AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-19

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Legislative Session Wrap-Up

June 1, 2018 - Bow, NH


In just over three hours it was over.  Some legislative sessions end in high drama.  The 2018 legislative session ended on Wednesday, May 23 with barely a whimper or ripple, at least in regards to legislation of direct concern to AFT-NH.  Of course, after all the drama surrounding SB 193, the “whack a mole” so-called voucher bill that had seemingly refused to die, we welcomed the quiet end to the session.

There were a few noteworthy bills that came before the Legislature on the final day as conference reports (compromises worked out between the House and Senate).  Of most direct relevance to AFT-NH was HB 1415, which retained the $10 million allocated by the Senate for school safety and security.  House conferees, however, restored the original provisions of the bill as well, providing a $100,000 death benefit to survivors of education personnel killed in the line of duty.  As noted in an earlier Bulletin, the death benefit is simply a way for the State to express its condolences to the family of an educator killed in the line of duty.  We hope the occasion never arises for such a benefit to be paid, and despite pleas from extreme fiscal conservatives, the amended bill easily passed the House and Senate and now awaits the Governor’s signature. 

Similarly easy passage awaited HB 561, adjusting the hours and benefits of NHRS retirees who return to part-time positions, as well as HB 1817, an omnibus spending bill including the recently-negotiated State employees’ contract.  Another bill, SB 84, passed only after the Senate agreed in conference to withdraw its amendment permitting employers to mandate wage payment via pay-cards, with all the risks and costs to be borne by employees.  In fact, the only negative note came with passage of SB 318, which extended youth employment hours from 30 hours per school week to as high as 48 hours per school-week.  Restaurant and fast-food employers, along with their lobbyist, were the only advocates for this bill, claiming it would help ease their difficulties in hiring workers in the currently tight labor market.  In an industry often rife with exploitation and violations of youth employment regulations, NH has opted to return young people to the 2018 version of the ‘satanic mills’ of yesteryear, passing by a party-line vote a measure that directly contradicts all the pieties uttered regarding our desperate need to build an educated and youthful workforce here in NH.  Governor Sununu is expected to sign the bill.

But let’s not end on a sour note.  Despite seemingly hostile and anti-worker majorities when the Legislature first convened in January 2017, AFT-NH and our numerous labor, community, and grass-roots activist allies succeeded in 2017-18 beyond all expectations.  So-called “right to work” failed once again (39th time), and in a series of hotly-contested votes our coalition defeated SB 193, which would have increased local property taxes and reduced public education funding in order to funnel public funds to the small number of families who choose private schools or home-schooling.   “Choice” is a great word, but in the context of vouchers and education savings accounts, “choice” in public education is code for greater inequality.  Not the NH way. 

Like so-called ‘right to work’ and SB 193, efforts to weaken organized labor by making it difficult to collect union dues or by opening public sector collective bargaining negotiations to the public all failed in the House.  Finally, while we failed to get the State to honor its obligation and promise to help pay retirement costs for municipalities, towns and school districts, we did win a small one-time additional payment for many retirees.  Public retirees have not had a cost-of-living increase in nearly 10 years, but in the current political environment, even a small one-time payment is a significant victory. 

In sum, while there were a few small gains, holding the line and not losing ground were the themes of the 2017-18 session.  We did it, so we succeeded.  Elections carry consequences, but despite the odds, we held the wolves at bay.  Thanks go to virtually all Democrats, who sustained the cause of working people and working families throughout the past two years, but thanks also need to go to the small number of Republicans who joined us on key votes, especially on so-called ‘right to work’ and on SB 193.  A big thank-you goes out to all our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, as well as our progressive and community allies who see clearly that the cause of labor is their cause as well, if one wants to address economic inequalities and all the various injustices that continue to plague our society.  So thank you to all. 

Now, with session over I hope you are all enjoying a couple of weeks of rest and respite.  But remember, candidate sign-up for the 2018 election begins in just a few days, so a new set of challenges looms.  If you want a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-economic justice, and pro-rights agenda put forward in 2019, then it is nearly time to start gearing up for the 2018 electoral campaign.  We need new majorities here in NH and I hope you all join us in the campaign that lies ahead.  Be happy and be joyful, but be steely and determined.  The hill is steep but we can and will make the climb!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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