AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2021-13

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**Important Action Requested**

March 28, 2021 ~ Bow, NH

The premier event of this past week was the hearing this past Tuesday in the House Labor Committee on SB 61, the so-called “right to work” bill.  Over the course of six hours of public testimony, committee members heard from out-of-state lobbyists advocating so-called “right to work” as well as scores of members of the public opposed to this flagrant attack on organized labor and the power of working people to have a voice in the workplace.  The goal of “right to work” is simple—weaken labor unions by allowing for freeloaders to benefit from contract provisions but pay nothing towards negotiating or enforcing that very contract.  It does not provide for jobs, and it does not prevent unions from requiring employees to join the union BECAUSE IT IS ALREADY ILLEGAL TO REQUIRE UNION MEMBERSHIP TO OBTAIN A JOB!!!  Instead, the aim is to weaken organized labor and make it easier for employers to reduce wages and benefits, further widening the income and wealth inequality so prevalent here in NH and in the United States. 

Overwhelming Opposition to Right to Work.  By the time the hearing on SB 61 ended, the public registration against SB 61 was 1703 to a meager 222 in support of the bill.  Still, given the extremism of so many in the NH Legislature this year, it is questionable whether the House Labor Committee will recommend against passage of SB 61.  The committee will vote on SB61 this Tuesday morning, and the bill with the committee’s recommendation will then come to the floor for a vote by the entire House on either Wednesday, April 7 or Thursday, April 8.  What does this mean? 

Action Requested. It is time to reach out and contact your NH legislator, whether Democrat or Republican, and make clear that as a constituent, you oppose so-called “right to work” and you expect the legislator to do so as well.  We have made this easy for you to do. Please click the following link,  CONTACT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE,  and express your opposition to SB 61 (so-called Right to Work). It is powerful when constituents reach out directly to their representative(s). Let them know you care about workers’ rights in NH and that you are watching.

Public Education Funding.  In regards to legislation aimed at gutting public education, this past week was a bit of a respite.  In the House Education Committee, a bill to “make whole” the funding of public education was heard in public hearing. SB 135 partially addresses the funding problem created by the COVID-19 pandemic; a problem traceable to how the state determines the amount of State aid received by a school district.  Next year’s State aid to districts is based upon average daily attendance this year as well as the percentage of students signed up for free or reduced cost lunches.  The problem is that attendance has temporarily dropped due to the pandemic, and registration for free/reduced lunches tanked when the Federal Government basically allowed any and all students to receive free lunches this year.  As a result, school districts across NH now face potential severe cuts in State education funding, even as everyone expects enrollments to bounce back next school year with the (hoped for) resumption of in-person schooling and an “end” to the COVID pandemic.

A major step in the right direction, SB 135 does not, however, fully restore State education funding back to current levels.  One major proposed amendment is to also restore fiscal disparity aid, whereby school districts with more limited property tax resources receive additional education funding from the State.  The problem right now is that neither SB 135 nor the proposed amendment will be voted on by the House Education Committee in time to bring the bill to the floor in early April, nor are these crucial financial provisions currently within the NH state budget about to be finalized by the House Finance Committee this coming week.  While there will be further opportunities to amend the proposed budget to include this vital financial relief, it is an issue worth following.  Failure to provide this relief will mean major budget cuts in many districts and severe harm to public education in NH, along with increased property taxes.  One can only hope these are outcomes that even the Republican legislative majorities and Governor Sununu would prefer to avoid.

State Budget Antics. Since we are on the topic of the State budget, Republican leaders appeared increasingly desperate this week to attract enough far-Right Republican votes so as to pass the budget in the House.  They now seek to include provisions reducing the governor’s ability to declare and continue a state of emergency and hope to force an end to it here in NH, despite the potential loss of millions of dollars in Federal funding.  Of course, with COVID case numbers once again on the rise, this is not the time to relax in the war against the pandemic, but that is exactly what is advocated by many on the extreme Right.  A further bone thrown to the extremists is inclusion of provisions from HB 544, the bill mentioned last week as a nefarious gag upon free speech and academic freedom, prohibiting discussion of divisive concepts such as race, class, gender, identity, etc. in any business, agency, or institution receiving State funding.  This is the Republican solution to the bitter issues and legacies of racism, gender bias and discrimination—we just forbid you to talk about it! 

The House Finance Committee will finalize the proposed State budget this week and bring it to the House for consideration on April 7.  All bets are off on the fate of this budget, as Republicans lean further and further to the extremists on the Right in order to buy their votes.  NH may yet lead the way nationally, not only working to restrict and limit voting rights but to limit and restrict even discussing the issues of greatest concern to millions of Americans and thousands of Granite Staters.  Truly a sad tale, but it does not have to be this way.  Let’s start with SB 61 and defeat so-called “right to work,” then move on to all the other pressing issues facing NH.  It is time to turn the tide and make clear that the majority of NH citizens are ready to move forward, towards greater equality, mutual respect, and common sense.  Now is the time.

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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.  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).

 

 

AFT-NH BILL TRACKER

 

Week of 3/29/21

Date and Time

Bill

Description

Purpose

Zoom Link

Mon 3/29 9:00 AM

HB 613

(new Title) Relative to State Aid to School Districts with Special Education Pupils and Relative to Pooled Risk Management For Unanticipated Special Education Cost Recovery.

Executive Session

https://www.zoom.us/j/92166004660 (Finance/H)
Executive Session

Mon 3/29 9:00 AM

HB 91

Relative to Death Benefits Of First Responders Who Die From Suicide.

Executive Session

https://www.zoom.us/j/92166004660 (Finance/H)
Executive Session

Tue 3/30 9:00 AM

SB 61

Prohibiting Collective Bargaining Agreements That Require Employees to Join A Labor Union.

Executive Session

https://www.zoom.us/j/91970098494 (Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services/H)
Executive Session

Tue 3/30 10:00 AM

SB 68

Requiring An Employer to Provide Reasonable Accommodations For Pregnant Employees.

Public Hearing

https://www.zoom.us/j/99157160886 (Commerce and Consumer Affairs/H)
Public Hearing

 

 

 

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