It is that time in the 2014 legislative session for Committees of Conference. Bills that were amended by either chamber will need a recommendation of concur, non-concur, or non-concur with a request for a Committee of Conference from the committee in which the bill originated. At the moment, the following bills will be moving to Committees Of Conference, and both chambers have till June 4th to act on these bills.
HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school. AFT-NH is in support of the bill’s intent.
Around 2011-2012 the state passed a bill which mandated that local districts must pay for support services for special education students enrolled in Charter schools. This means that a district must send someone to the Charter school, contract out the service, or pay the Charter school to provide the services. All of which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. We need to have a clear picture on what it is costing districts to educate special education students enrolled in a Charter school in or out of their home district. Because this is a mandate from the State we also need to have the discussion on who should be paying for these services.
HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.We were originally opposed to this bill but when amended we came out in support. This bill moves to a committee of conference, AFT-NH will monitor this process.
The original bill was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.
RETIREMENT LAW SUITS
This past Thursday, May 15, 2014 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on our Merrimack County I (rate case).
In this case, the Superior Court found that the recently imposed rate increases were substantial and were not justified by any particular public policy requirements. The rate increases were, thus, improper for any employee vested in the Retirement System under the Contract Clause of the NH Constitution. The Contract Clause prohibits the state from breaching its contracts. The judge, however, found that employees do not become vested in the Retirement System until they complete ten (10) years of service.
The Retirement Coalition appealed because it believes employees become vested upon achieving permanent status, not at ten years. The State appealed because it claims employees do not ever vest or do not vest until they actually retire. The Retirement System also filed a brief in which they claim not to take any positions, but at the same time claim that the Retirement System should not be required to refund any monies that become due. The NH Municipal Association and the NH School Boards Association filed a brief that essentially sides with the State.
It will be a few months until the Supreme Court issues its written decision; once it is out I will send out a summary as to their ruling.
RETIREMENT LAW SUITS STILL WORKING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE COURTS
Merrimack County II (COLA and Special Accounts).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees do not have vested rights in their COLAs and no right to challenge the defunding of special accounts. The judge also repeated his findings about a ten (10) year vesting period for other aspects of the Retirement System.
The state’s brief are due May 20, 2014, our response is now due July 7, 2014, their response to us is now due August 5, 2014. The next step will be for the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments.
Hillsborough County (Definition of Earnable Compensation, Benefit Structure).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees vest in the Retirement System upon achieving permanent status. The judge ruled, however, that she cannot tell without a trial whether definitional changes made by the Legislature regarding factors such as what constitutes “earnable compensation” are substantial enough to have violated petitioners’ rights. (Merrimack I and II were determined on an agreed statement of the facts, without a trial).
Case Status: Over our objection, the Hillsborough County judge stayed proceedings in this case pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeals. As a result, there is not pending activity in this case.
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UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS
TUESDAY, MAY 20
LEGISLATIVE ADMINISTRATION, Room 104, LOB
10:00 a.m. Interim study subcommittee work session on HB 1440-FN, including the writing, promoting, or distributing of model legislation to elected officials as lobbying and requiring disclosure of scholarship funds, money, or other financial support received from such lobbyists by elected officials.
WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on Revenue Updates.
THURSDAY, MAY 22
10:00 a.m. Senate in Session
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4
10:00 a.m. House in Session