AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2017-17

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Bow, NH- May 5, 2017 

The House met in session yesterday, but what many expected to be a short session lasted until nearly late afternoon.  The primary controversies centered around the continuing saga of Representative Robert Fisher, (R-Laconia), the outed creator and frequent contributor to the anti-feminist and misogynistic discussion forum “The Red Pill.” The Governor, Speaker, and Minority Leader, among others have called for Fisher’s resignation but there he was today, voting in the House.  There were protesters outside the State House and the halls surrounding Reps Hall, while in the chamber, Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff introduced a resolution calling for a House investigation into the alleged activities of Fisher and whether he should be censured or even expelled.  This touched off a long debate, with claims of free speech countered by the reality that the House maintains the right to regulate the conduct of its members.  In the end, the resolution passed, but only after Republicans added on an investigation of a Democratic representative who used foul language in tweets some five months ago and who had since apologized.  Hardly an equivalent to someone who allegedly wrote about rape as not entirely bad, since one must always consider the pleasure taken by the rapist. 

Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten On a much more positive note, after a short debate the House passed by an overwhelming majority the bill to provide full funding for full-day kindergarten.  In other words, any town, city or district with full-day kindergarten will receive full adequacy funding from the State, rather than the current 50% funding allotted for kindergarten, regardless of whether it is full-day or half-day.  Opponents vainly argued that full-day kindergarten is too long for young children and tried to invoke a parent’s right to choose to keep her/his child in school for only a half-day.  Proponents, including House Education Committee Chair, Republican Rick Ladd, rejected these claims, citing multiple studies on the benefits of full-day kindergarten along with recognition that the lack of full-day kindergarten does NOT enhance New Hampshire’s reputation as a family-friendly state for young families.  It was a satisfying moment to have the House vote 247-116 to pass the bill (all 116 votes were Republican, with one Libertarian).  Full-day kindergarten now goes to the House Finance Committee  for a public hearing on Tuesday, May 9th at 1:30 in the Legislative Office Building, Rooms 210-211. The Finance Committee will need to deal with funding the proposal, then bring it back to the House floor within the next month or so.  Stay tuned.  

Action to Support Kindergarten   In the meantime, please reach out to members of the House Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 191-FN as amended for full funding of kindergarten. You can email the entire Finance Committee at House Finance Committee.

In other news, the House did quietly pass a bill to eliminate the sunset provision (i. e., automatic expiration) of a program to cover soft-tissue injuries suffered by first responders but not covered by worker’s compensation.  The program has helped a very small number of individuals cope with long-term organ injuries and was only opposed in the Labor Committee by the libertarian/Freedom Caucus wing of the Republican majority.  In what has become an unusual display of restraint (though actually fairly common for the Labor Committee) they chose not to debate the bill on the floor of the House and allowed it to pass unchallenged.

Croydon Bill   Off the House floor, the Education Committee delayed action on the Croydon bill, which would allow towns to use public funds to send students to private schools if no equivalent school or grades exist in town.  In essence, it is another version of vouchers, using public monies for private education, and is a proposal that has the support of Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut.  

And of course, the biggest hive of activity surrounds the Senate’s budget process, with a public hearing held this week and more work being done to pull together a budget to send over to the House.  Details are sparse at this point, but the budget is now the big piece of legislation remaining for the 2017 session. 

The House will not meet next week and perhaps not on May 18th either—the decision on when to meet next resides with the Speaker.  The days are dwindling down on the 2017 session, but I still suspect some fireworks remain.  Keep an eye on the House Committee on Legislative Administration, which will hold hearings on the Robert Fisher case on Tuesday, May 9th at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Rooms 305-307. You can email members of the committee by clicking the following link Legislative Administration Committee. The committee will then make a recommendation to the House.  Whitewash?  Reprimand?  Censure?  Expulsion?  Judging by the actions of the Republican majority today, I lean towards predicting a lenient recommendation, so as to save their colleague.  But we shall see.

Thank a Teacher   ​And let's make sure to take a moment and thank a teacher for all they do each and every day for our children. Teacher Appreciation Week begins on May 8th. This is a great opportunity to say thank you to a teacher and even a former teacher for the cherished work they do. 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

dley@aft-nh.org

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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