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.
Voter Suppression Meanwhile, the legislative wheels continue to turn, though many House committees are now finishing up their work for the year, having held hearings on Senate bills and sent them on to the House floor for a vote. Two bills still awaiting final committee action are SB 3 (to restrict and limit voting rights in NH) and SB 193 (the voucher bill). The House Election Law committee held its hearing on SB 3 this past week, but has yet to vote on a recommendation for the House. In essence, this is a voter suppression bill, aimed at limiting voting by groups such as college students on the specious grounds of voter fraud in prior elections. You know, the mythical busloads of people coming over the border from Massachusetts to vote in NH. I live in a border town where my town moderator has labeled these tales as pure fiction. Nor is he alone—other town moderators and even the NH Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, have denied the occurrence of identifiable voter fraud. But in an age of “fake news,” we now are on the verge of making policy based not on proven facts, but on rumor, innuendo, and outright falsehoods.
SB 193-School Vouchers The other bill which bears close observation is SB 193, the education voucher bill. After being slammed in front of the House Education Committee by a parade of witnesses, including the head of the Finance Committee and a representative from the Attorney General’s office, the sponsors of the bill have retreated and are working feverishly to draw up an amendment to modify or even replace the entire bill. We will likely see the text of this amendment this coming Wednesday, when the House Education Committee holds a full committee work session on the bill. It is expected that sponsors will seek to limit the financial impact of the bill by capping the number of students who can be withdrawn from public schools and thereby obtain vouchers (formally known as education savings accounts funded by monies provided by the State and withdrawn from supporting public schools). Whatever the formula, the goal is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the edge of the tent,” meaning to start the program and then expand upon it in years to come. Many of the same Republican members of the House who voted to torpedo the House budget proposal are now working assiduously to try to render SB 193 palatable, although in any form it will reduce public funding of public schools and thereby raise local property taxes. This bill must be halted! Here is the AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 Please take action to contact your representative and tell them NO to SB 193.
Edelblut Power Grab One final note. You make recall that in January we opposed the confirmation of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education, based on his complete lack of experience in public education. At his confirmation hearing, Edelblut repeatedly claimed he would be an administrator, not a policy-maker, merely carrying out the wishes of the legislature and the State Board of Education. Well, we now see his true colors emerging, for at Edelblut’s urging, an AMENDMENT has been offered in the Senate which would give Edelblut power to completely redraw the Department of Education, move personnel around as he wishes, and move monies between budgets and budget lines as he sees fit. This is a non-germane amendment offered to HB 356. In other words, a huge power boost for the “administrator” and a means by which he can easily shape educational policy and practice. Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who grilled Edelblut during his confirmation hearing, characterizes this as “an unprecedented, naked power grab by the commissioner.” Edelblut, known as a champion of home-schooling, charter schools, vouchers, and even creationism, is clearly seeking to expand his power and do so in a way (via legislative amendment) where there will likely be no public hearing or public input. We will be following this unfolding drama very closely.
Now is the time to remain focused as this is the time when we may see breaking news as all of the behind the scenes work is underway. Please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news.
Please remember your actions do matter. One more letter and phone call could just make the difference. Thank you.
Your Action Needed Now So, if you have not already done so, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions:
- The House Education Committee has scheduled the committee vote for Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. As noted above, it appears an amendment will be offered at a work session of the committee this Wednesday. No version of education savings accounts or vouchers should see the light of day here in NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote.
Please mail the full House Education Committee directly: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.
For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#.
- Regardless of what happens in the Committee, SB 193 will be voted on by the full House after the committee vote. So let’s get ahead of this and contact your State Representative(s) by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!