AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2017-08

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Bow, NH

February 24, 2017 

 

This week and next week the House will not be in session, due to school winter vacations, though the Senate is holding sessions and many committee hearings continue to be held.  So, business continues to be done, though we are in a bit of a pause in the House, before the deluge of bills hits the floor on March 8 & 9.  Due to the pause, and  trying to closely monitor committee actions, this bulletin is intended to provide a snapshot of where we are and what lies ahead the next few weeks.

Right to Work   So-called ‘right to work was defeated soundly on February 16th and also was indefinitely postponed. However, it is “not quite dead yet:”  Yes, you read that correctly.  The House version of so-called right to work (HB 520), is a virtual carbon copy of the Senate version decisively rejected by the House last week.  However, there does need to be one more vote on the House bill.  On either March 8 or 9, there will be a procedural vote on whether to take up HB 520 in the House.  A 2/3 margin is needed to take up the bill, so it is unlikely to rise from the dead, but opponents of anti-worker, so-called ‘right to work’ legislation will need to be vigilant and in their seats, ready to vote to defeat the motion. AFT-NH is actively engaged with our fellow labor unions and community allies to close out this ugly chapter.

It is not too late to thank those legislators who stood with us to defeat right to work. To view the list, please click here. If you click on the name of the representative, the contact information is provided.

Payroll Deduction (HB 438)  As you may already know, this proposal is a companion piece to so-called right to work, except it lacks even the flimsy veneer of ideological justification so often touted by advocates of so-called right-to-work.  It is vindictive and an undisguised assault on the financial basis of labor organizations, their member dues.  Under this legislation, no public employer will be allowed to deduct union dues from an employee’s wages, meaning the union must develop alternative means of collecting dues.  Payroll deduction is a long-standing system that is negotiated in contracts, and must be authorized by individual union members.  Yet unlike voluntary contributions to charities, apprenticeship funds, voluntary health insurance, or savings funds, all of which will continue to be allowed as voluntary deductions, union dues will be singled out and barred by law from payroll deduction.  Why such a prohibition?  To simply weaken the ability of unions to collect member dues, thereby weakening their financial foundations and ultimately, weakening the ability of labor unions to fight for their members, whether it be for better wages and benefits, workplace protections, or simply having a voice in the workplace.  In essence, time for workers to return to the good old days, before labor unions, when the employer was unchallenged and the worker, to quote Frank Zappa, had to “do as you are told, until the rights to you are sold.”

The public hearing on this bill will be held on Wednesday, March 1, in front of the House Labor Committee, beginning at 10 am in LOB 305-307.  If you are able to do so, please attend the hearing and register your opposition.  You can also send an email to the entire House Labor Committee at

HouseLaborIndustrialandRehabilitativeServices@leg.state.nh.us

Education Legislation This week yielded up a mixed bag in regards to education-related legislation.  A proposal (HB 505)  to create a new, alternative body to authorize charter schools (thereby making it even easier to establish such schools) was retained by the Education Committee, meaning it will not come to the floor of the House in 2017 but could be addressed in 2018.  That is a victory, at least in terms of delaying action.  Another bill (HB 429), to strip the judiciary of any role in determining adequate education funding, was unanimously recommended to be killed by the House Legislative Administration Committee.  Given the obvious and repeated failures of the Legislature in years past to adequately fund public education, this is a victory. 

However, legislation to create a statewide education voucher system in NH continues to move forward.  Last week, the House narrowly approved (along largely party lines) a bill (HB 647-FN) to establish a voucher system for use by parents of children with disabilities.  While we all care deeply about such children, a voucher system that removes funding from the public schools and gives it to parents to use for private and/or religious education, is simply wrong for NH, weakening the public system and providing direct aid to schools that quite often do not need to meet the same stringent requirements and thresholds of traditional public schools.  This bill now proceeds to House Finance (Division II) which will be conducting hearings on Feb. 28th and March 2nd. Stay tuned for specific actions on this bill as we determine the direction which will be taken from House Finance.

Meanwhile, in the Senate yesterday, SB 193-FN passed 13-10.  This bill would establish a statewide voucher system for all students in NH, moving millions in taxpayer funds into private and religious schools.  The impact on local communities is incalculable at this point, but these bills could easily be labeled as “Raise Your Local Property Tax” legislation.  Traditional public school facilities would still need to be maintained, programs offered, and requirements met, but the funding would decrease while taxpayer dollars flow into private and religious schools.  Needless to say, this is bad legislation, but is supported by Governor Chris Sununu as well as his new Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut.  This bill is now referred to Senate Finance. Both SB 193 and HB 647  will reappear in late March. 

There is also the so-called “Croydon” bill, SB 8-FN, which passed the Senate this week. This bill would allow a school board to contract with a private school if there is no public school in the student’s grade in its district. More diversion of tax dollars to private schools. This will proceed to Senate Finance. The topic of non-academic surveys was also addressed by the Senate in SB 43 which no student shall be required to participate in these surveys without written consent from the parent or guardian. The only exception to this would be the youth risk behavior survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, a parent could opt out on behalf of the student.

As a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition, we continue to monitor any bills affecting the NH Retirement System and your benefits. HB 413, which would require the State to pay 15% of the retirement obligation to local communities, is now in House Finance (Division I) and will have a public hearing on February 28th. This bill would provide much needed relief to local communities.

There is much else going on in Concord as we approach the “cross-over” when are bills are due to be voted on by the respective chamber and sent to the other body. We will keep you posted in those bills where there is need for immediate action. Breaking news first appears on our AFT New Hampshire page, so please have your friends, family and colleagues take a moment to like our page!

For those of you starting your February vacation, enjoy your time off and the warmer weather. Spring is around the corner.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

dley@aft-nh.org

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747