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August 09. 2014 8:39PM

Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Banner year for victims' advocates

THE 2014 LEGISLATIVE session was a great year for victims' advocates as a number of significant bills made their way into law.

Victim advocates, along with victims, law enforcement, elected officials from both parties and other advocacy groups will celebrate their accomplishments on Tuesday.

"This has been an unprecedented year in terms of the amount of victims' protection bills passed, and we're proud that New Hampshire continues to be a leader on these issues," said Amanda Grady Sexton, New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Director of Public Policy. "We are grateful to the Legislature and Gov. Hassan for continuing to be tremendous leaders on behalf of victims and their children in the Granite State."

New Hampshire has been seen as a leader of victim protection, but had fallen behind other states, she said. "Not only did we catch up, we passed some of the strongest protections in the nation right now."

The bill that generated the greatest interest and media coverage was Senate Bill 318, or Joshua's Law, that establishes the crime of domestic violence.

The bill is named for Joshua Savyon, the 9-year-old boy shot and killed by his father, Muni Savyon, at a Manchester visitation center a year ago. The father, under a protective order for threatening his family, then turned the gun on himself.

Joshua's mother, Becky Ranes, who helped push the bill through the Legislature, will attend Tuesday's ceremony.

Grady Sexton noted that Tuesday will be important for Ranes, as it is the day after the one-year anniversary of her son's death.

"She is committed to ensuring this doesn't happen to any other child or (parent) in the state," Grady Sexton said. "She believes the reforms under Joshua's Law help accomplish her goal."

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, takes related assault charges and reorganizes them under the crime of "Domestic Violence."

In other matters, a bill increasing penalties for human trafficking and making it easier to convict violators was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate this year, a rarity in the New Hampshire Legislature.

Senate Bill 317 also provides victims with resources and protections they need to rebuild their lives, said Grady Sexton.

The bill goes into effect Oct. 23.

Lawmakers also made it easier for a woman to terminate the parental rights of a rapist who impregnated her.

Under current state law, a court may terminate parental rights, but only if the person is convicted of rape or pleads guilty to the charge.

Unfortunately, rape is the most underreported violent crime in America, according Grady Sexton, and in New Hampshire, only 3 percent of rapes ever result in a conviction, she said.

She noted the bill had the backing of such diverse groups as NARAL and Cornerstone Action, the Catholic Church and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as law enforcement and victim's groups like hers.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

The groups will also celebrate the passage of Senate Bill 348, which establishes a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools, and House Bill 1410, which adds household and domesticated animals to the domestic violence protection statute.

The ceremony will be held in Executive Council Chambers beginning at 11 a.m.

Lawmakers return to Concord one last time for the 2014 session Sept. 17 to act on four bills that Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed.

Hassan vetoed three House bills and one from the Senate.

The veto that has generated the most controversy is House Bill 591, which would prohibit the bullying of state employees.

The bill was a priority of the State Employees Association, which claims the practice is pervasive in state government, often citing the Corrections Department where some officers are "forced" to work up to 80 hours a week.

While Hassan expressed sympathy for the plight of state workers, she called the bill overly broad and an invitation to litigation. She also said it would both make managing agencies difficult and hurt productivity.

She was backed by private industry groups that could see similar future legislation aimed at them.

Hassan also vetoed a bill addressing a long-standing dispute between the executive and legislative branches of government.

The Legislative Budget Assistant's Office audits state agencies and divisions but is denied information the departments say is confidential or proprietary.

The issue often surfaced with the Department of Revenue Administration claiming much of the information it collects from businesses is confidential and cannot be shared.

House Bill 685 would have allowed the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee to decide disputes over information now decided by the Attorney General's Office.

The bill also would make legal and proprietary information public, Hassan claimed, which would drive up the cost of state government and open the state to more litigation.

The bill's genesis was the State Liquor Commissions' award of its estimated $200 million warehouse contract to Excel and not to long-time holder Law Warehouse of Nashua.

Law sued over the selection process, but was denied much of the material used to make the decision.

Several lawmakers siding with Law sought to make the information public, but now have to hope two-thirds of their colleagues agree with them, which they probably will not.

With the partisan breakdown of the Democratically-controlled House, Democrats do not need 90 percent of their members to sustain Hassan's vetoes but only about 55 percent.

Hassan also vetoed Senate Bill 391, which would have changed the structure of the juvenile justice system and juvenile services.

Hassan claims lawmakers reversed course after initiating a policy to combine juvenile services and justice into a single division while cutting the budget for the John E. Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester.

Hassan also vetoed a bill that would require releasing the names of lottery winners.

The prospects are not good for any of the four bills.

The State GOP spent last week challenging large labor contributions made to Hassan's re-election campaign and succeeded in making it return $33,000.

On Friday, Republicans filed a right-to-know request about filming Hassan's first television ad in the Governor's Office, claiming by law it is not to be used for electioneering.

Let's be honest, governors from both parties have filmed ads in the office, and candidates from both parties have shot plenty of ads in the State House, but when you are on a roll keep going. Right?

Not really.

Long-time observers were wondering how long Democrats would withhold fire as the GOP kept challenging contributions going back two years and questioning Hassan's ethics.

After the right-to-know request, the guns came out, and the barrage began as state Democratic Party chair Raymond Buckley first went after his GOP counterpart.

A press release from the party noted the "feigned ethical outrage from the New Hampshire Republican Party and its chairman, Jennifer Horn, who owes $92,184.67 in unpaid taxes from 2008-2009, flies in the face of Horn's years of campaign finance violations and hypocrisy."

"Nobody could possibly take Jennifer Horn or any member of the New Hampshire Republican Party seriously when it comes to their manufactured ethical outrage," said Buckley. "Between not paying her taxes and her questionable campaign finance actions, Horn's credibility on ethical questions is even worse than her record of winning elections."

Ouch.

Then, via Twitter, came reminders about past federal fines the GOP had to pay for faulty financial filings and various other misdeeds.

Republicans shot back Buckley is cranky because it has been a rough week for Democrats, and then it became even more personal with quips about Buckley's weight and GOP executive director's Matt Mowers involvement in New Jersey's "bridgegate."

The primary is four weeks away, what will the tweets be leading up to the general election?

It should be no surprise that New Hampshire's Republican national committeeman and committeewoman will play prominent roles on the national party's debate committee.

Long time former state chair and "secretary of fun" for U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential run, Steve Duprey, was named chair of the committee by party chair Reince Priebus; Juliana Bergeron will be a committee member.

Party leaders believe four years ago there were too many debates controlled by what they call the liberal media, which means the debates had too many embarrassing moments for and too much sparring between the candidates that haunted the party in the general election.

Consequently, last spring the Republican National Committee voted overwhelmingly to sanction debates as a way of gaining greater control over the nominating process.

Party officials will determine which debates will have its blessings based on the "timing, frequency and format, the media outlet and the best interests of the Republican Party."

The party also said candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates will not be allowed to participate in the sanctioned ones.

Duprey will have fun walking the fine line between what the party wants and what the candidate wants and he hinted at that in a Facebook post after he was named chair.

Duprey said "This committee will partner with media to run the debates for our candidates in the primary process with the goal of spreading the debates out over many states at well spaced intervals, but not so many as to overburden candidates, bore voters, or have vapid questioning like the 'boxers or briefs' questions that we saw in the past.

"It is our party, our nominee, and our process. I am confident we can improve the debate process. This will be a fun and challenging assignment."

Yes it will be, Steve.grayno@unionleader.com


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