’t see it again this session. It would have allowed state employees to take their retirement savings with them if they leave state service before achieving vested status. The problem is that it’s hard enough to keep state workers, and encouraging them to leave state service seems like the wrong way to go.

SB 263-FN

This was the bill that would have made Medicaid Expansion permanent in New Hampshire, instead of sunsetting in seven years. It would have eliminated uncertainty for providers, but it failed on a near-party-line roll call vote.

HB 264-FN, HB 368-FN, HB 619-FN, and HB 396

These bills all have to do with the rights of transgender individuals. In each case, the House voted against the rights of transgender people. Rep. Meuse’s website discusses them, but I’ll go into them here as well.

HB 609-FN

Although the OTPA motion for this bill passed on a voice vote (voted unanimously in committee), it’s worth discussing. When an energy project is proposed, it has to pass muster of the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). That’s the committee that ultimately turned down Northern Pass in 2018. HB 609-FN is intended to streamline the site evaluation process. As introduced by Rep. Michael Vose, Chair of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee, the bill would have reduced the SEC membership to only the three members of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The original bill had several other problems. There was more public input on this bill than any other in our committee last year, very little of it in favor of the bill. We retained it in committee, and in the fall of 2023, we had a five-member subcommittee working on this bill. I was on the subcommittee because I had definite opinions about the bill. My thought was that anybody other than the PUC commissioners should be on the SEC, for two reasons. First, we hear how overburdened the PUC is, so why add more responsibility? Second, the PUC is concerned with electric and utility rates, but siting in the least expensive locations is not always the best way to go. Ultimately, I could see that I was not going to win this argument, but we did get a good compromise: the SEC would comprise the three PUC commissioners, the Commisioner of the Department of Environmental Services, and a member of the public with expertise drawn from a list of relevant areas. And a quorum could not consist of just the three PUC commissioners. We made several other good changes as well. If you’re interested in more details, please contact me and I’d be glad to discuss them with you. We were also hoping to streamline the process for existing sites, but we ran out of time. That will be future work.

HB 631-FN

This bill would have required the regulated utilities (Eversource, Unitil, and Liberty) to make available smart meter gateway devices. Nobody would be required to purchase them, and customers would purchase them on their own, so that nobody is paying for something that they don’t use. The idea is to start enabling smarter use of the grid: time-of-use pricing and even the ability of the utility to control certain appliances. We need to start making the grid smarter because with increased electrification from electric vehicles and heat pumps, we’re going to need to use the grid more efficiently.

The argument against this bill is that the utilities don’t support smart meter gateway devices, so why would someone want one? It’s a classic chicken-and-egg scenario: people don’t want smart meter gateway devices because the utilities don’t support them, and the utilities don’t support them because customers don’t have them. We need to get started, and this bill would have helped to get going. Unfortunately, it failed on a near-party-line vote.

SB 190-FN

The majority report for this bill about horse racing recommended ITL. The minority recommendation was for Interim Study, which I preferred, and so I voted against the ITL motion, which passed on a voice vote. It felt strange being one of the only voices to shout “Nay” on a voice vote.