AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2019-02

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February 11, 2019 ~ Bow, NH

Guns, guns, guns.  Do you think guns ought to be permitted in schools?  Do you believe school districts should be permitted to set policies on the carrying of firearms on school properties?  Or do you believe the State should simply bar firearms from school properties in NH?  These are questions that matter, and the House Education Committee will be holding hearings on two bills concerning firearms in school this coming Wednesday morning, February 13, starting at 9am.  If you would like to testify regarding this issue, you can simply come to the Legislative Office Building in Concord, Rooms 210-211, for hearings at 9am (HB 101) and/or 10am (HB 564).  You can also email the committee members and express your views regarding regulation of firearms in NH schools—simply write them at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.  Let your voice be heard!

Retiree COLA Elsewhere in the Legislature, a number of House committees will be holding votes on key bills this coming week, determining what recommendations will accompany the bills when they reach the floor of the House.  On Tuesday, HB 616 (providing a 1.5% COLA to current public sector retirees) will be voted on by the Executive Departments and Administration Committee.  This is a bill of great importance to AFT-NH, since many of our retiree members have not seen a cost-of-living increase in their pensions for some ten years, despite inflation and constantly rising costs.  AFT-NH is a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition and weekly updates on retirement legislation are provided and you can visit their web page to see the latest news at NH Retirement Security Coalition.

Education Funding  The other very important bill to be acted on this Tuesday is in front of the Ways and Means Committee, who will vote on HB 686 (education funding and the capital gains tax). As noted last week, this bill would offer a small increase in the State’s funded obligation to support public education, but more important, would extend the interest and dividends tax to cover capital gains.  By raising the minimum thresholds at which you become liable to taxation on interest & dividends as well as capital gains, only the wealthiest will be subject to these taxes and there are many middle-class families who will no longer be found liable.  The revenue would then be used to help fund education and restore stabilization grants, leading to property tax relief for ordinary Granite Staters. This is a very important proposal that will help virtually all citizens in NH, promote greater fairness in taxation, and help to support our public schools.  All good things. 

Family and Medical Leave Insurance Other bills being voted on in committees this week include HB 712 in the Labor Committee, which establishes a system of family and medical  leave insurance for working people across NH.  This is long overdue in NH and will help end those difficult and even tragic moments when a mother or father must decide between working or staying home due to illness or the need to care for a loved one.  We should not be forced to choose between family and work, and HB 712 and its Senate counterpart will go far to end this harsh reality and provide benefits sought by so many of the young families we hope to retain and bring to NH.  If you would like to send an email to the House Labor Committee in support of this bill you can simply click this email address at House Labor Committee.

Right to Work “for less” The Labor Committee will also vote on HB 622, the anti-union so-called “right to work” bill directed against those in the private sector.  The purpose is simply to cripple labor unions, silence working people, and encourage free-loaders who will benefit from contractual protections but pay nothing to help sustain and maintain the contracts and the unions who negotiate them.  Just vote NO!

House Session Finally, the House will be in session on Thursday, February 21, and will take up HB 497, restoring State payments into the NH Retirement System for teachers, municipal and county employees.  The State initially promised and did pay nearly 40% of the costs, but in 2012, ceased all payments, thereby downshifting all the costs onto towns, cities, counties, and school districts.  It is time for NH to honor its promises, and AFT-NH supports passage of HB497.  There’s still plenty of time to email your representative and ask them to support HB 497 as recommended by the committee. Simply follow this link  Contact Your State Representative to find your representative and send off an email.

We also support passage by the House of two labor bills—HB 211 (prohibiting questions regarding past salary history on job applications) and HB 253 (eliminating questions concerning past criminal convictions on job application forms).  In both cases, employers can continue to ask about past salaries and about criminal convictions in actual interviews, but a great deal of research has shown that questions on these subjects on initial application forms simply weeds out many qualified individuals and tends to have an inordinate impact upon women and on individuals who may have had a minor and irrelevant conviction many years in the past.  Better to let the applicants explain themselves in face-to-face interviews than be entirely ignored or be offered a lower starting salary.  Neither bill limits employer latitude in the hiring process but both bills do promote a more level playing-field at the start of the job application process. 

The pace of legislative activity is accelerating and will continue to do so.  From late February into early April are the most active weeks for the NH Legislature and it will be our duty to try to keep you as fully informed as possible.  At the same time, there will be growing numbers of presidential candidates crisscrossing the State—go and meet them!  Ask them about public education, about guns and firearms safety, about protections for working people.  Use your voice and make yourself heard.

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