AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin (2021-01)

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January 1, 2021 ~ Bow, NH

Happy New Year!  It is time to wave a not-so-fond farewell to 2020!  One can only hope that 2021 is an improvement upon the year we all just endured.  Educators are exhausted, students are tired, health care workers are burning out, and NH’s COVID infection rates and the number of deaths continues to rise with unprecedented rapidity.  Meanwhile, as the NH Legislature prepares to resume its work in some sort of fashion, the Republican majority and the governor are preparing an unprecedented assault upon public education and upon labor unions.  So gird up, the next few months are going to be busy.  We will try to keep you informed as things develop and we will be asking for your aid and involvement as we work to prevent the gutting of public education and its privatization.  But first, let’s take a look at the context and setting, as the political circus prepares to open for the 2021 sessionJanuary 1, 2021 ~ Bow, NH

Happy New Year!  It is time to wave a not-so-fond farewell to 2020!  One can only hope that 2021 is an improvement upon the year we all just endured.  Educators are exhausted, students are tired, health care workers are burning out, and NH’s COVID infection rates and the number of deaths continues to rise with unprecedented rapidity.  Meanwhile, as the NH Legislature prepares to resume its work in some sort of fashion, the Republican majority and the governor are preparing an unprecedented assault upon public education and upon labor unions.  So gird up, the next few months are going to be busy.  We will try to keep you informed as things develop and we will be asking for your aid and involvement as we work to prevent the gutting of public education and its privatization.  But first, let’s take a look at the context and setting, as the political circus prepares to open for the 2021 session.

COVID continues to ravage New Hampshire, and we hope all of you are safe and healthy.  Thank goodness our Governor Sununu claims to have it all under control!  Doesn’t he look great on TV?  All summer and early autumn he took credit for low COVID numbers.  Once the November election passed and the COVID numbers rapidly escalated, in large part due to prior laxity by Gov. Sununu and his crack team, he quickly abandoned any claims of responsibility.  Instead, now he tells us he knew this would happen and gee, nothing we could do to stop it, not my fault, etc., etc.  You know the drill—classic excuse-making. 

Most recently, the Governor is suddenly worried about armed protesters disrupting his inauguration next week, leading to his decision to cancel the public event.  AFT-NH obviously has no sympathy with the armed protesters picketing the governor’s home and demanding a rollback of the weak restrictions in place in regards to COVID.  Still, isn’t this all just a touch ironic?  Governor Sununu is OK with guns on school grounds (see his vetoes the past two years).  Governor Sununu is therefore OK with these same folks bringing guns into schools when heading to potential confrontational meetings with a principal or a teacher or a coach.  Now, though, armed citizens are suddenly an immediate concern.  Certainly, none of us want see the governor or his family put at risk, but how about displaying a little empathy, a little concern for all the little people out there, the ordinary folks putting their lives on the line every day?   What about our safety, the safety of our educators, our students, our staff? 

Meanwhile, the circus has truly arrived here in NH, via the new Republican majority and leadership in the NH House.  Masks?  In a pandemic?  “Can’t make me wear a stinkin’ mask!  Hell, COVID isn’t even real!”  Statements like these are what passes for serious political and public commentary today in much of the NH House.  One newly-elected Republican from Laconia who posted anti-Semitic material taken straight from a neo-Nazi website got caught but only apologized for posting (not for the actual anti-Semitic content).  Republican House leaders have responded with . . . silence.  Then we have a half-dozen Republican representatives signing a statement declaring the 2020 election in NH a total fraud and absolving themselves of any allegiance to the current state of New Hampshire or its government.  Yet they still insist on remaining members of the NH House, i. e., part of the government which they no longer recognize.  As often happens, the fierce rhetoric is ultimately an empty rhetoric, nothing behind it.  Won’t walk it like they talk it.  Fraudulent election?  Then resign!  Maybe they just need the $100 annual salary?

To cap it all, the Republican leadership appears entirely unaware of remote access platforms for meetings.  You know, Zoom, WebEx, all the various and sundry ways educators have been working remotely with students since March, the ways the courts have been meeting, the way businesses conduct meetings, even the way both Democrats and Republicans held separate caucuses within the past month.  No, the NH House cannot meet remotely.  NH Senate can and will, but not the House.  Instead, the NH House shall go “forward into the past,” with a House session on January 6 held in a parking lot at UNH with members sitting in their running cars for a few hours, listening in on radio, only limited access to participate, a few PortaPotties to relieve themselves, and breathing in fresh exhaust from the cars of their colleagues.  Will they have a snack bar, like at drive-ins?  What’s the deal here?  What if a member has no car?  What if they have a disability that precludes sitting in a car for long periods breathing exhaust or cold air?  And what about the public?  How do they access the session?  The NH House is about to become the laughing-stock of the nation, unable to acknowledge or use the technology everyone else uses to meet remotely.  Why?  Because a significant portion of the Republican caucus refuse to socially distance or wear masks or accept the necessity of remote access.

Of course, all of this is just the beginning, the context for the upcoming session.  In the upcoming weeks we will review the onslaught of hostile legislation aimed at privatizing public education, diverting your tax dollars into the private sector, and ultimately, raising your property taxes.  But enough for now—we can cover all that in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, sign the ONLINE PETITION demanding the resignation of Dawn Johnson, the Laconia representative who posted vile anti-Semitic materials online, then sit back and chuckle at the shenanigans of this Republican majority.  At $100 per year, sometimes we all do get what we pay for.  

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