AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-15

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April 23, 2018 - Bow, NH

The legislative session is drawing to its inexorable conclusion, with May 3 the final date for either the House or Senate to act on bills and either pass, kill, or amend legislation.  If a bill is amended, the other chamber must either accept the amendment, reject it and kill the bill, or ask for a committee of conference to resolve differences.  All action, including committees of conference, must be concluded by May 24, so there is not much time remaining.  Enough time, though, to still do significant damage.

HB 1415- Line of Duty Death Benefit for School Employees  This past week, we were very disappointed to see the Senate Finance Committee vote 4-2, along party lines (Republican majority) to recommend that the entire Senate defeat HB 1415, providing for a death benefit to the survivors of education personnel killed in the line of duty.  On Friday, there was another school shooting in Ocala, FL, but here in New Hampshire, there are senators who still see no reason to provide any sort of benefit to the grieving survivors of school-related violence.  We have been fortunate in not having such incidents so far in New Hampshire, but provision of a $100,000 death benefit would be, in the words of one House member, “a means by which the State could express sympathy and support” for the devastated family.  We hope the Senate as a whole will reverse this recommendation, pass the bill and administer the rebuke the four senators justly deserve.  If Governor Sununu then vetoes the bill, let him take ownership and bear any consequences.  Truly sad.

Take Action on HB 1415. To find out who is your senator, click this link Who's My Senator?

Once you determine who your Senator is, click here Senate Roster to find out how to contact them via email. Please ask them to overturn the Senate Finance Committee recommendation and pass HB 1415.

HB 1757 and 10% Reduction in Retirement  Elsewhere in the Senate, a bill tabled in the House (HB 1757) made a surprise appearance in the Senate in the form of an amendment to another bill and passed its first Senate test.  The bill concerns the NH Retirement System, wherein retirees will see a 10% reduction in pension payments upon reaching age 65, which used to be the age at which Social Security kicks in.  Many now go to 66 or 67 before full Social Security and this bill changes the age at which the reduction occurs to 67, to parallel the onset of full Social Security.  There is significant cost attached to this proposal, and it would be nice if the State would actually honor its obligation to retirees and contribute to covering that cost for local municipal, county and school employees.  It is sad that there has not been a full-scale COLA increase for retirees in nearly 10 years (do you think the cost-of-living is unchanged?), but this would at least be a start in the right direction.

House Action   In the House, the sessions have been very short the past two weeks, with largely minor legislation being voted upon and finished.  More substantive legislation, however, will come to the floor in the next two weeks, on Thursday the 26th and then on Wednesday & Thursday, May 2 & 3.  First up will be SB 318, which is described in the House Calendar’s minority description as “an ungainly amalgam of various policy initiatives, united only by the intention of weakening current labor regulations.” The worst provisions of the bill as it came from the Senate have been stripped out, but it still makes significant changes to youth employment regulations, adding hours during school and vacation weeks that 16 & 17 year-olds can work.  Similar provisions were rejected earlier this year by the House and deemed worthy of further study, and nothing new has arisen to require these added hours, other than perhaps the need for fast-food and other hospitality businesses hoping to pressure youth into working longer hours.  They might consider raising wages as alternative method of solving employment pressures, but the preference is clearly to simply work our young people longer and harder.  Soon we can return to the days of full-scale child labor—there’s the solution! SB 318 will come to the House floor on April 26.

SB 420 and Collective Bargaining in Public   During the week of April 30th, two additional bills will make their appearance.  SB 420, to open up collective bargaining sessions to the public was heard in committee two weeks ago, and this past week, was voted by the Executive Departments and Administration Committee (E D & A) as “inexpedient to legislate” by a wide margin.  It will come before the House at the start of May and we hope it meets the same fate as the original House bill (HB 1344), which went down to defeat back in March.  The idea of negotiating in public is one that a few hold onto as a good idea, but it is not policy in the private or public sector within the US and for good reason. Negotiations are complex, require honesty and at times harsh and direct language, and having to carry this out in public only makes it more likely that the end result will be mediations, fact-findings and failed negotiations, all at cost to taxpayers.  The House recognized this to be bad policy back in March, and we hope it will do so again on May 2 or May 3. 

Finally, we close with SB 193.  The Division II sub-committee of the House Finance Committee failed to adopt SB 193 in amended form this past week, and followed that with a 7-1 vote to recommend “Interim Study” to the full Finance Committee.  The full Finance Committee vote will be taken on Wednesday, April 25, and one can only imagine the arm-twisting and pressure being applied to Republican members.  The full-court press is being brought to bear by Republicans on those Republicans who either oppose privatizing public education or who recognize the major budgetary implications of the bill, implications which will lead to higher local taxes and/or reductions in public education programming.  The vote in Finance will be close and then the bill will go to the House, for final disposition on either May 2 or 3.  We will be asking all of you to contact your local legislators, regardless of party, as soon as we know the Finance Committee’s recommendation.  SB 193 has become one of the signature pieces of legislation for this 2-year session, and the number of rewrites offered indicate that the policy is still not ironed out nor have the financial issues been resolved.  If ever there was a candidate for “interim study,” it is SB 193. 

On a day when thousands of students once again walk out of classes to demand changes and an end to gun violence, let us recommit to public education and the critical role in plays in American society.  Public education not only serves as a ladder to success but it also builds the foundation for an educated and engaged citizenry, the key to active and healthy democracy.  Whether you agree or disagree with the students, commend them for acting in a peaceful, organized, and civil manner.  We are proud of our NH students and the educators and support personnel who work so hard to educate, care for, and protect the future of this State and of our country.  Thank you to all. 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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