Kevin Landrigan: NH House panel moves to beef up ban on active felons holding office
CONCORD - A key House committee endorsed beefing up state law for all future candidates for public office after embarrassing episodes of felons winning elections to the Legislature.
House Deputy Majority Leader Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, said both Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Joe Foster's office recommended the change to make it clear felons with unresolved prison terms could not serve.
The House Legislative Administration Committee met today and endorsed a proposed bill for candidates to sign under oath that they are qualified to run because they either had no convictions or if they were a felon they had received a "final discharge'' from the sentence.
The measure will now have to go through the normal process with the House Election Laws likely to be its initial destination for review.
In 2012, former AG Michael Delaney ruled Stacie Laughton, the first, openly transsexual elected to the New Hampshire Legislature, was ineligible to serve. That's because she still owed the state several thousand dollars left over from a credit card fraud conviction so her sentence was not complete.
Hinch said making this change will make state law more clearly match what had already been the state law interpretation of it.
Felony convictions again were in the news after the election of State Representative Albert "Max'' Abramson, a Seabrook Republican.
In 2012, a jury in Rockingham County Superior Court found Abramson guilty of one felony count of reckless conduct after he fired a handgun during a 2010 party at his home. He received a one-year suspended sentence, pending good behavior.
Abramson has maintained his innocence, and said he fired the gun into his backyard to break up a fight and "prevent people from getting stabbed" during a party thrown by his roommate. The prosecution argued Abramson acted recklessly because he wasn't aware who was in the area. The jury found Abramson not guilty of four other felony charges, which identified specific individuals endangered by the gunshot.
Abramson recently filed a motion to reopen the case based on new evidence.
Last week, Jasper reconsidered his assignment of Abramson to serve on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee given his criminal past.
Abramson said he wanted to serve on the panel and criticized Jasper for making the move without consulting him.