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Mark Fernald: Politics vs. the Public Good

If you served in the legislature and had to choose between what is good for the State of New Hampshire and what is good for your party, what would you do?  Our legislators faced this test last year.  Most of them failed.

The issue was gerrymandering—the drawing of voting districts in a way that benefits one party over another.

The guiding principle of democracy is majority rule.  It is essential that we have rules that protect the right to vote, and ensure an accurate vote count that reflects the will of the people.

The goal of gerrymandering is to impede the will of the people by making it possible for the party with a minority of the votes to get a majority of the legislative seats.  It is a way to rig elections.

The technique is quite simple.  You identify towns and city wards that are most likely to vote against your party.  You group together as many of those places as possible, creating districts your party is sure to lose.  If you pack enough unfavorable voters into a few districts, it means the remaining districts are more likely to vote for your party.

Since the earliest days of our country, politicians have gerrymandered.  The term originated in 1812 in Massachusetts, when Governor Elbridge Gerry of the Democratic-Republican Party approved a legislative map that favored his party over the Federalist Party.  One district north of Boston was thought to resemble a mythological salamander, and the word “Gerrymander” became part of our political lexicon.

Today, computers make the process of gerrymandering more precise—and more dangerous to democracy.  It’s now routine for the party in power at the time of redistricting to hire a data-crunching firm to draw district lines for maximum advantage.

Here in New Hampshire, the Republicans were pleased with the results from their redistricting of the State Senate after the 2010 census.  It was traditional for Portsmouth and Durham to be in different State Senate districts, and both districts were usually held by Democrats.  The 2012 map put both Portsmouth and Durham in District 21.  It had the desired effect.  District 21 is overwhelming Democratic.  The neighboring districts (23 and 24) have elected Republican state senators.

Similarly, District 10 (Keene area) and District 5 (Upper Valley) were drawn to be sure-wins for Democrats—thus making the neighboring districts more likely to vote Republican.  In 2012, the Democratic candidates for State Senate received 51% of the vote statewide, but Republicans won 14 seats, while the Democrats won just 10.

It’s the same story in the Executive Council.  District 2 was drawn to combine the Democratic strongholds of Durham, Concord, and Keene.  One result is a district that is about 130 miles long—some feat in a state only 90 miles wide at the widest—with a disproportionate number of Democratic voters.  The other result is that Republicans will likely always have three seats on the Executive Council—at least until the next redistricting.

There are alternatives.  Last year, House Bill 320 was a proposal that districts be drawn using a mathematical optimization process.  Districts would be drawn with the shortest possible perimeter, to keep together communities of interest, and to avoid elongated districts that put together towns that are far from each other.  The bill would have forbidden the drawing of district lines using party affiliation of voters, addresses of incumbent legislators, previous election results, or demographic data (other than the actual census counts).  Predictably, the bill failed on a nearly party-line vote.  All but three Republicans voted to kill the bill, while all but four Democrats voted in support.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 107 called for the creation of a bi-partisan redistricting commission that would draw district boundaries using the same criteria at HB 320.  It ran into the same partisan buzz saw:  All 14 Republicans voted “no,” while all nine Democrats voted “yes.”

Our legislators take an oath to “support the constitution.”  That constitution is based on the democratic principle of majority rule.  When legislators vote for gerrymandered districts—and when they vote against bills that would prohibit gerrymandering—they are violating their oath of office.

If the shoe were on the other foot—if Democrats were benefitting from partisan, gerrymandered districts—would Republicans suddenly become fans of the use of non-partisan redistricting criteria, and would Democrats suddenly favor the status quo?  If the Democrats regain the majority in the November, we may find out.

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor.  He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

NH House Passes Paid Family Leave (Again) And Pushes Bill To A 3rd Committee

Yesterday the NH House pass HB 628, by a vote of 186 – 164, to establish a family and medical leave program in New Hampshire. House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following:

“I am extremely proud of the House of Representatives this morning, particularly the House Democrats who have been working for years to bring a viable, sustainable, paid family and medical leave program to New Hampshire.  Over 80% of our constituents support family leave because they understand how beneficial it will be to our state’s economy. Every single House Democrat stood up for Granite Staters today by voting against the recommendation from Republican leadership that this bill be defeated.”

“New Hampshire businesses need educated, young workers to grow our state’s economy.  This bill establishes exactly the kind of program that will encourage those skilled workers to raise their families in our state.  Years and years of study, negotiation, and collaboration led us to this point, and House Democrats will continue to speak for the people in prioritizing this important program as it continues along the legislative process.”

The bill now moves to the House Finance Committee.

Rather than being sent to the Senate, it has now been sent to a rather unprecedented 3rd House Committee for further review. Senator Dan Feltes, a co-sponsor of House Bill 628, issued the following statement after today’s vote:

“This strong bipartisan endorsement of Family Medical Leave Insurance once again shows how essential this is to attracting and retaining a high quality workforce, to caring for our senior population, and to combating the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Feltes.

New Hampshire House Gets A Second Chance To Ban Conversion Therapy Saving Thousands Of LGBT Teens

New Reports Shows Tens Of Thousands Of Teens Subjected To Conversion Therapy
By The Time They Reach 18

On February 7th, the New Hampshire House will get another chance to do the right thing and ban “conversion therapy” in New Hampshire.  The bill, HB 587, first came up on January 9th, where Speaker Chandler voted to break the tie and kill the bill.  However, after the vote, Rep. Henry Parkhurst of Winchester called for a reconsideration vote.  Because Parkhurst voted in the majority, he can ask for a reconsideration vote, implying he has changed his mind and wants another chance to vote.

Previously, we have talked about the horrors of “conversion therapy” and laid out a number of reasons why it should be banned.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is aimed at young people in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.  “This harmful practice uses shame, rejection, and psychological abuse and can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide.”

“It is not therapy but child abuse that can lead to suicide; and should be illegal,” said Mo Baxley, Former Executive Director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.

“Research suggests the treatment can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety, because it encourages people to fight or hate a sexual orientation that can’t be changed [5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy],” wrote Tia Ghose for LiveScience.

This week, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law released a shocking new report that showed that 20,000 adolescents between 13 and 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before the age of 18.  Another 57,000 will undergo conversion therapy from a religious or spiritual advisor.

The researchers also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received it as adolescents.

“Many professional health associations and the public support ending the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth,” said Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at the Williams Institute and lead author of the study. “Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice.”

A number of prominent national professional health associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others — have issued public statements opposing the use of conversion therapy and several have called on Congress and state legislatures to pass laws that ban the practice.

For more than a century, health care professionals and religious figures have used a range of techniques to attempt to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique. However, some practitioners have also used “aversion treatments,” such as inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis or applying electric shocks.

“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” said study author Kerith Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and research director at the Williams Institute, “we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and their families.”

Lets hope that the New Hampshire House can get it right this time and ban this horrific practice, once and for all.

New Bill To Create A Death Benefit For School Employees Killed In The Line Of Duty

In 2017, approximately 40 people per day died from gun related injuries according to a report from Gun Violence Archives. Unfortunately this is the world we live in.  This is why children practice “lock down” procedures in school in the event of an armed gunman gaining access to the school grounds.

Today we are not here to discuss how we need to do something about the growing gun violence problem in America: today we want to talk a new bill being pushed in the New Hampshire Legislature to extend death benefits to school employees who are killed in the line of duty.

This week, the NH House Committee for Executive Departments and Administration held a public hearing on HB 1415.  The bill is would simply extend the same death benefit given to police officers, killed in the line of duty, to school employees.

Doug Ley, President of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-NH) testified before the committee on why this bill should be passed.  He cited that since Columbine in 1996, there has been 202 school shootings that resulted in deaths of “164 students, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel.”

The American Federation of Teachers, represented the five teachers at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. Those educators and aide’s were honored as heroes for doing all they could to protect the lives of the children in their care.

Just one example was special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, a 14-year veteran of the school, was found dead, holding the lifeless body of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley.

“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy,” the Hockley family said in a statement. “Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed to her picture on our refrigerator every day.”

These heroes should be given the same death benefit as any police officer killed in the line of duty.


Below is the full written testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley Testimony In Support of HB 1415: Death Benefit for School Employees Killed in Line of Duty

Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you to the Committee for providing me this opportunity to testify in favor of HB 1415, establishing a death benefit for a school employee killed in the line of duty.

My name is Douglas Ley, and I am one of the members from Cheshire County, District 9, representing the towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, and Roxbury. I am also president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and I have filed all the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics office and intend to participate in the discussion of HB1415.

As we know, NH Statutes currently authorize a death benefit of $100,000 for families of police officers and firefighters killed in the performance of their duties. That is a good thing, and I am proud to have helped pass that legislation. Today, we consider establishing a similar death benefit for the families of school employees killed in the line of duty, and on behalf of AFT-NH I am here to voice our support for this proposed statutory addition.

Dr. Donna Decker is my colleague at Franklin Pierce University and an expert on school shootings, a subject on which she has written and spoken. I asked her the other day just how many such incidents have occurred since the infamous shootings at Columbine High School back in 1999. According to her research, there have been 202 school shootings in the US since Columbine, or an average of 11 shootings per year over the past 18 years at all levels of education. Not all are mass shootings, and not all involve fatalities, but even so, the numbers are staggering—164 students killed, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel. Besides Columbine, the most infamous such shooting occurred in Newtown CT, my former hometown (I graduated Newtown High School in 1976)—20 students and six school personnel were cold-heartedly murdered. Thankfully, NH has thus far escaped this phenomenon and I hope that will always be the case, but it is best to be prepared for the worst.

As a negotiator, I have helped negotiate a dozen school personnel contracts. In reviewing them, I find that all include small life insurance policies for the personnel, ranging from $7500 to $30,000, paid for by the Districts. In a few cases, there are also provisions for death benefits in the form of small cash buyouts of unused sick days. None of these benefits, however, come close to the $100,000 benefit proposed here and none of these current benefits would even remotely compensate for the anguish and loss suffered by a family when a school employee is killed in the line of duty.

In my work as a negotiator, I often work with school secretaries. These are the personnel on the front-line of school security, authorizing or denying entry to individuals seeking to enter schools. Their work is often highly-demanding, pulling them in multiple directions at the same time, but the one area about which they always express deep concern is their ability to maintain school security. Like the secretaries, para-professionals, food-service workers, and teachers all tell me over and over that their greatest concern is the safety and security of the children for whom they take responsibility. They wish there was no need for school safety provisions, but they know the world in which they live and work, and they welcome the trainings and drills on how to handle life-or-death school emergencies.

Allow me to close with the following thought. We entrust our children to teachers, para-educators, and all the professionals who work in our public schools. Those school personnel take that charge very seriously, and are ready for whatever emergencies arise. I hope there is never a school shooting incident in NH, but if there is, I am quite certain that school personnel will do all they can to preserve the lives and protect the safety of the children in their charge. Because of the trust and the heavy burden we place upon these secretaries, teachers, para-educators, and all others, providing a $100,000 death benefit to their families in the event of death in the line of duty is right. It can never make up for a family’s loss, but it can provide some aid and assistance and is tangible evidence of the public’s recognition and regard for the heavy responsibilities we place on those in our public schools. Let us do the right thing, and pass HB1415 to the House floor with a recommendation of OTP.

 

AFT-NH President Ley Testifies Against SB 193 To House Finance Committee

(January 16, 2018) Below is the full submitted testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley on SB 193:

Let me begin by offering my thanks to the Committee Chair and to the Finance Committee for taking the time to hear my testimony.

For the record: Douglas Ley, representing District 9-Cheshire County, towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, & Roxbury. In addition, I am here as president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and have filed the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics Office.

Speaking on behalf of myself and the 4,000 members of AFT-NH, I come before you in opposition to SB193. The written report provided to you focuses upon financial aspects of SB193 and places the proposed program into a broader national context by looking at its financial provisions as compared to those in other states with similar Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). You can read the report by clicking the link Following the Wrong Path.

Based upon the comparison between SB193 and similar programs in five other states, the report concludes that “NH should expect similar taxpayer and academic accountability problems as these states.” Without going over the report in detail (I am confident the Committee will do its due diligence), let me simply highlight a few salient points:

  1. SB193 eligibility requirements closely mirror those in AZ (esp. prior to very recent amendments there), but unlike AZ and other states, there is no requirement in SB193 for prior public school enrollment as a condition of eligibility. Thus, NH can expect similar student loss from public schools and the accompanying costs as occurred in AZ.
  2. Funding formulas across states with ESAs are generally similar. In AZ there was a 10-fold increase in costs between 2012-15, and the losses estimated by Reaching Higher NH are in line with experiences in other states.
  3. On the issue of financial accountability, AZ’s Attorney General just two years ago found that in one six-month period, there was over $100,000 in misspent funds. Under SB193, there is only very limited public financial accountability—instead, accountability is outsourced to the same private entity earning money from the program. In addition, there is no requirement for posting of surety bonds or other insurance by private providers, to ensure that private schools or providers would have enough money to reimburse the State for any misused funds. Ultimately, SB193 lacks even rudimentary public financial accountability standards, to say nothing of the very meager academic accountability standards.

Other witnesses will undoubtedly go into great detail on specific estimated costs to the State and to local property tax payers in order to fund SB193 while maintaining our constitutional duty to education and our social contract commitment to public schools and public education. Allow me to close by noting two additional items:

First, let me draw your attention to a letter from the Superintendent of the Monadnock Regional School District, which includes one of the towns I represent. In that letter sent to you on Monday, January 15, the Superintendent expresses her clear concerns over the financial impact on the Monadnock District of anywhere from $83,000 to $172,000 in lost State aid to the District. What is not said in that letter is that this is a District that has faced very difficult budget battles over the past five years and the likelihood of those budget wars continuing for the near future.

Second, you also received a letter from the president of the Nashua Teachers Union (NTU), who could not attend this hearing today due to conflicting commitments. In that letter, NTU president Adam Marcoux reviews their objections to SB193, pointing to Nashua’s loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in State funds if SB193 becomes law. His conclusion regarding SB193’s financial impact is succinct and pointed: It “sounds like a state property tax increase, in addition to the anticipated local property tax increases.”

At a time when this committee has already rejected a number of other policy proposals on grounds that State funds are simply not available, I ask that the Committee reject SB193 as financially unsound for the State of New Hampshire and as an expenditure of public funds with virtually no public accountability. For localities, this will entail further downshifting of costs onto local taxpayers in order to provide public funds to those who choose of their own volition to send their children to private or home schools. This is not a proper use of public funds, unregulated, unaudited, and certain to result in tax increases. I ask that you therefore reject SB193 and vote to recommend ITL.

[Note: The entire written testimony is provided but actual testimony was abbreviated due to time constraints and to avoid duplicate testimony. Per President Ley, many school boards, school board members, superintendents and policy experts tore into the bill in great and meticulous detail. AFT-NH applauds their efforts.]

 

New Hampshire House To Hold Public Hearing On Two Bill Aimed At Relaxing Gun Safety Laws

This Wednesday, January 10th, the two New Hampshire House committees will be taking up bills relating to allowing guns in schools and removing your city or town’s rights to prohibit firearms on public property.

The first is HB 1749, an act “relative to the state’s authority to prohibit or regulate firearms and relative to the selectmen’s authority to manage town property.”  This bill, being considered by the House Municipal and County Government committee wants to remove a municipalities ability to prohibit firearms on community property.  

Even though RSA 159:26 gives cities and towns the right to create ordinances to protect the safety of their residents, legislators in Concord disagree.  They feel that cities like Lebanon violated the law when they banned guns on school property or at school sponsored events (off campus).

These legislators want to take away the city’s ability to prohibit guns in our schools.  They want to be able to tell the Town of Milford that they must allow people to conduct target practice on town property.

The committee hold a public session on this bill Wednesday, January 10th at 10am in Reps Hall. Take a moment to tell the committee how you feel about the State Legislators taking away the towns rights to protect their own residents. (Email the committee directly)

The Second bill is HB 1542, “an act relative to carrying a pistol or revolver on university system and community college system property.” 

This bill is plain and simple:

“This bill allows any person who is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law to carry a pistol or revolver on the exterior grounds of any university system of New Hampshire and community college system of New Hampshire property.”

They want to make it legal to carry guns on college campuses.  If this law goes through it is a disaster waiting to happen.

The committee hold a public session on this bill Wednesday, January 10th at 10:40 am in LOB 204. Take a moment to tell the committee how you feel about the State Legislators allowing guns on college campuses. (Email the committee directly)

Republicans Ram Through Unconstitutional School Voucher Bill

The House of Representatives voted today to pass SB 193, legislation establishing a school voucher program allowing parents to use Education Trust Fund dollars to subsidize tuition to private schools including religious institutions.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following statement after the vote:

“Simply put, this bill is an unconstitutional attempt to weaken confidence in public education and reduce funding to public schools.”

“Because funding for this program will come directly from the Education Trust Fund, the total amount distributed to school districts throughout the state will be reduced.  To participate in the program, parents of children with disabilities must waive their right to special education and related services.”

“This legislation was written to deliberately circumvent the New Hampshire Constitution, which clearly and distinctly prohibits the use of tax dollars for religious education.  The pass-through scheme concocted by this bill is an embarrassment to the founders of this great state.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Governor Sununu’s SB193 school voucher bill is an irresponsible, fundamentally unfair bill that violates our obligation to treat all students equally. It means private and religious schools that are under no obligation to follow state or federal education standards would receive our taxpayer dollars. It means students with disabilities would be subject to schools that are ill-equipped to take on their unique challenges. It means that parents of transgender students would have to give their taxpayer money to schools that ban their children.

The bill promises additional revenue to make up for the losses public schools would inevitably incur, but we’ve yet to see where this money will come from. Will Sununu and the Republicans raise our taxes just to give more money to private and religious schools or will they take money away from crucial services that so many depend on? SB193 is a key part of Governor Sununu & Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s attempt to overhaul the New Hampshire education system, moving the focus away from public schools. They should focus instead on growing and strengthening our public schools to make sure every student has a chance to succeed.”

AFT-NH’s President Doug Ley released the following after yesterday’s vote:

“Despite a powerful speech by Rep. Robert Elliott denouncing the bill as in clear violation of Article 6 of the NH Constitution which explicitly bars spending public monies on religious or sectarian schools, a majority composed almost entirely of House Republicans took a major step towards dismantling the State’s commitment to funding public education. By siphoning public tax revenues into private schools SB193 erodes the State’s commitment to maintaining and providing a quality public education to all children and sets up a separate system of funding for private schools. With all assessment and accountability left in the hands of a private agency that also handles transferring public monies to private schools via “Education Savings Accounts,” the incentive to rake in more revenue by ignoring any serious assessment or accountability is clear. It is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse and ultimately, local taxpayers will bear the additional costs.

“SB193 now moves to the Finance Committee, which must somehow figure a way to fund the program without local property tax increases or raising additional State revenues. As one member of the Finance Committee noted on the House floor, SB193 is a jumble of half-baked financial schemes and unanswered financial questions which will pose great challenges for the committee. There is no clear timeline, though the committee will need to report the bill to the House no later than March 2018.”

AFT-NH’s Statement On The House Passage Of SB 193 (School Voucher Bill)

AFT-NH President Douglas Ley released the following statement about the January 3 vote in the NH House on SB193, the so-called “voucher” bill

“AFT-NH and all supporters of public education in New Hampshire are grievously disappointed with yesterday’s initial House vote on SB193. By a margin of 184-162, the House gave initial approval to this grievously flawed bill, sending it on to the Finance Committee for further examination before bringing it back to the floor for a final vote.

“Despite a powerful speech by Rep. Robert Elliott denouncing the bill as in clear violation of Article 6 of the NH Constitution which explicitly bars spending public monies on religious or sectarian schools, a majority composed almost entirely of House Republicans took a major step towards dismantling the State’s commitment to funding public education. By siphoning public tax revenues into private schools SB193 erodes the State’s commitment to maintaining and providing a quality public education to all children and sets up a separate system of funding for private schools. With all assessment and accountability left in the hands of a private agency that also handles transferring public monies to private schools via “Education Savings Accounts,” the incentive to rake in more revenue by ignoring any serious assessment or accountability is clear. It is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse and ultimately, local taxpayers will bear the additional costs.

“SB193 now moves to the Finance Committee, which must somehow figure a way to fund the program without local property tax increases or raising additional State revenues. As one member of the Finance Committee noted on the House floor, SB193 is a jumble of half-baked financial schemes and unanswered financial questions which will pose great challenges for the committee. There is no clear timeline, though the committee will need to report the bill to the House no later than March 2018.”

The people at Advancing New Hampshire Public Education posted the full roll call votes, here.

New Hampshire Legislative Children’s Caucus Votes to Support Transgender Freedom

CONCORD, N.H. — In a near unanimous vote, the Children’s Caucus will now formally support the newly filed HB 1319. HB 1319 will update New Hampshire’s existing nondiscrimination laws – which currently protect people from discrimination at work, in housing, and in places open to the public – to also protect people who are transgender.

The NH Children’s Caucus is a group of bipartisan legislators committed to the children of New Hampshire. The Caucus voted to support HB 1319 which will affirm the dignity of transgender Granite Staters – including transgender parents and children – and ensure their freedom and opportunity for all.

Below is a statement from Linds Jakows, Campaign Manager of Freedom New Hampshire:

“We’re so proud that HB 1319 has earned the endorsement of the Children’s Caucus. This legislation is critical to ensuring that all children in New Hampshire – including those who are transgender – are safe and protected in the communities they call home. The Granite State  should be a land of freedom and opportunity for all, and HB 1319 will provide urgent legal protections for transgender people, including transgender youth.

“Transgender youth are at a disproportionately high risk of substance abuse, depression, and even suicide. In fact, an estimated 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. It is paramount that we ensure that all children know that they will be protected by the laws of our state and that they have happy, healthy, productive lives to look forward to.

“Transgender people are our loved ones, friends, and family members. It is clear that support is growing for full opportunity in the Granite State as more of us are introduced to our transgender neighbors. Updating the law is one more tool to help ensure that every person in our state – including those who are transgender – is able to take advantage of every opportunity and live their lives free from discrimination.”


Freedom New Hampshire is a nonpartisan coalition working to educate people about what it means to be transgender, the unique hardships that transgender people face and to grow support for fair and equal treatment of transgender Granite Staters under the law.

Republicans In The House Take Aim At NH Labor Laws

Republican legislators in the New Hampshire House of Representatives want to change the current labor laws to allow kids to work “any time” of the day or night, remove requirements to display wage and discrimination laws, and handicap the State Department of Labor.

State Rep. Laurie Sanborn (Bedford), introduced the self titled “Red Tape Reduction Act” (HB1762-FN) aimed at what she says is to “reduce the excessive and unnecessary documentation and regulatory (red tape) burdens.” She claims that these “burdens” are inhibiting employers from hiring and growing their businesses.

What it really does it make it easier for employers to screw over workers and reduces the penalties if they get caught.

Some of the “burdens” that Rep. Sanborn wants to eliminate:

  • Eliminate the requirement to pay a worker “two hours of pay” when they show up to work and their shift is canceled
  • Eliminated the employees right to refuse to take part in “tip sharing”
  • Allow 16-17 year olds to “work any hours” and eliminates the Department of Labor’s requirement to randomly inspect worksites with young workers
  • Make unpaid interns responsible for their own Workers Compensation Insurance
  • Create a new “volunteer” worker category where an employee can “volunteer to learn” while working, without pay for up to 6 months
  • Remove the requirement to display safety, wage, hour, and discrimination laws in highly visible or “conspicuous” space
  • Removes the requirement that all wages and payment schedule changes must be made in writing
  • Changes the rules about employers providing uniforms and apparel with the “company logo” to be used in the work environment. (First uniform is free but employee may be required to pay for additional uniforms.)
  • Eliminate the Department of Labor’s rulemaking authority regarding wages and child labor laws; all relevant rulemaking changes must go through the legislature
  • Eliminate need for employers to file a “written safety plan, joint loss management committee, and safety summary form”
  • Expands the Department of Labor’s ability to waive fines, offers a 30 grace period on violations to avoid fines, and eliminates a number of mandatory fines for things like: “failure to pay a worker on time”, “failure to pay a worker in full”, and “requiring an employee to perform any illegal activities under threat of job loss.”

Of all of these the most egregious is the changes to child labor law allowing 16-17 year olds to work “any hours” of the day and night.   These are high school kids. Should they be working overnight shifts at the local mini-mart or working till midnight at the local fast food joint? No. These hour restrictions were put in place to ensure that children do not work too much or too late because it would have a detrimental affect on their education.

Under this new bill it would be the employee’s responsibility to know all of the laws concerning wages, overtime, discrimination, and safety regulations yet the employer is no longer required to display them. Does anyone actually think a 16 year old in their first job knows anything about child labor laws?

There have also been a couple of bills to increase the minimum wage with a caveat for 16-17 year old workers. These young workers would be allowed to work a sub-minimum wage or “training wage”. Rep. Sanborn’s proposed legislation coupled with the proposed “training wage” would allow employers to hire 16-17 year olds to work any time at a rate below the state’s minimum wage. How many low-wage workers would lose their jobs only to be replaced by 16-17 year olds earning “training” wages?

The bill has a number of co-sponsors, including Laurie’s husband, and first Congressional District Candidate, Sen. Andy Sanborn. The Sanborn’s have used their small business, The Draft bar and grill, to justify their votes against raising the minimum wage and eliminating the tipped minimum wage.  In 2014, in a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Andy Sanborn called a minimum wage increase to $9.00 an hour a “job killer” but failed to mention how much a minimum wage increase would impact his personal business.

These proposed changes would also force reductions in the Department of Labor’s annual budget. The Department of Labor estimates that the proposed changes would have cost the state over $500,000 dollars in fines paid over the last three years. They also noted that the new regulations would require a “follow up inspection” which would “decrease in worker efficiency” and decrease the number of worksites inspected each year.

New Hampshire already has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country. There are lots of jobs available but many of our young adult workers are leaving New Hampshire in search of better wages in other states. Repealing these regulations will do nothing to help spur growth in our economy but it will allow employers to cheat worker without any fear of penalty.

Honestly does anyone really believe that removing the requirement to display wage and discrimination laws will somehow create jobs? Are they really expanding jobs and boosting the economy by hiring unpaid interns and “volunteer” workers?

This race to the bottom must end. We need in strengthen our labor laws not destroy them. We need to empower the Department of Labor to inflict harsher penalties on employers who violate the law not lessen worksite inspections and eliminate fines. This would be a step back for the hard working people of the Granite State if this somehow makes it through.


Full copy of the proposed legislation below

HB1762
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