- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire House likely won’t have a committee focused on child and family law in the upcoming session.

The House Rules committee voted Wednesday to eliminate the chamber’s Children and Family Law Committee. Any bills related to child and family issues will instead go to the committees on judiciary, criminal justice and public safety, or health and human services. The full House must approve the rule change when the session begins in January.

The change comes as New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families is under scrutiny following a number of child deaths. An independent review of DCYF from an outside group hired by the state is due to come out this month.

Democrats on the committee said eliminating the child and family law committee at this time will send a bad message to New Hampshire residents.

“At this point, we need a committee that really takes a close look at children and families and make sure we are safeguarding children and families,” Democratic Rep. Mary Jane Wallner said.

But House Speaker Shawn Jasper said the committee has been hard to fill and riddled with problems. People who come to testify before the committee and occasionally representatives who sit on it have personal grievances with the system, often creating a tense and ineffective environment, Jasper said.

He hopes that strain will be eliminated if the bills are spread out across more committees.

“This is a very personal issue for many people,” Jasper said. “It has created, in my opinion, overall a very bad situation, frankly. We’ve had meetings with people from both caucuses who just feel that nothing is getting done.”

The House will likely create a special committee to evaluate and propose legislation related to DCYF reform once the independent review comes out, Jasper said.

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