AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-17

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Action Needed

 

May 7, 2018 - Bow, NH

If you have seen the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you must recall the early scene in the squalid, plague-stricken village.  As the cartman walks through calling on villagers to “Bring out your dead,” we see an elderly and ill man trying to get away.  “I’m not dead,” but “He will be soon, he’s very ill.”  It ends of course with the poor man knocked over the head, tossed into the cart and everyone else walking away satisfied.

SB 193 is sort of like the ill, plague-stricken man in the Holy Grail.  Twice last week, the House voted narrowly to refer the bill to interim study, essentially killing the bill but giving the Finance Committee an opportunity to study the finances of the system of education savings accounts (the end-around for trying to avoid constitutional issues tied up with vouchers).  Yet late on Thursday night, when the Senate took up its final bill for the session, Republicans attached the original version of SB 193 to another bill and sent it back to the House for consideration.  So, it lives on.

There are now essentially two versions of SB 193 in the NH House.  The first is the actual SB 193, which has been sent to the Finance Committee for interim study and future recommendations, if the finances can ever be figured out.  The problem continues to be how to funnel public money away from public schools and into the private schools and home-schooling, without forcing local property taxpayers to make up the difference (a total of at least $100 million dollars over the next dozen or so years).  The second version is now attached to an innocuous bill, HB 1636.  This version is the original version passed by the Senate in 2017, containing very few restrictions on eligibility, virtually no accountability measures, and likely costing local property taxpayers upwards of nearly $300 million over the next dozen or so years.  This is the bill which will now be the focus of attention this coming Thursday, May 10. 

The House will have three options in front of it regarding HB 1636 (the original so-called voucher bill passed by the Senate in 2017).  It can concur, it can non-concur, or it can vote to take it to a Committee of Conference with the Senate.  Proponents are likely to push for the third option, hoping to resolve all the policy and financial problems in one week that the Finance Committee could not resolve in three months!  Opponents of so-called vouchers will push to sustain the current House position, which is to engage in further study, and in the meantime vote to non-concur with the Senate and end this long debate.  What is now clear is that the advocates of funneling public monies to private schools are determined to win at any cost, regardless of the cost to taxpayers. 

Your Action Needed Now!  So, now is the time for you to act.  Please use this link Contact Your Representative to contact your representative(s) and tell them stick with the House position of Interim Study and turn away from the Senate’s shenanigans.  Vote against a Committee of Conference or a motion to concur, and instead, vote yes on ‘Non Concur” and let the House do the job it has twice voted needs to be done.  The policy implications are huge and will have a major impact on NH for years to come, so don’t simply decide it in a week’s time.  We expect more from our legislators.

Death Benefit for School Employees While debate rages on the issue of education savings accounts/vouchers, there were a few other notable actions taken at the end of the session this past week.  As noted last week, the Senate removed the death benefit for educators killed in the line of duty from HB 1415 and replaced it with an appropriation for school safety and security.  That bill is back now before the House, which could accept a Committee of Conference and push to re-insert the death benefit provision. 

NH Retirement Issues  The Senate also killed two other bills beneficial to NH retirees.  HB 1603 would have given employees a voice on the NH Retirement System Board, but it was defeated on a party-line vote (Republican majority).  Clearly, no point or desire to have employees or retirees having a voice in the system they pay into and which is their source of retirement income!  Further, the Senate also set down HB 1427 which would have aligned the reduction in NH retirement benefits with the onset of Social Security, moving the 10% reduction from age 65 to age 67.  Once again, NH shows its respect for retired public employees by continuing to slash benefits two years before most are now eligible for full Social Security.  A very sad approach to those who serve the public. Finally, the House voted to reduce certification requirements for school nurses, primarily because school districts are unable or unwilling to pay salaries high enough to attract nurses who can meet the new standards.  For the latest NH Retirement Security Coalition Recap, please click HERE.

Defeat HB 1636  The most important issue now, however, is to defeat HB 1636 Contact Your Representative—urge your representative(s) to reject a Committee of Conference and vote to non-concur with the Senate and thereby kill the bill Contact Your Representative.  Members of the House need to reject the political posturing of the Senate, and instead, adhere to their decision to study the issue further.  That is the right choice, the conservative and cautious choice, the fiscally prudent choice, and the choice that best protects the interests of NH and of local property taxpayers. 

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and we find ourselves focused on trying to defend public education here in NH. Let us all take a moment this week to thank our teachers who make a difference every single day.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

dley@aft-nh.org

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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