Concord, NH - During the debate on the HB655 last week, House Republicans offered an amendment that would give the Republican House Speaker Bill O'Brien subpoena power and the ability to throw New Hampshire citizens in jail for five days. While the amendment was voted down 205 to 136, Speaker O'Brien cast just his 4th roll call vote of the entire year in favor of the overreaching amendment.
"The House Republican agenda has gone from morally reprehensible, to fiscally irresponsible, and now back again," said Harrell Kirstein press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "Even with bills that would repeal kindergarten and the state budget that has killed over 1,500 jobs, giving Speaker O'Brien the unilateral power to subpoena and imprison law abiding New Hampshire citizens might be the most reckless idea from this out of touch bunch yet."
Testimony from the floor made clear that the New Hampshire Constitution gives the power to issue and enforce subpoenas to the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Senate not to the presiding officers of either body. Additionally, New Hampshire RSA 516:7 outlines the penalty for "neglecting or refusing to appear" at the request of a subpoena "shall be guilty of a violation, and may be ordered to pay costs." It makes no mention of an individual being ordered to spend any time in prison.
Video of the debate over the reckless amendment on the House floor can be found here. It begins at the 3:18:00 mark. The full text of the amendment to HB 655 can be found below. Speaker O'Brien's roll call votes can he found here.
Amendment to HB 655
Proposed by the Committee on Ways and Means - R
Amend section 3 of the bill by replacing paragraph II with the following:
II. The committee shall have the same investigatory powers as the general court. The committee may take evidence under oath, issue subpoenas duces tecum for records, and issue subpoenas to compel testimony. A person shall have 5 business days to respond to any subpoena issued in accordance with this section. Upon approval of the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate, any person who fails to respond within the 5-day period may be fined up to $10,000 per day and may be subject to 5 days imprisonment.