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Capital Beat

State House Live: N.H. House passes bill requiring third-party groups to disclose political spending

4:56 p.m.: After a lengthy debate on free speech and political spending, the House passed a bill that will require third-party groups to disclose political spending.

“There is not one word (in this bill) that makes any attempt to regulate what anybody can say,” Rep. Shawn Jasper, a Hudson Republican, said.

This bill was an amendment from an earlier version that passed the Senate, meaning it will now go back to the Senate which can accept or defeat the amendment or ask for a committee of conference.

There was significant confusion over what the bill does and whether it will limit people’s rights to free political speech. The bill requires all groups, defined as two or more individuals, advocating for the passage or defeat of an issue (such as abortion or the death penalty) must file reports with the Secretary of State’s office that disclose how the money is being spent. Non-profit groups that spend on issue advocacy are not required to disclose their donors, and this bill does not change that.

Opponents of the bill, however, said it’s language was too vague and that it could have the effect of silencing political speech.

Proponents noted that neither the Secretary of State nor the Attorney General’s office took issue with the bill. The Coalition for Open Democracy and other groups advocating for campaign finance reform have been working on this bill for nearly two years.

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2:38 p.m.: A paycheck equity bill championed by Democratic House Speaker Terie Norelli and Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen is headed to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk.

House members passed this afternoon by a vote of 233-103, and senators passed it 23-0 earlier this session. The bill bans employers from discriminating against employees for discussing their wages and extends the time period for people to bring complaints against their employers to three years after discovering the pay violation.

Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, stepped down from the speaker’s chair to speak briefly and vote on the bill.

“In order to make progress, we must give women the tools to seek justice and we must promote a climate in which discrimination is no longer tolerated,” Norelli said. She encouraged House members to support the bill because “New Hampshire has always been a leader when it comes to all aspects of equality.”

Before passing the bill, House members rejected an amendment by the Criminal Justice Committee that would’ve reduced the complaint period from 3 to 1 years. Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, spoke in favor of that amendment, but no representatives spoke against the underlying bill.

Rep. Shannon Chandley, an Amherst Democrat, urged all House members to think about the women in their lives when voting on the bill.

“We must not become complacent because we no longer feel the necessity to advocate for ourselves or because we think that the battle has been won,” she said. “It is imperative that we recognize the urgency with which we must address the wage gap.”

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2:08 p.m.: House members voted 226-110 this afternoon to send a repeal of the death penalty back to the Senate.

The House overwhelmingly passed the repeal bill earlier this year, but senator’s tabled it after they were unable to break a 12-12 tie. Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee voted last week to try passing repeal again by tacking it onto a Senate bill clarifying the definition of the crime of burglary.

Senators have three options: Accept the amended bill, reject it, or ask for a committee of conference.

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Today is the House of Representatives last session day. Bills on the calendar include creating buffer zones around abortion clinics, changing disclosure requirements for spending by political groups, regulations for the siting of energy facilities, creating a fix to the Medicaid Enhancement Tax and an attempt to tack death penalty repeal onto a bill about burglaries.

After today, House and Senate members will form Committees of Conference to hammer out differences on bills which both chambers want but can’t agree on the details.

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