AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-18

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May 10, 2018 - Bow, NH

Today marked the end of the long 2017-18 saga of SB 193, the proposal to establish Education Savings Accounts as a means of funneling public education money to those choosing to attend private schools or home-schooling.  After eighteen months and innumerable twists and turns, the end came quickly in the NH House.  Having consigned SB 193 to interim study by the Finance Committee for the remainder of the 2018 session, the House now faced the early Senate version of SB 193, attached as an amendment to another House bill on an unrelated subject. 

Very quickly, the bill containing the Senate’s early version of SB 193 came before the House this morning.  By an extremely narrow margin, 170-165, the House rejected the Republican majority motion to join with the Senate in a Committee of Conference to try to salvage something from the saga of SB 193.  Immediately after, the House then voted 180-163 to “non concur” with the Senate on the amended bill (HB 1636) effectively killing it and its amendment (the original SB 193) for the session.  And so it has ended.  SB 193 will be studied by Finance this summer in an attempt to somehow come up with a version that shovels public funds to private schools but which somehow does not add costs the State or local property taxpayers.  It will be a difficult task.  In the meantime, the issue is dead, at least until 2019.

How did this happen?  To begin, Democrats in the House voted in unison to defeat the Senate-resurrected version of SB 193.  The key votes, however, came from Republican legislators who refused to be cowed by the governor or their own party leadership.  In an odd reversal of the usual stereotypes, Democrats in this debate were the party of fiscal probity and prudence, while Republicans were the profligate free-spenders, ready to simply pass up to $266 million in costs (yes, that is a quarter of a billion dollars) onto local property taxpayers over the next dozen years.  For a small band of Republicans, that was simply unacceptable, and they deserve to be named and thanked for their political courage.  The author of this bulletin, and many of its readers may agree with these House members on only rare occasions but if any of them represent you, please send them a thank you note.  One represents my hometown, and I will send him a thank-you—it is deserved. 

Neal Kurk (Weare)                 Jim Grenier (Lempster)                     Richard Barry (Merrimack)

Phil Bean (Hampton)             Jim Belanger (Hollis)                         Karel Crawford (Ctr. Harbor)

Stephen Darrow (Grafton)     Robert Elliott (Salem)                        Carolyn Gargasz (Hollis)

Joe Guthrie (Hampstead)       Bonnie Ham (No. Woodstock)           Tom LaWare (Charlestown)

Don LeBrun (Nashua)            Mariellen MacKay (Nashua)             Bill Marsh (Wolfeboro)

Mike McCarthy (Nashua)      Troy Merner (Lancaster)                    David Pierce (Goffstown)

Herb Richardson (Lancaster) Skip Rollins (Newport)                      Matthew Scruton (Rochester)

Frank Sterling (Jaffrey)         Robert Theberge (Berlin)                   Jim Webb (Derry)

Brenda Willis (Derry)                        Dan Wolf (Newbury)

 

Once HB 1636 was consigned to the dustbin, the remainder of the day went quickly and quietly but there were a few notable moments.  The House agreed with the Senate on HB1756, providing a $500 one-time payment to some NH public retirees.  It is a pittance compared to the need for a long overdue COLA increase for retirees, but a victory is a victory, and anything that puts a little more money into the hands of deserving retirees is a good thing.  The House also kept HB 1415 alive, agreeing to a Committee of Conference with the Senate.  HB 1415, you may recall, would provide a death benefit to survivors of educational personnel killed in the line of duty.  It sailed through the House but the Senate replaced the death benefit with an appropriation of $10 million for enhancing school safety and security.  The bill is still alive, and there is a chance that the Committee of Conference will restore the death benefit provisions to the bill, as a mark of respect and sympathy for any future education personnel who fall victim to violence in a school.  Lastly, the House voted for a Committee of Conference on SB 318, the bill to expand youth work hours and severely limit the protections and enforcement capacities of the Department of Labor.  The House scaled back the Senate’s broad assault on the Department of Labor, but the Senate remains unsatisfied, so the bill now goes to a Committee of Conference.  Let’s hope they agree to disagree and thereby kill the entire awful bill.  That would be a fitting end to the 2017-18 legislative session!

I close with heartfelt thanks to all who wrote, called, or spoke with their representatives over the past few weeks in regards to SB 193 in all its iterations.  Let me assure you, your work made the difference.  Thank you to all the labor organizations who helped in this fight, thank you to the School Board Association and the School Superintendents, thank you to the activists in all the various groups dedicated to public education, good government, and promoting and protecting the ordinary people of New Hampshire.  Thank you so much.   

     

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

dley@aft-nh.org

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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