Bill would stiffen penalty on ‘johns’ – Sanbornton rep says Motorcycle Week, NHMS foster prostitution

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Legislature will consider legislation that would make offering to pay, agreeing to pay or paying either to engage in sexual relations or to watch a sexual performance involving a person under the age of 18 a felony carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
State Rep. Brian Gallagher, a Republican from Sanbornton who introduced the House Bill 1628, said this week that his intent is to hold the "johns," those who solicit sex, more accountable for their actions.
"This bill is really enhancing the penalties," he said.
Gallagher told The Daily Sun he believes Motorcycle Week and events at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon have been known to foster the kind of behavior he seeks to punish with an enhanced penalty.
Under the current law (RSA 645:2), which applies to prostitution, it is a misdemeanor to either solicit or perform sexual acts, or cause another to do so, "in return for consideration," as well as to pay, offer to pay or agree to pay to engage in sexual relations. Likewise, actions to further prostitution, including transporting another into or within the state, living in whole or in part from the proceeds of prostitution and permitting a place to be used for prostitution, are also misdemeanors.
The actions taken in furtherance of prostitution, but not the solicitation or performance of sexual acts themselves, are Class B felonies if they involve a person under the age of 18 or are compelled by force or intimidation. A person younger than 18 years old who solicits or engages in sexual relations is not subject to either juvenile delinquency proceedings or criminal prosecution.
At the same time, the state law (RSA 639:3) that applies to endangering the welfare of a child, makes it a Class B felony to solicit sexual activity, either engaging in sexual relations or creating a visual representation, from a child under the age of 16.
Consequently, under current law, some "johns" are charged with prostitution, a misdemeanor, and others with endangering the welfare of a child, a class B felony.
Gallagher, who worked closely with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, prepared his bill as an amendment to the statute prohibiting "trafficking in persons" (RSA 633:7). State Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) is among the co-sponsors of the bill.
Gallagher's bill would make it a Class B felony, if a "person pays, agrees to pay, or offers to pay to engage in sexual contact ... or sexual penetration ... with a person under the age of 18, or to observe a sexually explicit performance involving a person under the age of 18." The payment, agreement or offer made be made directly to the person younger than 18 or to a third party.
Gallagher said the bill aims to protect those, especially women, under 18, whom he described as "extremely vulnerable." He said his bill would punish conduct he considers "a form of human slavery."
"It is very troubling," Gallagher said. "Sometimes folks think this is far away, but "it's right here in front of us in New Hampshire and the Lakes Region and New Hampshire." He mentioned "a couple of major events" — Laconia Motorcycle Week and races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway — as "occasions where this kind of behavior has occurred and does occur," adding that "the police chiefs recognize this as a concern."
Acknowledging that the Legislature has addressed the issue in the past , Gallagher said that stiffening the penalties "will put a stronger light on the problem."

Funding Gilmanton library by petition will require 3/5 vote

GILMANTON — Selectboard Chairman Rachel Hatch said Thursday that a petitioned warrant article that would authorize the town to spend $50,000 per year over three years for operating costs for the Year Round Library will need a three-fifths majority vote for approval at the ballot session at this year’s annual Town Meeting.
Hatch said she was mistaken on Monday night when she told a group of about 50 residents who came to attend a public hearing about the  library funding proposals that if it was petitioned by a group of voters, it would only take a simple majority to pass.
“If it’s greater than $100,000 it must be treated like a bond,” said Hatch, adding that she had confirmed this with the Gilmanton town attorney.
On Monday, selectmen opted by consensus not to include the Year-Round Library in their 2016 budget proposal.
Instead, the separate article proposes to authorize the payments of $150,000 to the year-round library but to only raise and appropriate through taxation $50,000 for 2016.
Unlike previous years, town voters will be able to determine whether or not the GYRL would be able to depend on town funding for more than one year. In previous years, it was one year of operations money, usually between $40,000 and $45,000 annually or nothing.
Proponents of the petitioned warrant article say that knowing they will be able to stay open for three years allows them to plan programming into the next year without having to wait until annual Town Meeting in March to know what their funding needs are.
Opponents either don’t want the library funded though the town coffers at all or want to see supporters continue to petition the town annually for operating money, citing a promise made to them years ago by the founders that library administrators would never come to the town for operating money.
Gilmanton voters will also have a choice on this year’s ballot because there is another petitioned warrant article that would fund the Year-Round Library for one year only. If the $150,000 request passes, the vote on the other article would be null and void, meaning there is no possible way the library will be double funded.
In addition, Hatch said that voters should be aware that if the $150,000 request passes, the last two increments of $50,000 each will become part of the default budget in 2017 and 2018.
She said she personally supports the passage of Article 4 and was one of two selectmen, along with Michael Jean, who had initially supported putting it on the ballot as a warrant article that came from the board.
Selectman Don Guarino was firm in his opinion that any article on the town warrant regarding the Year-Round Library should be be petitioned by supporters and not come from the board and after considerable discussion Monday night, all three agreed it would be a petition or nothing.
All sides agree that the issue has been dividing the town for about 10 years, which is when the GYRL trustees first came to the town for operating money. A not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) private agency, the library has a board of directors whose meetings are open to the public and whose minutes are available for review.
There are two other public libraries in Gilmanton — one in the Four Corners portion of town and one in the Iron Works portion of town — but neither can open year round because of a lack of heat and plumbing. They both receive a nominal level of financial support from the town.

Potter Hill Road culvert work is nearly complete

GILFORD — Town Administrator Scott Dunn said Thursday a culvert replacement under Potter Hill Road is nearly completed after three months of having the affected section of road restricted to one lane only.
The road surface around the culvert will remain covered with a packed-gravel mixture until spring because all of the asphalts plant are closed for the winter season.
Dunn said the culvert collapsed this fall after a particular heavy rain.
“We ended up with a sinkhole,” Dunn said.
He said that the Public Works Department was aware the road itself needed some work, they were not aware the culvert was failing until it did.
He said crews from Busby and Wolcott Construction Cos. were subcontracted to fix it and the total cost will be about $100,000. Dunn said they put in a precast concrete structure, widened that area of the road and installed guard rails.