Defying Republican leaders, House votes to keep child and family law committee 

  • New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper presides over the year's first session in the House Chamber at the Statehouse, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

Monitor staff
Published: 1/4/2017 5:13:27 PM

The New Hampshire House will keep its committee focused on child and family law after its members defied Republican leaders and rejected their plan to get rid of it.

Detractors of the Children and Family Law Committee said it draws few volunteers and isn’t needed because other committees can do its work.

But Democrats successfully rallied against the change, arguing its elimination would put kids at risk as the state struggles to improve its child protection agency.

The Division for Children, Youth and Families has been under scrutiny since two toddlers under its supervision were killed by their mothers. An independent review of the agency released last month recommended sweeping changes, including strengthening the state’s neglect statute and hiring more than two dozen new social workers.

“Here we are at a time of crisis, and what are we going to do? We are going to abolish the committee that can deal with the crisis,” said Mary Beth Walz, a Bow Democrat and former chairwoman of the committee.

But Republican proponents accused Democrats of “fear mongering.”

“We are not in any way going to jeopardize our children because we don’t have a particular committee,” said Rep. Sherman Packard, a Londonderry Republican.

Just before the vote, Republican Speaker Shawn Jasper announced that he is planning to appoint a special task force to act on the DCYF report.

Still, the proposal to disband the committee failed 196-172.

Thirty-four Republicans joined almost all House Democrats to maintain the committee.

Anticipating its elimination, Jasper had not named anyone to the Children and Family Law Committee, which means he now must come up with at least a dozen members to fill it.

Few representatives listed the committee as their first, second or third choice, according to Republican Majority Leader Richard Hinch. By early Wednesday afternoon, no one had volunteered, he said.

The committee deals with changes to the state’s child custody, adoption and divorce laws. When its elimination was approved by the rules committee in December, Jasper told the Associated Press that it’s hard to fill and had become a place where people raise personal grievances with the system, creating a tense and ineffective work environment.

The committee was drawn unfavorably into the spotlight last year when one of its members, former representative Kyle Tasker, was arrested and accused of soliciting sex from a 14-year-old girl.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)




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