AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-13

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March 26, 2018 - Bow, NH

The dust is now settling from the mayhem that is “crossover” in the NH Legislature, the date (March 22) by which bills from either the Senate or the House must be acted upon and if passed, sent on to the other chamber.  Both the House and Senate were in long sessions on both Wednesday and Thursday last week, but with the rush of business concluded, take a breather this week.  Instead, the focus is on upon committee hearings and then the slow grind towards May 3, the date by which each chamber must act on bills having originated on “the other side of the wall.” 

Family and Medical Leave Insurance   In the House, the most dramatic moments occurred with the series of votes on HB 628, establishing a family and medical leave insurance program here in NH.  This was the third series of votes taken on this measure, and once again, it survived and has now gone on to the Senate.  The measure establishes a voluntary insurance program administered by the State (akin to unemployment insurance) and would provide paid leave for participants in the private sector, especially directed at those not eligible for FMLA leave.  While not affecting most AFT-NH members, HB 628 is an excellent measure beneficial to working people across our state and will also help in making NH a more welcoming place of employment for young people with families.  AFT-NH supports this measure as part of the broader program to establish a ‘family friendly economy’ and help eliminate the difficult choice faced by so many today—put family first and risk my job, or keep working and risk my family? 

Most bills of concern to AFT-NH had already been acted on prior to crossover but there were legislative measures that drew our attention last week.  HB 1415, providing a death benefit to the spouse or survivors of an education employee killed in the line of duty passed the House on a voice vote, and in the wake of Parkland, nary a dissenting voice was raised.  HB 1393, ensuring payment of earned vacation days when an employee is suddenly terminated and unable to give requisite notice of a vacation request, failed in the House on a very narrow vote, holding out hope for future legislation in Concord in years to come.

Public Negotiations and Other Senate Action   In the Senate, SB 420, opening up to the public all police, fire, municipal employee, teacher and educational support staff contract negotiations, passed by a narrow 12-11 margin, with two Republican senators joining Democrats in rejecting this bad idea.  A few weeks ago, the House easily rejected a similar proposal (HB 1344) as ill-suited to furthering the resolution of contract negotiations, so it will be interesting to see what happens on a second go-round.  Bad is bad, though, so we hope the House will remain consistent and quickly reject SB 420.  The other major Senate action of concern was passage of SB 318, after a series of amendments and votes.  Having started as a bill to revamp youth employment regulations, SB 318 now resembles a less onerous version of HB 1762, the bill dubbed by some as the “Restaurant Owners Bill of Rights” and by others as “The Restoration of Child Labor and Wage Theft Act.”  HB 1762 was consigned to interim study by the House, meaning no action will be taken on it this year, but SB 318 contains some similar provisions, while dropping some of the most extreme (severe reductions in wage payment protections, maintenance of safety plans, and gutting the ability of the Department of Labor to promulgate regulations).  What remains are provisions limiting Department of Labor inspections and an expansion of youth employment hours.  Without any evidence that young people are clamoring for more hours of work, the bill expands summer work to up to 56 hours per week and up to 48 hours in short school weeks.  Apparently there is a shortage of employees to staff fast-food joints and coffee shops, so the solution is not to raise the minimum wage and draw in more employees, but instead, add to the hours young people can work.  Ah, the New Hampshire advantage!

SB 193   Lastly, no bulletin is complete without a reference to SB 193, the so-called voucher bill which uses education savings accounts to funnel public funds into private and home schooling.  The Finance Committee is now scheduled to resume work on SB 193 on April 4, with a possible division vote to occur that day.  The drama is presently all behind the scenes, as proponents of gutting public education wrangle over multiple amendments and versions of the bill, all designed to somehow reduce the State’s financial liability for this giveaway and to downshift nearly all the costs ($100 million or more over ten years) onto localities and local taxpayers.  We will be keeping you updated on SB193, but in the meantime, use this link, Reaching Higher NH Infographic on SB 193, for an excellent summary of the various proposals and amendments, none of which bode well for public education in NH. 

Retirement Update   Please be sure to read this week’s NHRSC Legislative Recap.

Thanks once again for reading, and let’s hope Spring may arrive sometime soon!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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