The House met in session yesterday, but what many expected to be a short session lasted until nearly late afternoon. The primary controversies centered around the continuing saga of Representative Robert Fisher, (R-Laconia), the outed creator and frequent contributor to the anti-feminist and misogynistic discussion forum “The Red Pill.” The Governor, Speaker, and Minority Leader, among others have called for Fisher’s resignation but there he was today, voting in the House. There were protesters outside the State House and the halls surrounding Reps Hall, while in the chamber, Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff introduced a resolution calling for a House investigation into the alleged activities of Fisher and whether he should be censured or even expelled. This touched off a long debate, with claims of free speech countered by the reality that the House maintains the right to regulate the conduct of its members. In the end, the resolution passed, but only after Republicans added on an investigation of a Democratic representative who used foul language in tweets some five months ago and who had since apologized. Hardly an equivalent to someone who allegedly wrote about rape as not entirely bad, since one must always consider the pleasure taken by the rapist.
On the surface, there was not much activity in the State House this past week, as the House did not meet in session, while the Senate met briefly and considered only a small number of bills. One quiet action taken by the Senate was to return back to the Committee on Education the so-called Croydon bill, HB 557. This bill would permit local school boards to use public funds to send students to private, non-sectarian schools, rather than funding a public school or agreeing to send students to a neighboring public school. For example, if a town lacks a public middle school, it can currently arrange to send students to a neighboring public middle school, but by the terms of HB557, the district could now use public funds to send students to private schools instead. Keep in mind, private schools do not wish to come under the regulatory burdens already imposed upon public schools, so there is no certainty that with this proposed legislation, that all students would be eligible or accepted, nor that the private school would meet all the same standards as public schools. In other words, it is another attempt to use public education funds for private benefit. Remember also that it was discovered that Education Commissioner Edelblut had donated to the town’s legal fund to fight the NH Department of Education. Read more about Edelblut donation to Croydon at Edelblut Contribution to Croydon. This was not discovered until after Edelblut was confirmed. The fate of the bill is not certain, as it may return to the Senate for a vote at some point during the month of May. We shall keep a watchful eye upon it.
As we all know, public education is under assault here in New Hampshire. Yesterday, though, we won three important victories, and it is time to take a moment to celebrate and to reflect. Days like today don’t come about too often, especially when opponents of public education control seemingly control every branch of NH government. But, through the hard work of thousands of people testifying in Concord, protesting outside the State House, writing letters and emails and calling their senators and representative, you won some important victories. So congratulations, rest up for a day, and get ready for the battles yet to come!
In terms of public activity, this was a relatively quiet week at the State House, but be assured, wheels are turning. The House met in session yesterday for only two hours, passing a number of smaller or less important bills, while work continues on the big pieces of legislation. Probably the most noteworthy moment was the brief set of comments offered by Representative Kat Rogers in commemoration of the Columbine school shooting. Her remarks were brief, pointed, and applauded by many, but not all (you can imagine what ideological element of the House refused to honor her efforts). In similar fashion, the Senate also met and rendered decisions on a number of pieces of legislation, each important to certain constituencies but none of major, state-wide importance. The big issues and the controversial legislation is yet to come forth; likewise, work continues on the Senate’s budget proposal.
In the aftermath of the House’s stunning failure to pass a budget (due to Republican intra-party feuding), the Senate becomes the focal point of attention, as it works to develop a budget proposal. Using Governor Sununu’s budget proposal as a starting point, the Senate will craft a budget and attach it as an amendment to a House bill. That amended bill will then be sent back to the House, which will of course reject the bill, forcing a committee of conference to hammer out the final details of the State’s 2017-18 biennial budget. So, much remains to be done, but much of it will occur behind the scenes, in negotiations between the Senate, the Governor, and the House. Stay tuned-this will not be finished until June 2017.
House Budget Fails The deadline for the NH House to pass a state budget was April 6th. Despite having a 53-vote margin majority, the NH House Republicans failed to pass a budget to send to the NH Senate by the deadline for the first time in at least 50 years. The House met over two days and recessed on Thursday, April 6th with no budget. Speaker Shawn Jasper was unable to garner the votes of the republican caucus to approve a budget after the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House balked at the budget citing too much spending. The NH Senate begins the process of dealing with the budget.