BEDFORD, NH — The House wants to change the date and time of two of the state’s long-standing traditions in a litany of bills they acted on Thursday.
Daylight Savings Time would be a thing of the past if the Senate follows the House and approves a bill moving the state into the Atlantic Standard Time Zone.
New Hampshire’s state primary election would be in June in another bill passed by the House instead of its traditional date of the second Tuesday of September.
Republicans argued the state’s current political calendar with its September primary does not allow candidates in contested primaries enough time to entice voters to support them or to raise the necessary money to compete with their opponent in the general election.
They said the seven to eight weeks currently between the primary and general election puts some candidates at a disadvantage.
Rep. Fenton Groen, R-Rochester, noted New Hampshire is one of only four states with a primary after August and one of the latest in the nation.
The bill would give candidates from 19 to 20 weeks to campaign against his or her opponent but does not shorten the run-up to the primary, he claimed.
Groen noted 31 states hold their primaries in June or earlier.
But Rep. Paul Bergeron, D-Nashua, and the former Nashua city clerk, said the change would upend the current political calendar.
No state in New England has a primary in June or earlier because of the region’s town meeting tradition and its requirements for voting registration, he noted.
He said the primary change would conflict with other state statutes and would reduce the time third-party candidates would have to collect signatures to be placed on the ballot.
And Bergeron said seven cities in the state would have to hold special meetings to set ward lines before redistricting is done in order to meet the new deadline for a June primary.
He said the election committee has retained two bills that would allow lawmakers to continue to work on the primary date instead of passing a bill not ready to be approved.
The change passed on a 195-174 vote.
The House decided to do away with Daylight Savings Time and instead move to Atlantic Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Rep. Sallie Fellows, D-Holderness, said children will be standing in the dark waiting for the bus in December and January, and with a snowstorm, the morning commute will be even more treacherous.
“Passing this will mean you guys watching Sunday Night Football will be up past midnight on many occasions,” she said.
But Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, said studies indicate changing clocks twice a year is dangerous and highly unpopular with their constituents.
She said passing the bill may entice Congress to take a look at Daylight Savings Time which could solve most of the issues the bill addresses.
The bill passed on a 225-117 vote.
By a large margin, the House approved a bill that would curtail some of the governor’s authority during a state of emergency.
The bill would require the governor to share responsibilities with the legislature and also the Executive Council.
Under the bill, the first state of declaration would last 30 days, but after that the legislature would have to approve additional declarations as well as executive orders.
The governor would need Executive Council approval to accept grants related to the emergency, and any expenditure over $100,000 would need Fiscal Committee approval.
Rep. Peter Schmidt, D-Dover, said the bill does not fix the current situation which is what everyone wants addressed.
“What we need is a blue-ribbon committee to look at this and carefully study it to determine what the governor’s emergency authority ought to be and to what degree,” Schmidt said, “and potentially create a better process that better protects the state and its people.”
But McGuire said the bill is only the first step using what they learned from the current emergency declaration.
“This is a first step not a final decision,” she said.
The bill passed on a 328-41 vote.
The House also failed to pass a bill that would require the House and Senate to approve by a supermajority any seizure of property during a state of emergency.
The House approved a number of bills dealing with elections including overhauling the campaign finance guidelines.
On a partisan vote, the House approved a bill that would end the state’s voluntary campaign limits, which supporters said no one agrees to any longer.
The bill would also limit contributions to a candidate to $7,000, or $3,500 for the primary and $3,500 for the general election, while the current limit is $1,000 per election.
The bill would also allow up to $10,000 for an individual contribution to a political action committee, (PAC) up from $5,000.
Another bill would raise the contribution limit requiring the campaign to identify the donor from $25 to $100.
The House also approved a bill that would require city and town clerks to investigate if a voter with a similar name might have voted in two locations, and for the Division of Motor Vehicles to notify clerks if a person changes his or her address.
The Secretary of State would also have to inform clerks when the office receives a death notice.
A person seeking an absentee ballot to be sent to another address other than the one registered by the voter would have to include a photo ID in the application.
And another bill would require anyone registering to vote on election day without a photo ID to have his or her picture taken.
The House approved a bill to allow someone to carry a loaded firearm on an off-highway recreational vehicle or snowmobile.
Opponents said removing the prohibition could lead to accidental discharges and make enjoying the sport more dangerous.
They also said the change may also discourage people from using trails in the North Country negatively impacting its tourist economy.
But supporters called it a housekeeping bill simply including riding recreational vehicles in the state’s “constitutional carry” law.
They called it an oversight when the law was passed.
House Bill 334 was approved on 223-145 vote.
The House also approved a bill that would prohibit the sale of a person’s location data, which supporters said is solely needed as companies make millions selling such information.
The bills passed by the House Thursday go to the Senate.
The House meets again Friday at 9 a.m. to act on about 100 bills that need to have a vote that day to meet the crossover deadline.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.