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Victims' rights amendment clears NH Senate

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau

March 22. 2018 8:54PM




CONCORD — A proposed victims’ rights amendment to the state constitution, known as Marsy’s Law, won the endorsement of the state Senate in a 20-3 vote, well within the 15-vote margin required for a constitutional amendment.

Thursday’s vote came after a lengthy debate and several unsuccessful attempts to amend the bill.

“In passing this constitutional amendment we have an opportunity to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens of our state have the protections they deserve,” said Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester.

The bill will need a three-fifths majority vote in the House of Representatives to be included on the ballot this fall. If it gets on the November ballot, voters will have to endorse the proposition by a two-thirds majority to amend the constitution.

“This decision is too profound for the 24 of us,” said Soucy to her fellow senators. “This decision should be made by the people of New Hampshire when they go to the ballot box, and they should do it by a significant majority as our constitution requires.”

The amendment would create a constitutional right for victims of crime to receive reasonable and timely notification of all proceedings in their case, to be heard at those proceedings, to be informed of the release or escape of the accused or convicted, and to be eligible for restitution.

Some changes have been made in the bill from its earlier version to address some of the concerns raised by critics.

The version that passed the Senate on Thursday removes a directive that the courts enforce victims’ rights “in a manner no less vigorous than the rights of the accused.”

The new version also requires victims to request specific rights, narrows the times at which a victim may request to be heard in court, and removes the right of a victim to refuse pre-trial discovery requests from the defendant.

“At its core, this will simply give victims a voice and a seat at the table,” said Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry.

Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, tried twice to amend the measure, and voted against it, as did Sens. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford and Kevin Avard, R-Nashua.

Gov. Chris Sununu has been an avid supporter of the constitutional initiative.

“I commend the Senate for sending Marsy’s Law to the House with such strong support, and I look forward to working with the House on this very important measure,” he said.

Tax break for ARMI

A bill aimed at promoting the development of the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute in Manchester, led by inventor Dean Kamen, passed the Senate for the second time and now moves on to the House.

The institute, with funding from the federal government, will explore the potential for regenerating human tissue and organs in the hope of creating lifelike prosthetics and organ replacements.

SB 564, approved 19-4, provides an exemption from state business taxes for businesses engaged in regenerative manufacturing, and as an incentive to attract a workforce, offers student loan repayment to employees in the industry.

“We have the opportunity to ensure that these new businesses choose New Hampshire by providing a narrowly crafted tax incentive and workforce development initiatives,” said Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.

Animal cruelty bill

The Senate also passed, for the second time, SB 569, an update to animal cruelty statutes prompted by the case of Christina Fay, a Wolfeboro woman convicted last week on 17 counts of animal cruelty for the treatment of her 75 Great Danes.

The bill creates new inspection and licensing requirements for breeders and shifts the financial burden for care of animals confiscated in a cruelty case to the owners. It now moves on to the House.

“This legislation provides for reimbursement of the costs borne by shelters or communities treating and caring for animals in cruelty cases, which can quickly to the tens of thousands of dollars,” said Bradley, the bill’s primary sponsor.

“We hope to see this legislation pass quickly in the House for the benefit of animals in this state.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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