I first noticed a near avalanche of emails coming to my state email account right after a Florida jury had found Casey Anthony innocent of murder in the death in 2008 of Caylee, her 2-year old daughter.
All Senators were getting the emails and all were coming from people residing in their districts. Given that the text of each email read exactly the same, the generation of the emails was clearly very well organized and possibly professionally managed.
It doesn't matter how these concerned constituents communicate; the key is that they were personally in touch with their Senators.
The plea of the email senders was for the legislature to pass Caylee's law. As proposed, the law would make it a felony for a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver to not notify law enforcement of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, so proper steps can be taken to find that child before it is too late.
Senator David Boutin (Hooksett) will introduce the bill in October and, at his invitation, I have agreed to be a co-sponsor.
Tying legislation to crime victims or others who seem unprotected under current law is rare but occurs from time to time. Earlier this year, the legislature passed a bill (House Bill 147) which expands the state death penalty to burglars who commit murder during their crimes. The legislature was acting in the response to the murder of the woman in Mont Vernon, Kimberly Cates, who was brutally killed during the night of October 4, 2009.
Speaker of the House, William OBrien, lives in Mont Vernon and named his death penalty bill after Kimberly Cates. He tied the new legislation to the fact that Kimberly Cates was killed when murderers invaded the Cates's home. Bill sponsors believed that the crime deserved a more severe penalty than was on the books at the time. The Kimberly Cates bill easily passed the House and Senate and the governor signed it. It went into effect on July 1.
Since I have been in the legislature there have been other bills which have been tied to a person adversely affected in the absence of a particular law. Some will remember Jessicas Law which was passed in 2002. Jessica was a Milford woman killed when a sheet of ice flew off a trailer truck and struck her car.
Jessica's law requires drivers and tractor trailer operators to clear snow and ice from their vehicles before driving. While it is hard to think about snow and ice on I-89 in the winter on these beautiful summer days, all of us have seen too many trucks, and cars too, traveling up and down the highway with bits and pieces and sometimes sheets of snow and ice flying off and endangering others.
Connor's Law was passed in 2009 to require that New Hampshire health insurance plans offer coverage for testing, medications and services related to autism spectrum disorder. This was controversial legislation, given that it was a mandate on insurance companies and the costs uncertain, but was passed to address a growing health care challenge.
I felt most connected to Michelle's Law which passed in 2006. Michelle was a Plymouth State University College student who was diagnosed with cancer. The only way her insurance would pay for her health care was if she stayed in college which was nearly impossible given the severity of her disease. Michelle died of her cancer.
Michelle's mother carried the fight to Concord to secure passage of a law that requires insurance plans to continue coverage for up to one year for students granted a medically necessary leave of absence. Without the law, as Michelle and her family found out, to be covered she had to be a full-time student and a full-time patient.
No one who was in the legislature in 2006 will forget the valiant, and successful, battle by Michelle's mother.
The House has already closed the window for their members to introduce legislation for the 2012 session that begins in January. The first day for Senators to introduce new legislation is October 10 and the final day for bill introductions is October 21. Senators sponsoring legislation will have until November to sign off or approve the text of the bills they are introducing.
One of the major bills introduced, you can be assured, will be one for Caylee's law.
The Old Home Days season continued last weekend with Unity and other towns holding their celebrations, including parades. Unity Old Home Days has been a tradition for a decade for me and it is always enjoyable to march from the fire house to the school. The parade pauses at the school and then march back on to the fire house.
Given all the other comments legislators receive about the budget, it was good to have Unity residents go out of their way to say thank you for the inclusion in the budget of the states share of principal costs of over $2 million for their new school. It could have gone the other way and the money left out of the budget. Instead Unity is the last school district to be included in the old school building aid plan that ended on June 30, 2010.
A study committee will be looking into a new strategy for restoring the school building aid program down the road.
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