AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2021-09

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February 28, 2021 - Bow, NH

 NH House Session   Over two days this week, the NH House met in session for the first time since early January.  The first day, in particular, was ugly, ill-tempered, and ultimately chaotic, one of the worst days in the NH House in recent memory.  Keep in mind that the day began with over thirty Democratic members unable to attend due to health concerns related to the COVID pandemic.  Republican leadership continues to refuse to even consider any means of remote access to accommodate these representatives, even voting down a rules change to allow for remote access (Republicans have rejected rules permitting remote access at least twice already, then claim the lack of a rule permitting remote access prevents implementation of a remote accommodation). At the same time, however, Speaker Packard (R-Londonderry) continues to bend over backwards to accommodate the 60 or 70 Republicans who refuse to wear masks or take even the slightest precautions in the midst of this pandemic.  These “unmasked” Republican members sat on one side of the Bedford Sportsplex, but while they were urged to wear masks when leaving their area, they were not required to do so.  Their lack of collegiality, civility, and respect for the welfare of others set the tone for the Republican majority’s behavior the entire day.

Assault on our public schools continues. Taking advantage of their artificially-inflated majority (remember, they deliberately prevented medically-vulnerable Democrats from attending), the Republicans rammed through an array of legislation.  Education legislation included HB 609, authorizing the creation of “innovation schools” within existing public schools, whereby standards, rules, and even collective bargaining agreements might be waived.  In essence, this is simply another version of public charter schools, whose stated purpose is to innovate (though the evidence for such innovation is either extremely weak or has not been reported).  Elsewhere, the Republican majority rejected funding of a position in the Dept. of Education to coordinate the work of school counselors and psychologists (why should we worry about the kids?), reduced the certification standards for school nurses (since when is health and safety a big issue in school?), and made new alterations to the definition of an adequate education (of course, no serious funding attached).  And of course, this is just the legislation being passed at the start of the legislative season!  Coming up will be further interferences in the content of public education, such as a just-passed requirement that high school graduates pass the US Naturalization & Citizenship Exam (something which might be interesting to ask legislators to do!).  At the same time, the House will soon take up HB 544, a bill to prohibit the discussion or teaching of “divisive concepts,” clearly a broad attack on any teaching about racism, sexism, white privilege, climate change, etc.  Rather than teach civics by engaging students in contemporary subjects in which they are interested, the Republican version of civics rests on memorization of bland statements and answers to a 100-question exam, an approach directly opposite of what any experienced educator would adopt. 

Senate School Voucher Bill [Action Needed!The most important hearing this upcoming week will be on Tuesday, March 2nd commencing at 9am, when the Senate Education Committee takes up SB 130, the Senate version of the already infamous HB 20 (the voucher bill).  As has been previously noted in an earlier bulletin, SB 130 contains even less financial accountability, less transparency, and more leeway as to how public funds can be spent by parents whose children are enrolled in private schools or are being home-schooled.  There are no independent financial audits of anyone in SB 130, no caps on eligibility, and removes even the weak legislative oversight provided for in HB 20.  In sum, the bill as it currently stands would be a disaster for public education and for the State, siphoning off millions of dollars in public funds to pay for Lord knows what and forcing local taxpayers to face higher and higher property taxes as state education funds go elsewhere.  This is how you dismantle a public education system rated as one of the best in the United States!  In fact, SB 130 is so bare-bones that it is quite likely that amendments will be made, possibly even introduced at the hearing this coming Tuesday, March 2.  Nevertheless, it is vital that we register our opinion and make our voices heard!  You can testify before the Senate committee through remote access (many leave their cameras off and simply speak) or at the very least, register your position in the following way: 

Please go to the following link:  REGISTER OPPOSITION TO SB 130  1. Click on the calendar for March 2nd, 2. Select Senate Education Committee, 3. Select SB 130, 4. Select “I am a member of the Public”, 5. Click “I Oppose the Bill”.  Please be sure to do this in advance of the 9:00am hearing time.

You can also use the above link to indicate your desire to testify or to submit written testimony.

As already noted, it is fully expected that SB 130 will be amended to make it appear less financially disastrous and to put in place weak accountability measures (financial and academic) to make it appear a more plausible and acceptable use of public funds.  But all of this will simply be the proverbial “lipstick on a pig.”  Don’t be fooled—the goal here is to siphon your tax dollars into private hands, to raid public funds in the largest giveaway in the history of the state of NH.  And for the 99% of us who gain nothing, there is just the prospect of escalating property-tax increases to simply maintain one of the finest public school systems in the United States.  Truly a shame!

Finally, we end this week by noting that the segment of the House Republican caucus members refusing to wear masks are the uncontested winners for having the least concern for civility or the health and welfare of themselves and their colleagues in the House.  Over one thousand deaths in NH and over a half million deaths nationwide from COVID, yet these legislators cannot consent to even the most minimal steps to protect and promote public health and safety.  They already lost their Speaker, Dick Hinch, to this sort of behavior.  One can only hope there will be no further casualties, no further sacrifices to a boorish and self-centered approach to working with their fellow legislators and the public at large.  What a poor example they set!

#PublicDollarsForPublicSchools

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NH Retirement Security Coalition   The NHRSC will be tracking all bills related to the NH Retirement System and continuing advocacy for our members. The House defeated HB 274 which would have returned 5% of retirement contributions to cities, towns, and school districts. The final vote was 189-168 on Inexpedient to Legislate. A similar bill, SB 72 , which would return 15% to cities and towns, will be deliberated in an Executive Session of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, March 2nd.

You can find the legislation tracker following retirement bills by clicking on the following link NHRSC UPDATES.

AFT-NH is a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC).

For breaking news and other legislative information, please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news.  Please share this with friends so they can sign up for this bulletin at www.aft-nh.org.

The Week Ahead. Here is a schedule of hearings and executive sessions for bills being tracked by AFT-NH.

 

 

Time

Bill

Description

Sponsors

Type

Tue 3/2 9:00 AM

HB 630

Relative to Remote Board Meetings Under The Right-to-know Law and Authorizing Certain Procedures For Rulemaking.

Rep. Carol McGuire

Executive Session

Tue 3/2 9:00 AM

SB 130

Relative to Education Freedom Accounts.

Sen. Jeb Bradley

Remote Hearing

Tue 3/2 9:00 AM

HB 566

Relative to Sealing Records In Nonpublic Session Under The Right-to-know Law.

Rep. Josh Yokela

Executive Session

Tue 3/2 9:00 AM

HB 504

Relative to The State Education Property Tax and The Low and Moderate Income Homeowners Property Tax Relief Program.

Rep. Richard Ames

Full Committee Work Session

Tue 3/2 10:15 AM

HB 422

Relative to The One-half Credit Required Course In United States and New Hampshire Government and Civics.

Rep. John Janigian

Public Hearing

Tue 3/2 10:45 AM

HB 319

Requiring Students In The University and Community College Systems Of New Hampshire to Pass The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Civics Naturalization Test.

Rep. Michael Moffett

Public Hearing

Tue 3/2 12:45 PM

HB 267

Relative to Construction Standards For Schools.

Rep. Mark Pearson

Public Hearing

Tue 3/2 1:30 PM

HB 441

Requiring The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights to Be Placed In All Public Schools.

Rep. Ellen Read

Public Hearing

Tue 3/2 2:30 PM

HB 581

Relative to The Burden Of Proof In Special Education Hearings.

Rep. Glenn Cordelli

Public Hearing

Wed 3/3 9:00 AM

HB 243

Relative to The Form Of Municipal Budgets.

Rep. Tony Piemonte

Public Hearing

Wed 3/3 9:00 AM

HB 504

Relative to The State Education Property Tax and The Low and Moderate Income Homeowners Property Tax Relief Program.

Rep. Richard Ames

Full Committee Work Session

Wed 3/3 9:30 AM

HB 454

Relative to The Requirement That Certain Governing Bodies Submit Recommendations to The Budget Committee.

Rep. Tony Piemonte

Public Hearing

Thu 3/4 9:30 AM

HB 517

Relative to The State Minimum Hourly Rate.

Rep. Kristina Schultz

Executive Session

Thu 3/4 9:30 AM

HB 113

Relative to Payment For Earned But Unused Vacation or Personal Time.

Rep. Michael Cahill

Executive Session

Thu 3/4 11:15 AM

HB 388

Relative to Changing A Pupil's School or Assignment Because Of A Manifest Educational Hardship.

Rep. Rick Ladd

Public Hearing

Thu 3/4 1:00 PM

HB 455

Relative to The Ability Of A Parent to Enroll A Child In The Public School Of Their Choice.

Rep. Glenn Cordelli

Public Hearing

Thu 3/4 1:45 PM

HB 282

Relative to A Private School That Is Approved As A Tuition Program.

Rep. Rick Ladd

Public Hearing

 

 

 

 

 

Mon 3/8 8:30 AM

HB 484

Relative to Budget Committee Recommendations On Warrant Articles.

Rep. Diane Pauer

Public Hearing

Mon 3/8 10:00 AM

HB 374

Relative to The Official Ballot Referendum Form Of Town Meetings.

Rep. Diane Pauer

Public Hearing