The New Hampshire State Legislature had “crossover day” on Friday, April 9, marking a number of House of Representatives bills moving over to the Senate that would have a direct impact on college students and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) community – here’s what you need to know.
Crossover is the day when both the House and Senate have the deadline to act on all their bills that have been introduced, at which point they ‘crossover’ to the opposite governing body. Bills that don’t make the cut need a two-thirds majority vote to be resurrected.
The first among bills that would impact college students is HB319, which would require students to complete a civics test as a part of their diploma requirements. The decision was made by a single vote and would coincide with a previously passed bill that would require the same of high school students before they graduate – completing the test once in high school would make college students exempt from taking it again.
Opinion among HB319 was divided, with some legislators feeling it would trivialize civics knowledge and turn out-of-state students away from New Hampshire universities, while supporters of the bill believed it would raise the value of a diploma and help create a stronger knowledge base among students.
According to WMUR, Rep. Michael Moffet (R-Loudon), the bill’s sponsor, said to other legislators “if you’re comfortable with – well, I hate to say it – ignorant, low-information college graduates,” that don’t know their state reps – to not vote for the bill.
Several bills were also passed in New Hampshire to increase restrictions on absentee voting after last year’s election where absentee voting was at an all-time high amidst the pandemic. UNH offered unique absentee voting opportunities last fall for the 2020 General Election to both encourage students to get out their vote and keep the campus and surrounding community safe.
House Bill 292 would require students to provide a copy of photo ID with their absentee ballot in the future if the address they want it sent to doesn’t match their address or domicile on file.
House Bill 593 would require individuals who vote in-person to have their photo taken at the polls if they don’t have photo ID.
Both bills were reportedly passed with intent to be non-intrusive ways of ensuring people are who they say they are when voting, according to WMUR. Those opposed to the bill argued it could still make it harder to vote for elderly or disabled New Hampshire residents.
After so many claims of last year’s Presidential Election being falsified and alleged voter fraud, the New Hampshire Legislature saw an extremely high number of voter protection bills in addition to the two above. Politico reported shortly after the election in November 2020 that as many as 70% of Republicans polled didn’t think the election was “free and fair.”
House Bill 625 prohibits abortion in the state of New Hampshire after 24 weeks. In the past, Gov. Chris Sununu has said he is pro-choice and supports the decision of Roe v. Wade. If the Senate were to pass this bill, New Hampshire will be waiting to see if he upholds that belief.
House Bill 544 has sparked plenty of controversy over the last few months. The bill’s basic description, “an act relative to the propagation of divisive concepts,” would prohibit topics like systemic racism or sexism from being taught in job training or in public education. It would limit and essentially remove the means of public discourse regarding these important, modern issues such as systemic racism in New Hampshire. HB544 is among the most viewed of New Hampshire’s bills in process.
Jeff Feingold wrote for New Hampshire Business Review that almost 80 New Hampshire businesses have openly opposed the bill as of the beginning of April. These businesses wrote a letter to Sununu and fellow legislators which said it would have “a chilling impact on our workplaces and on the business climate in New Hampshire.”
Dan Weeks wrote an article describing the bill’s potential negative effect on New Hampshire and United States history – going against the fabric of the “Live Free” state’s very being.
These bills have all passed in the House and have now crossed over to the Senate for further review.
Photo courtesy of the New Hampshire General Court.