AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2017-05

Share This

Bow, NH-February 3, 2017 

The NH House met in session yesterday and among its actions, rejected proposals to repeal the education tax credit enacted back in 2012.  This credit allows businesses to reduce their business taxes by donating money to a scholarship fund that provides awards to NH students attending private schools (including religious schools).  In other words, public tax revenues which could be used for public education are reduced so as to benefit students attending private schools.  Further, the groups administering the program are permitted to skim approximately 10% off the top for “administrative costs,” meaning the more scholarship money they raise, the more profit they earn.  A nice deal.

Defeat Right to Work

So-called “right to work” is now scheduled for its hearing before the Labor Committee on Wednesday, February 8, starting at 10 am in Reps Hall in the State House.  The hearing will likely last for a number of hours, including a lunch recess, after which it has already been announced that the Labor Committee must vote on the proposed legislation.  Why the rush?  It appears that backers of so-called “right to work” want to bring the legislation to the floor of the House on February 16, thereby forcing the committee to act precipitously.  So, mark those two dates:

            February 8:  Labor Committee public hearing and vote on “right to work”—10 am,  Representatives Hall, State House, Concord NH

            February 16:  expected House debate and vote on “right to work” to occur that morning.

 

If you can attend the hearing on February 8, please come and testify, sign in with your opposition or at least be part of what is expected to be a crowd of hundreds opposing right to work.  If you can attend, please email me at dley@aft-nh.org or Terri Donovan at terridd@metroast.net, so we can connect you to organizers preparing for the hearing.  If you cannot attend (and most people DO have to work), please consider writing an email to your State Representative, since we are closing in on the vote.  These personal notes can make a difference! To find your State Representative, please visit Find My State Representative.  Be sure to include your name and address so they know you are a constituent (believe me, it matters).  Tell them why they should OPPOSE “right to work”:

            -encourages free-loaders, who get full benefits at no cost

            -weakens labor unions, the most potent force for worker rights and for improving wages and benefits.

            -the NH economy is doing well, and unemployment is at record lows so how will “right to work” somehow create more jobs?

            -young people are fleeing NH in record numbers, so why pass legislation that will only further reduce wages and make NH even less appealing to young people trying to get established?

            -let’s try to address the real problems facing NH, like high energy prices and crumbling infrastructure—that’s how you bring new jobs into NH, not by attacking organized labor, the strongest voice for working                           people!

Put it in your words, and don’t hesitate to look at the AFT-NH website at Defeat Right To Work for more ideas regarding so-called “right to work”  Even if you think you know how your representative(s) will vote, write             them anyways—let them know you are watching, and you will vote in 2018!

In addition, a dangerous sleeper bill that has yet to be scheduled for a hearing is HB 438, which would make it illegal for any public employer to collect voluntary union dues deductions. Yes, that’s right. Union dues would be treated differently than dozens of other kinds of payroll deductions and we could no longer have dues taken voluntarily from our paychecks. You can see what the anti-union crowd is trying to do—make it next to impossible to function as a union. We will need significant member action when this bill is marked for public hearing.

 

Public education has been front and center in Concord.

First, we still have a need for action in regards to Frank Edelblut’s nomination as NH Commissioner of Education.  After a 6-hour hearing on Wednesday, in which Edelblut tried to sidestep his lack of experience and knowledge on educational matters by insisting the position is merely managerial and has no policy power (a claim contradicted by all those testifying in favor of Edelblut), the Executive Council delayed voting on the nomination for some two weeks.  Two members of the Executive Council, Russell Prescott and Joe Kenney, have indicated support for Edelblut but should still be pressed by constituents to explain their position.  If you live in their districts which you can check here at Councilors Kenney and Prescott, please write or call them, tell them Edelblut may be articulate, passionate, and an accomplished businessman, but his total lack of experience in regards to education makes him an inappropriate choice for Commissioner of Education.  You don’t hire a history teacher like me to head the NH Medical Association, and you don’t hire an engineer to head the State Police, so why hire an accountant and businessman to run the NH Department of Education?  For more ideas, please look at AFT-NH’s “lesson plan” on Frank Edelblut, at AFT-NH Lesson Plan on Frank Edelblut.

 

A full-blown school voucher bill has appeared in the form of SB 193 couched in the tricky bill title of “Freedom Savings Accounts” Simply put,  this means that 90% of the state adequacy aid  can be placed into an account to follow the child out of the public school and the money can be turned over to a private school and even home-schoolers. This would cause a severe funding crisis  and a shift of public dollars out of our public education system. A hearing will be held before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, February 7th at 10:30am. AFT-NH strongly opposes this bill.  

Finally, there were House hearings on three interesting bills this week.  HB644 would boost state revenues by taxing capital gains (mostly earned by the top 1% in NH) and exempting lower-income earners through improved exemptions.  Nearly half of the expected $110 million in new revenue would go to funding municipal and school district retirement costs, thereby reducing local property tax burdens.  The second bill, HB597, would adjust and improve current school aid formula, so as to increase school funding for schools with concentrations of economically disadvantaged and at-risk students.  Put forward by my colleague, Richard Ames, both these bills would significantly improve education funding in NH and reduce the heavy tax burdens imposed on those least able to pay.  The third bill, HB628, had its hearing in front of the Labor Committee, and would create a voluntary fund by which employees could pay a small portion of their salary (approximately one-half of one percent) into a fund administered by a state agency, and in turn, would have access to paid family and medical leave when the need arises.  Think of it as a low-cost insurance plan for those unexpected and expected times when personal and family needs require you to be at home, but you can’t be there because you cannot take time off and not be paid off.  It is an innovative solution to a very real problem in NH and fully deserves our support as improving our economy and strengthening families in our state. 

So, we have our work cut out for us. PLEASE, contact your State Representatives and urge them to vote against “right to work”. We have been able to defeat these actions before but only if our members engage and take action. Please, if you live in their districts, urge Councilors Kenney and Prescott to reject Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education.  We don’t have much time—please act!!  See you on Wednesday in Concord!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

dley@aft-nh.org

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747