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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-17-17: School Vouchers And Kindergarten Bills

March 27, 2017

 

After concluding business in a rush back on March 10, the NH House reconvened this past Thursday for a short session. The most notable action of the day concerned HB 647, the so-called voucher bill for children with disabilities. The bill had previously passed the House on policy grounds, but on Thursday, came to the floor with a strong, bi-partisan recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate” from the Finance Committee. Nevertheless, in what looks to have been a party-line vote (it was not a roll-call but a division vote, meaning only the totals are recorded, not individual votes) the bill was tabled rather than killed. The motion to table came from Republican leader Dick Hinch, who asked the House to table on grounds that voting to kill the bill would prejudice the fate of SB 193, the broader, full-scale education voucher bill. With a vote of 193-161 (closely resembling party numbers in the House) HB 647 was tabled. The bill itself is essentially dead for 2017 but can be revived in 2018, and may also make an appearance in the 2018-19 budget bill still under construction by the House Finance Committee.

School Voucher Bill   As for SB 193, the broad-based education voucher bill, it has been referred to the House Education Committee but no public hearings have as yet been scheduled. As we have stated before, SB 193 is a very dangerous piece of legislation and could have dire consequences for public education in New Hampshire, reducing funding and ultimately raising property taxes in towns and cities across New Hampshire. A fine piece by Mark Fernald, recently published in the Keene Sentinel and Nashua Telegraph, quite clearly makes the case for SB193 as legislation that will increase property taxes AND harm public education. According to Fernald, the immediate impact of SB 193 will be to drain $25 million in funds from public schools, and the eventual costs will range much higher. Nearly all the benefits of the bill will go to families in upper-income brackets, since the amount per student per voucher is merely a fraction of the cost of sending a student to private or charter schools. In other words, the only “choice” to be offered is for those who can already afford it, while the cost will be borne by the rest of us in higher property taxes to support our public schools. (The full piece by Mark Fernald can be accessed at Vouchers for the Wealthy). This is not a good or sensible approach to public education, and the costs must be made clear when the bill comes before the House Education Committee. In the meantime, we must also remain vigilant that this proposal is not dropped into the upcoming budget bill coming from House Finance Committee (a often-utilized method of hiding unpopular or controversial proposals). 

Action Needed   We are requesting that you reach out to your state representative(s) and ask them to vote no on SB 193. Here’s the link, Protect NH Public Schools, so you can take direct action and have your opinion heard. Please share far and wide! For more resources to help defeat vouchers, please visit our website at Defeat School Vouchers

Kindergarten   Speaking of the House Finance Committee and the upcoming budget bill, the Republican majority on the committee voted this past week to remove funding for full-day kindergarten. This was an initiative proposed by Governor Sununu, but it was made clear that in the eyes of House Republicans the governor knows very little regarding education. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, when questioned about the Finance Committee vote, replied that “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent,” hence his opposition to State-funding towards full-day kindergarten. And so, New Hampshire remains adamant in its stance against full-day kindergarten, unless localities or individual parents & families wish to pay for it (as has been proposed by some in places such as Nashua).

The focus this week in the State House will be on the final construction of the House budget bills, which must be reported by March 30. What must be remembered is that the budget bill for 2018-19 can contain or include all sorts of policy initiatives, so long as they have a fiscal impact. Therefore, proposals such as HB 647, tabled by a House vote, are not yet dead, but may surreptiously re-appear in the House budget bill. So stay tuned.

In Memoriam   On a final sad note, we mourn the untimely passing of Senator Scott McGilvray. Only 51 years of age, Senator McGilvray had just been elected to the NH Senate in November 2016 after serving for many years as president of NEA-NH, and his passing is a major blow to Democrats in the NH Senate and to the labor movement in NH. Upon learning of the tragic news, I released the following statement on behalf of AFT-NH:

“AFT-NH is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of State Senator Scott McGilvray. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Scott McGilvray, and to our colleagues at NEA-NH.” 

“Scott dedicated his life to advocating for New Hampshire’s children, public education, educators and working families. He was a strong labor leader and his career was marked by public service at its finest culminating with his election to the NH State Senate this past fall.” 

“The passing of Senator McGilvray is a great loss to public education, the labor movement and the entire state of New Hampshire.  He was taken from us far too soon, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.” 

I wish you all good health as Spring slowly makes its way to NH, and let’s keep up the good fight!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-10-17: Updates On Labor Bills, Minimum Wage, and School Vouchers

 Once again, the NH House acted like so many of my students do, allowing work to pile up and waiting until the final hour to do the work that needs to be done. This week, the House met for two long days, and because it had not met the prior week, faced a deadline for acting on over 100 proposed pieces of legislation. Given how long some debates can take, never mind the time consumed in roll call votes and all kinds of maneuvering, it made for very long days. Near the end late on Thursday, tempers began to fray and the Republican majority used their power in an increasingly aggressive manner. When it was done, all legislation had been acted upon, and the House will not meet again for two weeks.

Labor Bills. In regards to issues of concern to the labor community and to working people in general, it was not a great week. On the bright side, right to work was finally put to rest for 2017-2018, when the House refused by a strong majority to take up the House version of so-called Right to Work legislation. So ends that saga for 2017-18 and we owe a great debt of thanks to all the representatives, especially our Republican friends, who stood with us under intense pressure and defeated this nefarious legislation, aimed solely at weakening the labor movement and its ability to speak out on behalf of working people across New Hampshire.

Minimum Wage Increase. The defeat of so-called Right to Work was good news. On a more disappointing or sour note, the House rejected a proposed increase to the minimum wage, once again protecting New Hampshire’s status as the only New England state (and one of only 18 states nationally by the end of 2017) to still adhere to the ridiculously low Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Remember, when the minimum rises (and keep in mind, 70% of those who work for the minimum are above age 20 and not teenagers); the money is almost all spent locally, helping local businesses and boosting our state economy. And even if you and I don’t work for minimum, raising the floor puts upward pressure upon all wage levels, which benefits all working people. So it was disappointing that the increase was once again rejected on a relatively close, largely party-line vote.

Employment Bills. Other proposed labor legislation, including limitations on credit history checks and criminal background checks (all with necessary exemptions for certain occupations and businesses), failed to pass the Republican majority in the House. This same majority, however, made sure to maintain NH’s minimum marriage age for girls at age 13, refusing to raise it to age 18. Combine that with our low minimum wage, and you really have to start wondering just where it is we are living! The House also refused to acknowledge basic civil rights for the transgender population, turning an innocuous protection of basic rights into a ‘bathroom bill’ and in the process, legitimizing discrimination and possible harassment of members of the transgender community. Change is not easy, and the battles are long and hard, but these issues will not go away and should not be forgotten in the future.

Education. In the realm of education legislation, any proposals deemed to put any sort of restraints or accountability upon charter schools were rejected by the House. More dangerously, a bill passed allowing towns without a public school or missing certain grades (for example, have a grade school but no high school) to contract to use public funds to send students to private schools, including sectarian or religious schools. Like the voucher proposal working its way through the Senate, this sort of legislation aims to weaken public schools by eroding the public sector’s financial base. The result of these diversions of public funds is higher local taxes, which further inflames anger at public schools, or declining facilities, which are then pointed to as reasons why there needs to be “more competition,” as if public education is like choosing between fast-food burgers, chicken, or tacos. We are asking members and supporters to reach out personally to their legislators and request they oppose any form of vouchers and specifically Senate Bill 193 and HB 647. For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit our website at STOP SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NH.

NH Retirement System. Lastly, in regards to the NH Retirement System, the House defeated an effort to increase the retirement pension age and passed a bill to halt the raiding of pension fund monies to pay for fiscal analyses of said pension funds! These were good moments, but progress in this area was counterbalanced by passage of a whole series of bad legislation in the area of election law, all of which will have the effect of clamping down on students’ ability to vote as part of a wide assault on voting rights here in NH. So, good with the bad. HB 413FN which would have the state meet its obligation and pay 15% of the retirement costs back to local communities is scheduled before the House Finance Committee for Executive Session on Monday.

In Memoriam. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not pass along a sad note. We learned yesterday of the passing of Brian Costa, the Keene Chief of Police. Chief Costa came up through the ranks and was a good union man, serving in the Keene Police Officers Association, and later as president of the Keene Police Supervisors, both being AFT-NH locals. Even as chief, he never forgot his union roots and worked tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of the Keene Police as well as improving the safety and security of the entire Keene community. We will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Legislative Bulletin next week due to the hiatus in House activity but will be on alert for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Outsourcing Alert: Town of Raymond Looks To Outsource School Support Staff

The Town of Raymond is looking to outsource workers in the school’s cafeteria
with low wage for-profit contractors.

This week, voters in the Town of Raymond will vote on a warrant article that would sell off lunch room services to a for-profit contractor.

This is not the first time that towns have considered privatizing services in a cost saving effort.  Eventually those savings are lost and the contractor ends up costing the town more money in the long run.

The town of Raymond considered outsourcing in 2009, however the voters rejected the proposal.

“In March 2009, Raymond voters OVERWHELMINGLY passed a resolution, by 621-324 votes, against the School Board outsourcing any support staff positions, including the cafeteria program,” stated AFT New Hampshire.

AFT New Hampshire also said, “100% of the employees live in Raymond.”  These are real, local people that would lose their jobs or be forced stay at a drastically reduced pay and more than likely, lose their benefits.  “Research shows that contractors often target wages and benefits for deep cuts when they take over a district’s food services operations.”

The Raymond Educational Support Staff is asking for voters in Raymond to “Vote NO on the School Board’s Warrant Article 9 and vote YES on the Citizens’ Petition Warrant Article 10.”

More information is available in the PDF here and below.

 

Featured image from USDA of a school cafeteria worker.

AFT-NH Mourns The Loss Of Chief Brian Costa, A Former Union Member And Leader

Last night, Keene Police Chief Brian Costa passed away suddenly.  His years of dedicated public service were highlighted as his former union, and elected leaders, offer their condolences.

“He was a great police officer, with a great love for the city, the people of Keene and his job,” said Keene Mayor Kendall Lane. “He loved being a police officer. I wish I knew more about what happened, but state police are handling everything.”

“It is with great sadness that AFT-NH has learned of the passing of Chief Brian Costa. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Chief Costa and to the members of the Keene Police Department,” said AFT-NH President Douglas Ley.  “Brian came up through the ranks, starting his service as a police officer in 1996 and culminating with being appointed chief in 2015. He was a member of the Keene Police Officers Association and later, president of the Keene Police Supervisors, before becoming chief in 2015. As both union officer and as chief, Brian was dedicated to the brave men and women who served in his department. He never forgot his union roots, and he devoted his life to making his community safer and stronger. We will forever owe him a debt of gratitude for his service. ”

“Chief Brian Costa was an incredible public servant who dedicated himself to bettering his community of Keene and the entire state of New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster.  “I was deeply saddened to learn of his sudden passing. Chief Costa was a committed leader in addressing the opioid crisis and focused on the need for treatment and recovery services as well as interdiction efforts. I appreciated his counsel, and I was always inspired by his kindness, warm spirit, and commitment to helping others. My heart goes out to his loved ones and the entire Keene community at this difficult time.”

Chief Costa was a leader in addressing the addiction crisis and Congresswoman Kuster was proud to join him for numerous briefings, round tables, and community discussions in Keene and around the state.

“I’m very saddened to hear of Chief Brian Costa’s passing. Chief Costa served Keene for more than two decades and rose through the ranks to become a leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic. I am grateful for his service to the Keene community and to New Hampshire. My thoughts are with his family,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  

“Chief Brian Costa served his community in Keene with distinction, always seeking to help others, and I am very saddened by the news of his passing. From his leadership in combating the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis to his desire to make Keene a welcoming and friendly place for all, Chief Costa has made a difference in the lives of thousands of Granite Staters. Tom and I send our deepest condolences to Chief Costa’s family, and to everyone whose lives he touched,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. 

Town Meeting Day: Support AFT-NH Contracts In Your Local Town

Dear Union Colleagues and Supporters,

Your Union colleagues around the state have spent countless hours negotiating fair and reasonable contracts with their employers. On Tuesday, March 14th contracts will be presented to voters in many districts. There are five AFT-NH contracts on ballots on this date. There will also be important votes to approve budgets, stop outsourcing and save police department positions. On Saturday, March 18th, there will be an important town meeting in Pittsfield where we are asking people to show up and vote to restore the two police officer positions which are being cut. Public safety matters! We are asking that if you live in one the towns below that you take the time to be sure to vote in support of these contracts and encourage your friends and family to vote. When we act in unity, we make a difference every time!

Together by supporting those who work with our children and adequately funding our schools, we can reclaim the promise of public education. We also must make certain that vital public safety services are funded appropriately.

Please remind folks that they can register to vote at the polls with proper identification and proof of residency! There’s still time to get an absentee ballot for voting on 3/14 if you will be out of town or unable to vote. Voting locations and times are provided below!

Thank you for supporting your fellow union members or for being a supporter of AFT-NH members.

In Solidarity,

Doug Ley

AFT-NH President

 

VOTING INFORMATION FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 14TH

Farmington School District

Farmington School Custodians, AFT Local #6212

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.

A three-year contract.

Farmington Town Hall: 8am-7pm

 

Hillsboro-Deering School District

Hillsboro-Deering Support Staff, AFT, Local #6219

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #6 and #7.

A three-year contract. The H-DSS members have been without a contract for 3 years.

Deering:                      Deering Town Hall                                               11am to 7pm

Hillsboro:                    Hillsboro-Deering Middle School Gymnasium   7am to 7pm

 

Newfound Area School District

Newfound Teachers’ Union, AFT Local #6557

Please vote YES on Warrant Article #5.

A two-year contract.

Alexandria:                  Town Hall, 45 Washburn Road                                 11am-7pm

Bridgewater:                Town Hall, Route 3A, Mayhew Turnpike                12pm to 6pm

Bristol:                        Old Town Hall, 45 Summer Street                             8am to 7pm

Danbury:                     Town Hall, 23 High Street                                          11am to 7pm

Groton            :                       Groton Town House, 754 North Groton Road          11am to 7pm

Hebron            :                       Community Hall (Hebron Church)                             11am to 7pm

New Hampton            :           Town House, 86 Town House Road                          11am to 7pm

 

Raymond School District      *Outsourcing Alert

Raymond Educational Support Staff, AFT Local #4823

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.

A two-year contract.

*Please stop the outsourcing of the Raymond Schools’ cafeteria program. 100% of the employees live in Raymond. Voters have rejected it in the past but the school board is trying to do this again.

Please vote NO on the School Board’s Article 9 and YES on the Citizens’ Petition Article 10.

Iber Homes Gove Holmes Middle School Gymnasium:   7am–7pm

More information on the outsourcing proposal in PDF below. 

 

Timberlane Regional School District

Timberlane Support Staff Union, AFT #6530

Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.

A three-year contract.

Atkinson:        Community Center, Rt. 121      7am – 8pm

Danville:          Community Center, Rt. 111      8am – 7pm

Plaistow:         Pollard School , Main St.           7am – 8pm

Sandown:        Sandown Town Hall, Main St.   8am – 8pm

 

VOTING INFORMATION FOR SATURDAY, MARCH 18TH

Please support our Pittsfield Town Employees, AFT #6214 at their annual town meeting. The Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee have recommended cutting two police officer positions. The Town has had the benefit of receiving a COPS grant which is a three-year contract. The decision to reduce the number of police officers, in addition to the grave concerns about public safety, also exposes the Town to paying back $40,000 +/- for not fulfilling the obligations of the grants. Please attend the meeting, support public safety and vote YES on Citizens’ Petition Article #8.

Pittsfield Elementary School Gymnasium     10am

New Hampshire Pittsfield COP budget v2

 

RAYMOND OUTSOURCE HANDOUT 2-3-17 REVISED

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Dues Deduction, Voting Rights, And The NH Retirement System

Bow, NH

March 3, 2017

This past week the House was once again, not in session, while House committees finished work on a tidal wave of bills, which will hit the House floor for votes beginning Wednesday, March 8. Still, even without the House in full session, there were some interesting developments, including some good news! March 9th is the last day for the House to act on house bills not referred to a second committee. March 16th is the last day to act on all bills going to a second committee except budget bills. In addition, the last day for budget bills to be acted upon is April 6th.

HB 438: banning public sector voluntary payroll deduction of union dues: This bill, a companion piece to so-called ‘right to work,’ was sponsored by nearly the entire Republican leadership team, headed by Majority Leader Dick Hinch. The defeat of so-called ‘right to work’ in the House some two weeks ago, however, signaled the death knell for this unwanted piece of legislation as well. On Wednesday morning, before a hearing room crowded with working people opposed to HB 438, Labor Committee Chair Steve Schmidt proposed to cut the hearing short and in turn, would take immediate steps to ensure “death with dignity” for HB 438 by having the committee ‘retain’ the bill. Democrats agreed to this approach but only after asking the Chairman to repeat his promise to ensure the bill is not resurrected. With such assurances, the Labor Committee voted 20-0 to retain the bill.

What does this mean? HB 438 will stay with the Labor Committee for 2017, and at the end of the year, the Committee will vote to recommend the bill be sent to “interim study.” That motion will then go to the House and presumably be accepted, meaning the bill will remain under study until the end of 2018, when the legislative session ends and the Committee recommends “no further legislative action.” Yes, a quiet way to kill a bill, a bill for which not a single one of its sponsors had the temerity to appear before the Labor Committee to present at the start of Wednesday’s hearing. So, while it is sounds complicated, even Republican leadership has now decided to consign HB 438 to the same graveyard as the 30+ versions of so-called ‘right to work’ defeated in NH since the 1970s.

Education: The most controversial educational issue currently in front of the NH Legislature is that of vouchers. As previously noted, SB 193 would establish a full-blown voucher system in NH, taking taxpayer money and placing it in individual accounts for parents to expend at any charter, private or religious school. Good news for parents who already voluntarily choose to educate their children in that manner, bad news for the taxpayers who will face higher property tax bills to maintain public school facilities, programs and support systems. Put simply, money going to vouchers is taxpayer money funneled away from public schools and into the private sector, creating subsidies for a small portion of the population and imposing greater burdens on the majority. Not good policy, but both SB 193 and a smaller House version, HB 647, have passed their first test in their respective chamber and are now under consideration in the Finance Committees. So, there will be further action and the need for our membership and allies to take action once we determine next steps as these bills work their way through the respective finance committees.

HB 210 which is the bill regarding establishing a code of ethics for educational personnel is slated for a vote by the House on March 9th. This bill has been recommended Ought to Pass with Amendment. This bill requires the NH Board of Education to promulgate rules on or before July 1, 2018.   The bill as amended requires the rules shall address “shall address four key certified educator responsibilities that include responsibility to: (1) the students, (2) the educator profession and professional colleagues, (3) the school community, and (4) the use of technology as it relates to students, professional colleagues and the school community.” Adam Marcoux, Nashua Teachers’ Union President and I have been serving on the Department of Education Advisory Committee on this issue and we have argued that such matters need to remain in the control of the local school districts. We have advocated vigorously for the voices of teachers to be heard on this matter and to avoid unnecessary top down regulation. We will remain vigilant throughout this process.

Voting Rights: Two bills, SB 3 and HB 372, would restrict or narrow the definition of ‘domicile’ in relation to the right to vote or to register to vote. These bills are aimed at the fictional hordes of campaign workers who supposedly flood into NH to vote in November, or the fictional busloads of Massachusetts residents who President Trump believes voted illegally in NH. The real intent of the proposed legislation is to make it more difficult to vote, particularly for those who have only recently moved to a town or who lack a long-established permanent domicile. HB372 will be coming to the House floor within the next week or two, while SB3 is still in committee. Both bills will need to be monitored closely and will likely be subject to grassroots action against passage. Remember, democracy can only flourish when voting rights are kept sacrosanct, and when there is no evidence of voter fraud, one can only wonder at the motives of those who seek to limit and restrict those who can vote. Without the right to vote, the voice of the people cannot be heard, and if it cannot be heard, then the rights and lives of working people and working families will only suffer.   

Our work continues in protecting our NH Retirement System and promoting HB 413 which would bring much needed retirement dollars from the state back to our local communities. Much like the issue of funding for full-day kindergarten, these measures are now being reviewed through the House Finance Committee.

And, please mark Tuesday, March 14th on your calendar—it is Town Election Day. You can make a real difference in your community. We have important AFT-NH local contracts being presented to voters in the following school districts: Farmington, Hillsboro-Deering, Newfound, Raymond and Timberlane. Also, in Raymond, there are two questions on the school ballot addressing outsourcing of school cafeteria jobs to a for profit company. 100% of these café employees live in Raymond! We are asking voters to vote No on Article 9 and Yes on Article 10.

We also need to make sure responsible budgets are approved to fund our schools and provide essential public services. If for some reason you will be unavailable to vote on March 14, please make sure to go to your town hall and vote by absentee ballot. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Breaking news and other important information will be posted at AFT-NH FACEBOOK. Please be sure to like us.

Thank you for staying engaged and speaking out on these very important issues.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-24-17: Payroll Deduction And The Expansion Of School Vouchers

February 24, 2017  

This week and next week the House will not be in session, due to school winter vacations, though the Senate is holding sessions and many committee hearings continue to be held. So, business continues to be done, though we are in a bit of a pause in the House, before the deluge of bills hits the floor on March 8 & 9. Due to the pause, and trying to closely monitor committee actions, this bulletin is intended to provide a snapshot of where we are and what lies ahead the next few weeks.

Right to Work So-called ‘right to work was defeated soundly on February 16th and also was indefinitely postponed. However, it is “not quite dead yet:” Yes, you read that correctly. The House version of so-called right to work (HB 520), is a virtual carbon copy of the Senate version decisively rejected by the House last week. However, there does need to be one more vote on the House bill. On either March 8 or 9, there will be a procedural vote on whether to take up HB 520 in the House. A 2/3 margin is needed to take up the bill, so it is unlikely to rise from the dead, but opponents of anti-worker, so-called ‘right to work’ legislation will need to be vigilant and in their seats, ready to vote to defeat the motion. AFT-NH is actively engaged with our fellow labor unions and community allies to close out this ugly chapter.

It is not too late to thank those legislators who stood with us to defeat right to work. To view the list, please click here. If you click on the name of the representative, the contact information is provided.

Payroll Deduction (HB 438) As you may already know, this proposal is a companion piece to so-called right to work, except it lacks even the flimsy veneer of ideological justification so often touted by advocates of so-called right-to-work. It is vindictive and an undisguised assault on the financial basis of labor organizations, their member dues. Under this legislation, no public employer will be allowed to deduct union dues from an employee’s wages, meaning the union must develop alternative means of collecting dues. Payroll deduction is a long-standing system that is negotiated in contracts, and must be authorized by individual union members. Yet unlike voluntary contributions to charities, apprenticeship funds, voluntary health insurance, or savings funds, all of which will continue to be allowed as voluntary deductions, union dues will be singled out and barred by law from payroll deduction. Why such a prohibition? To simply weaken the ability of unions to collect member dues, thereby weakening their financial foundations and ultimately, weakening the ability of labor unions to fight for their members, whether it be for better wages and benefits, workplace protections, or simply having a voice in the workplace. In essence, time for workers to return to the good old days, before labor unions, when the employer was unchallenged and the worker, to quote Frank Zappa, had to “do as you are told, until the rights to you are sold.”

The public hearing on this bill will be held on Wednesday, March 1, in front of the House Labor Committee, beginning at 10 am in LOB 305-307. If you are able to do so, please attend the hearing and register your opposition. You can also send an email to the entire House Labor Committee at

HouseLaborIndustrialandRehabilitativeServices@leg.state.nh.us

Education Legislation This week yielded up a mixed bag in regards to education-related legislation. A proposal (HB 505) to create a new, alternative body to authorize charter schools (thereby making it even easier to establish such schools) was retained by the Education Committee, meaning it will not come to the floor of the House in 2017 but could be addressed in 2018. That is a victory, at least in terms of delaying action. Another bill (HB 429), to strip the judiciary of any role in determining adequate education funding, was unanimously recommended to be killed by the House Legislative Administration Committee. Given the obvious and repeated failures of the Legislature in years past to adequately fund public education, this is a victory.

However, legislation to create a statewide education voucher system in NH continues to move forward. Last week, the House narrowly approved (along largely party lines) a bill (HB 647-FN) to establish a voucher system for use by parents of children with disabilities. While we all care deeply about such children, a voucher system that removes funding from the public schools and gives it to parents to use for private and/or religious education, is simply wrong for NH, weakening the public system and providing direct aid to schools that quite often do not need to meet the same stringent requirements and thresholds of traditional public schools. This bill now proceeds to House Finance (Division II) which will be conducting hearings on Feb. 28th and March 2nd. Stay tuned for specific actions on this bill as we determine the direction which will be taken from House Finance.

Meanwhile, in the Senate yesterday, SB 193-FN passed 13-10. This bill would establish a statewide voucher system for all students in NH, moving millions in taxpayer funds into private and religious schools. The impact on local communities is incalculable at this point, but these bills could easily be labeled as “Raise Your Local Property Tax” legislation. Traditional public school facilities would still need to be maintained, programs offered, and requirements met, but the funding would decrease while taxpayer dollars flow into private and religious schools. Needless to say, this is bad legislation, but is supported by Governor Chris Sununu as well as his new Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. This bill is now referred to Senate Finance. Both SB 193 and HB 647 will reappear in late March.

There is also the so-called “Croydon” bill, SB 8-FN, which passed the Senate this week. This bill would allow a school board to contract with a private school if there is no public school in the student’s grade in its district. More diversion of tax dollars to private schools. This will proceed to Senate Finance. The topic of non-academic surveys was also addressed by the Senate in SB 43 which no student shall be required to participate in these surveys without written consent from the parent or guardian. The only exception to this would be the youth risk behavior survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, a parent could opt out on behalf of the student.

As a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition, we continue to monitor any bills affecting the NH Retirement System and your benefits. HB 413, which would require the State to pay 15% of the retirement obligation to local communities, is now in House Finance (Division I) and will have a public hearing on February 28th. This bill would provide much needed relief to local communities.

There is much else going on in Concord as we approach the “cross-over” when are bills are due to be voted on by the respective chamber and sent to the other body. We will keep you posted in those bills where there is need for immediate action. Breaking news first appears on our AFT New Hampshire page, so please have your friends, family and colleagues take a moment to like our page!

For those of you starting your February vacation, enjoy your time off and the warmer weather. Spring is around the corner.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-18-17: Victory Over Right To Work, Edelblut’s Confirmation, and Looking Ahead

Yesterday was a good day, a very good day for us in the NH House. As you most likely know by now, a coalition of Democrats and courageous Republican representatives thwarted out-of-state corporate interests and defeated so-called ‘right to work’ legislation (SB 11) on a 200-177 vote. Defying Governor Sununu and his anti-worker agenda, Representatives also blocked Republican plans to bring forward another so-called ‘right to work’ bill in March, thereby effectively killing the issue for the next two years. This was a hard-fought victory, produced by the hard work of a broad coalition of labor unions, faith-based and community action organizations working together, designing an effective strategy, and carrying it out through the work of thousands of individuals writing and calling their State Representatives. The parliamentary maneuvers on the floor of the House were carried out with nary a hitch, but it all would be for naught without the work of so many of you. Thank you!

The defeat of so-called ‘right to work’ was not the only victory we had this week in the Legislature. In a surprisingly strong vote, the House adopted HB 413, which would require the State to begin paying 15% of the employer contributions into the NH Retirement System. The bill now goes to the Finance Committee where it will face close scrutiny before coming back to the House for a final vote, but any restoration of State contributions to the retirement system would be a blessing to sorely-pressed municipalities, counties and school districts. The road ahead will be difficult, but at least we have taken some initial steps.

Not all news was good news this week. Most important, the Executive Council voted 3-2 to confirm the inexperienced and unqualified Frank Edelblut as NH’s next Commissioner of Education. Despite concerns expressed by hundreds of constituents and education professionals, and despite even a letter from the State Board of Education expressing grave concerns, the three Republican members of the Executive Council voted to approve what is clearly a politically-motivated appointment by Governor Sununu, leaving NH with a Commissioner of Education who supports creationism over science, and who defends discredited “conversion” therapy targeting LGBTQ students and attempts to change their sexual orientation. AFT-NH will work with the new commissioner in all legitimate efforts to sustain and improve our traditional public schools in NH, but we shall also remain vigilant and wary of any efforts to undermine the public schools serving the vast majority of NH children.

In other education-related news, the House passed a voucher bill for parents of children with disabilities, thereby opening the door for broader voucher programs which would rob public schools of already insufficient State funding. The bill, HB 647-FN, sets up “education freedom savings accounts” for parents of children with disabilities. State education funds are then placed in these accounts, which parents can then use to pay to private and religious schools if they choose to remove their child from the traditional public schools. This is simply a foretaste of broad-based vouchers, which are contained in SB 193-FN, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday by a 3-2 party-line vote. Sponsored and supported by Republicans, SB 193 is a full-blown voucher system which would severely undermine funding for traditional public schools and funnels millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to private and religious schools in New Hampshire. The bill now goes to the floor of the Senate, where it will likely receive a hearty welcome from Republicans bent upon destroying our system of public schools, the bedrock of the American Dream and the incubator of democratic citizenship. Please contact your State Senator and ask them to vote NO on SB 193. To contact your state senator, please click WHO IS MY SENATOR? and enter the city or town where you reside. Once you have determined who is your state senator, go to the SENATE ROSTER to find out how to contact the senator. To put it simply, please tell them to vote against SB 193 and that money should not be diverted from our public schools.

Finally, we also saw the defeat this week of Richard Ames’ fine legislative proposals aimed at reforming the adequacy funding for public schools and creating a tax on capital gains, the revenues of which would have been applied to retirement fund payments, thereby easing local property tax burdens. Both proposals were detailed and carefully crafted, but the Republican majority has little interest in improving public school funding and no interest in creating or expanding taxes, especially those aimed at the wealthiest NH residents.

Looking Ahead. The NH House will not be meeting in session next week but committees will be continuing to wrap up their work to meet the March 2nd deadline to report on bills not going to a second committee and the March 9th deadline for the House to act on those bills. The House Education Committee will be meeting in executive session to act on a number of bills addressing charter schools (House Bills HB 494, HB 293, HB 341, and HB 505) as well as HB 339 (transportation costs for students attending career/technical education centers), HB 122 (withdrawal from a cooperative school district), HB 477 (free speech on college campuses), HB 210 (code of ethics for educational personnel), HB 620 and HB 396 (student assessment data privacy).

On the Senate side, the full Senate will be considering the following bills with a recommendation of Ought to Pass by the Education Committee: SB 8-FN (school attendance in towns with no school districts), SB 43 (non-academic surveys to students), SB 44 (prohibiting the state from requiring the implementation of common core standards), SB 103 (limiting food/beverage advertising/marketing on school property), SB 191-FN (definition of average daily membership attendance), and SB 228 (NH college graduate retention incentive partnership-GRIP)

The dangerous bill as mentioned in last week’s bulletin is HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from withholding union dues from a public employee’s wages. Yes, the bill would not allow voluntary union dues to be deducted from an employee’s paycheck. Locals would have to find other methods to collect dues from members. This is clearly a punitive measure aimed at Unions. We know there are dozens of other voluntary payroll deductions allowed such as insurance deductions, charitable contributions such as United Way or voluntary disability insurance plans, to name a few. Despite the title of the bill, this would affect all public employees and all of our locals. It is expected the House Labor Committee will now be hearing this bill on March 2nd and then this bill would go to the full House on March 9th. We will be sending out requests for action on this bill. We will need members to engage actively to help defeat this bill.

So the news is mixed, as always, but we are thankful for all the hard work so many of you put into the fight over so-called ‘right to work.’ Relish the victory, knowing it means you CAN make a difference. Other fights are coming and we will be asking for more support and engagement in the coming weeks. Please continue to encourage folks to “like us” at the AFT New Hampshire Facebook page for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Right To Work Goes Down In The NH House, New Hampshire Labor Rejoices

To the great “disappointment” of Governor Sununu, SB 11, the so-called “Right to Work” for less bill, goes down in flames.  By a bi-partisan vote of 200 to 177 the members of the NH House voted to kill the bill.  “I am deeply disappointed today by the House’s failure to pass Right to Work,” stated Governor Chris Sununu.

“Today’s vote was a confirmation of what we determined in the House Labor Committee, where Democrats and Republicans worked together to recommend defeat of so-called ‘right to work,’” said Representative Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey), the Ranking Democrat on the House Labor Committee. “With a strong economy and the lowest unemployment rate in America, legislation that reduces wages and interferes with the employer/employee relationship is the last thing our state needs.  I am very pleased that the full House agreed with the bipartisan Labor Committee recommendation, and that we can finally put this issue behind us.”

“Today a bi-partisan majority confirmed that ‘Right to Work’ is still wrong for New Hampshire, and this vote should be the final nail in the coffin,” said NH AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett. “Across the Granite State, working people stood together against this corporate-backed legislation that would cripple our ability to speak up on job. We thank the legislators who let workers’ voices rise above special interests’.” 

AFT-NH, that represents 4,000 teachers, school support staff, city and town employees, police officers, library employees, and higher education faculty, was “extremely pleased” with Right to Work’s defeat.

“We are extremely pleased that the NH House defeated Right to Work by a 200-177 vote today,” said Doug Ley, President of AFT-NH. “The defeat of this bill was the result of cooperation across party lines and hard work by our members, fellow union brothers and sisters in the labor movement and community allies. The actions by the NH House today puts to bed this divisive legislation for at least another 2 years. We thank legislators who stood with working families.”

NEA-NH, the state’s largest public employee union, representing over 17,000 members, praised the vote.

“Educators’ working conditions are our child’s learning conditions,” said Megan Tuttle acting NEA-NH President. “By weakening the ability of educators to advocate for students, kids across New Hampshire stood to lose things like smaller class sizes, safe classrooms and drinking water, up-to-date resources, and expanded curriculum choices. Our ability to advocate for every public-school student was preserved today.”

“When out-of-state interests with pre-written legislation and lots of money try to set legislative priorities in New Hampshire, kids lose. Today’s vote prevented that from happening.”

“The 17,000 members of NEA-New Hampshire extend our thanks to those voting against SB11 today, especially those members who stood strong against the pressure applied by the majority leadership on this issue. Their resolve helped ensure that kids and educators across the state will continue to have a strong voice,” concluded Tuttle. 

Richard Gulla, President of the NH State Employees Association was “proud” of the legislators who stood with working families.

“Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted SB 11 Inexpedient to Legislate. We are proud of the legislators for standing with Granite State workers today and putting the so-called Right to Work bill behind us, where it belongs. The New Hampshire House recognized that there was no constituency supporting this legislation and proved out-of-state special interests have no place in our politics. It took courage to stand against the constant stream of pressure from outside funding – and Granite State families can now celebrate this accomplishment.”

“We are incredibly grateful to our elected officials for continuing to stand up for what is important. We look forward to working with Governor Sununu and the legislature to continue helping New Hampshire families,” Gulla added. 

Democrats also rejoiced as Sununu’s highest priority piece of legislation was defeated.

“New Hampshire proved once again that it’s a friend to workers’ rights. Despite Governor Sununu and NHGOP Chair Forrester’s brazen attempts, Republicans and Democrats in the State House stood together and made clear that this issue is above partisan politics,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckey. 

“Today’s defeat of the so-called Right to Work for Less legislation is a great victory for New Hampshire’s working families,” said Jeff Woodburn, NH Senate Minority Leader.  “Right to Work for Less makes it harder for people to earn a living, harder for people to make ends meet, and harder for people to support a family. I congratulate the bipartisan coalition in the House that recognized the damage it would have caused and came together to defeat this harmful legislation.”

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-10-17: Right To Work (for less) And NH Retirement System

February 10, 2017  

Besides the snowstorms this week, the big news out of Concord is the current status of ‘right to work’ legislation, legislative action on the NH Retirement System, and the continuing saga of Frank Edelblut as NH’s own version of Betsy DeVos.

‘Right to Work’: The House Labor Committee held its mandatory hearing on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation this past Wednesday, a marathon hearing stretching from 10am until past 5 pm. Hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House, and most of those who testified did so in opposition to so-called ‘right to work.’ There were numerous stories of how unions helped workers in the workplace and bettered their lives, along with testimonies on the need for workers to have a voice of their own. Many of the advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ were from outside NH, offering up slanted evidence and demonstrating virtually no understanding or familiarity with NH traditions, politics or even our economic situation in 2017. One such witness, when pressed, ultimately admitted that the reason business often supports so-called right to work is because it makes it harder to organize (translation: weaker unions, lower pay, fewer benefits). Interestingly, other than gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger (a non-union workplace) virtually no businesses testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work,’ and not a single employer who deals with unions testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work.’ AFT-NH local leaders submitted some fantastic written testimony for consideration by the Labor Committee. Please click here to review the testimony.

At the end of the long day, the Labor Committee then voted on the two identical bills (SB 11 and HB 520). Both bills will be sent to the House floor with the recommendation of “ITL”—Inexpedient to Legislate (in layman’s terms, “kill them”). Five Republicans voted with the nine Democrats on the Labor Committee, a strong bipartisan showing against legislation advocated by outside, non-NH organizations. As a result, SB 11 will come to the floor for a House vote on next Thursday, February 16, while HB 520 will come up later in the session. So, our challenge right now is to defeat SB 11 next Thursday—now is the time to act! Please, contact your State Representative and tell her/him to vote against SB 11 by following the Labor Committee’s recommendation of ITL. Do not delay—now is the time. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter—we need to make our position known!

NH Retirement System: Another important legislative proposal dealing with the NH Retirement System will come before the House on Wednesday, February 15. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has recommended passage by a 10-9 vote. If approved by the full House, the bill would then be referred to the House Finance Committee. Sponsored by Representative Renny Cushing, HB 413 mandates that the State of NH reinstate payment by the state of 15% of retirement contributions, thereby providing some relief to cities, towns, counties and school districts, all of whom must bear the burden with employees of contributing to the NH Retirement System. Many years ago, when the State sought to persuade towns and cities to join the NHRS, it made the financial promise to pay 40% of the cost, a promise which has not been kept, thereby leaving towns and cities with increased burdens and higher property taxes to cover the payments reneged on by the State. The increased costs to local communities, especially in our locals such as Nashua, Newfound Area School District and Rochester dealing with tax and/or spending caps, this bill will provide some long-overdue relief and is strongly supported by AFT-NH. So, when you contact your State Reps about so-called ‘right to work,’ be sure to put in a good word for HB 413 as well, and remind them that even Governor Sununu has promised restoring some of the State aid promised to towns and cities.

Frank Edelblut: The Executive Council vote on Frank Edelblut was delayed this past week when it was revealed that a required consultation by the Governor with the State Board of Education had not actually occurred. That meeting was scheduled for yesterday but the snowstorm led to its cancellation, so the meeting will now be held on Tuesday, February 14th. In the meantime, video of Edelblut’s testimony in favor of discredited “conversion therapy” for gay teens is now circulating, leading one to wonder just how supportive he can be of our LGBQT students? There is also more material now available in which Edelblut is clearly identified as a denier of climate change. Combined with his previously noted affiliation with creationism (Patrick Henry College), it is sure to make one question just where science education will be headed under a Department of Education led by Frank Edelblut. So please, keep up the good work and contact your Executive Councilor and urge him to vote against Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. Remind him—if you need to be certified to teach or licensed to drive, shouldn’t the Commissioner of Education meet the statutory requirement for appropriate education and experience?

A brief follow-up on two items noted in last week’s bulletin. First, HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from processing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues is scheduled for public hearing before the House Labor Committee on February 22nd. Secondly, the school voucher type bill, SB 193 had a public hearing and no action has yet been taken by the Committee.

Thank you for all you have done so far and thank you for all you will do this coming week. Please, reach out, participate, and encourage a colleague or friend to do likewise. Democracy is governance by the people, and YOU are the people!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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