AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-16

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Urgent-Action Necessary

April 29, 2018 - Bow, NH

It is time to act on SB 193!  Please contact your state representative(s) by clicking this link Contact Your Representatives.  

So, the moment has arrived.  This past Wednesday, the Finance Committee took its fateful vote on SB 193, the so-called voucher bill to use education savings accounts to funnel public monies to private schools, religious schools, and home-schoolers.  The previous week, the Finance sub-committee charged with SB 193 voted 7-1 in favor of “interim study,” and on this past Wednesday, the Finance Committee as a whole followed suit.  By a 14-12 margin, with three Republicans (including long-time Finance Chair Neal Kurk) joining Democrats, the committee voted to recommend “interim study” on SB 193 as its recommendation to the entire House.  Simply put, the Committee was not able to resolve the financing issues in this bill, with costs conservatively estimated at $100 million to local districts over the next ten years.  This would be downshifting on a massive scale, not unheard of in New Hampshire, but a tactic disavowed by Republicans in general and certainly by Finance Chair, Neal Kurk.  Further, the repeated attempts to amend the policy of SB 193 made clear that even its advocates could not quite solve the policy & financing link.  Further complicating matters is passage by the House and Senate of HB 1496 requiring public schools to meet both input-based and performance-based accountability standards to be considered as providing an adequate education (currently schools need only meet one of these standards).  The result would be more schools suddenly deemed “inadequate,” thereby swelling the number of students eligible under SB 193 for public funds to attend private, religious, and home-schools.

What does this mean?  The House will hold its vote on either Wednesday, May 2 or Thursday, May 3 on SB 193. The pending motion is “Interim Study” which effectively kills SB193 for 2018.  While this author would prefer an outright defeat of SB 193, “Interim Study” will have the same effect for this year.  Given the failures to agree on policy provisions and the inability to work out who will foot the cost for funding SB 193, “Interim Study” is a logical recommendation.  This is most definitely a bill that in the parlance of the House “is not ready for prime-time.” 

Now it is time for you to act.  Please use the following link to CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE to reach out to your NH House representative(s) BEFORE Wednesday and ask them to sustain the recommendation of “Interim Study.”  SB 193 will cost taxpayers millions of dollars to subsidize those who choose private & religious schools or who choose home-schooling.  Either your taxes will increase, or your local schools will need to cut programming in order to balance budgets with less funds.  SB 193 is another in a long line of attempts to use the buzzword “choice” as a means of privatizing education and undermining public education in NH.  Our public schools rank among the highest in the nation, and public education is the ladder and pathway to success that is open to ALL children in New Hampshire.  Don’t weaken it or destroy it—use this link, Stop SB 193, to contact your representative BEFORE Wednesday and make clear that you want her/him to vote for “Interim Study” on SB 193.   

In other legislative news, SB 318 passed the House in amended form.  An amendment to remove the expansion of youth hours of employment during school narrowly failed, but the fate of the bill remains uncertain, with the Senate seeking to gut Department of Labor protective rules and the House adopting a narrower approach.  This one could go to a Committee of Conference for final resolution.  On the Senate side, HB 628, to provide for voluntary family and medical leave insurance failed on a party-line vote and was sent to Interim Study, as Governor Sununu reversed his prior support for the measure, likely due to pressure from Koch-funded right-wing lobby groups such as Americans for Prosperity. The Senate also amended two House bills of interest.  HB 1415 provided a $100,000 death benefit for survivors of education personnel killed in the line of duty. The Senate stripped that from the bill and instead passed a $10 million appropriation to enhance school security in NH. Such an appropriation is, well, appropriate, but we are disappointed the death benefit provision has been removed, since it was the only means by which the State could presently express sympathy and support in cases of school violence.  Let’s hope no such incidents occur in NH and that the lack of any benefit will not become a point of controversy and regret.  Lastly, the Senate also amended HB 1756 regarding the NH Retirement System.  Many advocates have sought a COLA increase for retirees, something they have not had for approximately ten years.  Instead, the Senate provided a one-time $500 payment to some retirees.  Better than nothing, but far from a solution to the insufficient pension benefits for most retired public employees in NH. 

This week, SB 193 and Medicaid expansion will dominate House discussion and debate.  SB 420, a second attempt to open public sector collective bargaining to the public, will also come up for a vote in the House, and the hope is that members will repeat their action of a month ago when they defeated the exact same bill in its House version.  But I close again with a plea:  Use this link, Stop SB 193, and please, contact your representative(s) and urge them to vote “Interim Study” on SB 193.  Nothing less than the future of public education is at stake!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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