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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin, 2018-07

February 12, 2018 - Bow, NH

The House failed this past week to finish its scheduled business, due to the snow-day granted by the Speaker on Wednesday.  That left one day for work, which simply was not enough, so the backlog of House legislative work will be made up on this Thursday, February 15.

Death Benefit for School Employees   Last week featured both victories and defeats.  HB 1415, providing a death benefit to families of school personnel killed in the line of duty, passed the House and now goes to the Finance Committee for a final review.  We hope there is never any necessity for payment of such death benefits, but by adding school personnel to law enforcement officers and fire-fighters, the House both acknowledged the dangerous realities of education today and voted to make clear that the people of NH respect the work of those who protect citizens and citizens’ lives, including the lives of our children.

NH House Refuses to Restore Retirement Funding  In contrast, the House voted 170-171 against reconsidering HB 413, requiring the State to begin honoring its promise to pay a portion of the pension costs borne by localities and school districts.  The State promised such payments years ago, but since 2011 has reneged and paid nothing.  Consequently, localities and school districts have had to bear the entire costs of retirement funding for public employees, meaning higher taxes and less money to spend on other items like infrastructure or social support programs.  This is a classic case of ‘downshifting’ costs onto local taxpayers, and even the Decennial Commission appointed by Governor Sununu to review the status of the NH Retirement System concluded it was time for the State to begin honoring its past pledges.  Further action, however, will likely now have to wait until 2019 at the earliest.

SB 193  Looking ahead, there are numerous committee hearings of interest this week, as the legislative process grinds on.  The Finance Committee will continue working on SB 193 (the so-called ‘voucher bill’), trying to find ways to fund it.  It is likely the committee will propose amending the bill to more tightly limit the number of eligible students and thereby try to contain the costs. Such an amendment, however, would still fail to address such issues as constitutionality of public funds going to religious schools, the lack of any non-discrimination language regarding private school acceptances, and the lack of anything remotely resembling accountability and transparency in the expenditure of public funds (recall that the public funds will be distributed by a private entity, not the State).  We will keep you as informed as possible on the continuing saga of SB 193.

Defending NH Retirement System Elsewhere, the Executive Departments and Administration committee will take up work on HB 1754, to establish a defined contribution retirement plan for public employees.  The committee already held a public hearing on the bill which featured a long-line of witnesses speaking against such a change (including Bob Sherman, retired president of the Nashua Teachers Union). The aforementioned Decennial Commission also rejected this plan but even though the governor’s own appointees stand against such a drastic change, it remains a live possibility.  The same committee will also hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 13 on HB 1803, which would bar all wage withholding by public employers for non-governmental purposes or entities.  This is another attempt to cripple public sector labor unions by overturning contractual agreements to have dues withheld from paychecks by employers.  A similar bill, HB 438, will come to a vote in the House on Thursday, February 15, but is saddled with the Labor Committee’s unanimous and bipartisan recommendation that it be killed.  HB 1803 tries to disguise its obvious target (labor unions) by barring all withholding for non-governmental purposes, but this only worsens the proposal, eliminating the convenience of withholding for AFLAC, United Way, and countless other agreed-upon local causes and purposes.   This serves absolutely no useful purpose, and it is hoped the legislation will be quickly and efficiently set aside.  Please be sure to read this week’s NH Retirement Security Coalition Legislative Recap.

Finally, the House Labor Committee on Wednesday, February 14 will hold a public hearing on HB 1762, an act purporting to reduced red tape and bureaucratic complexity in the Department of Labor.  The title and proposed purpose, however, hide a much more dangerous agenda.  If this were to pass, it would significantly weaken the regulation of child labor, eliminate required safety programs in the workplace, drastically reduce the Department’s ability to uphold fair and timely wage payments by employers, and allow for restaurants to set up tip-pooling and tip-sharing, in order to extend who receives tips and thereby reduce the wage costs of the employer at the expense of the wait-staff.  All in all, a nefarious piece of proposed legislation, the title of which should be “Return to the Age of Robber Barons, when children worked long hours employees never knew for sure that they would get paid.”  There you go, NH moving forward into the past.   

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

603 831 3661 (cell)

603 223 0747 

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