4-14-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Supreme Court On School Vouchers, NHRS, and more

AFT NH Legislative Update

EDUCATION TAX CREDITS –VOUCHER PROGRAM

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 16th in the voucher tax credit case. AFT-New Hampshire is asking the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold a lower-court decision overturning the Education Tax Credit Program that provides money to students attending religious schools:

“The New Hampshire Constitution prohibits public funds to religious institutions. The tax-credit law was really a subterfuge, a voucher-like effort in which public dollars eventually would find their way to private schools, most of which,in New Hampshire,are religious schools. Further, there is evidence from all over the country that these voucher-like programs don’t actually help children. If the Legislature genuinely is interested in helping, it should work with teachers on ensuring that public schools have the programs and services needed to help all students succeed, not just some.”

Click here to read brief: http://nh.aft.org/files/voucherbrief.pdf

THE FOLLOWING BILLS WILL BE VOTED ON BY THE FULL SENATE THIS COMING WEEK

HB 1398-FN, allowing the retirement system to make payments in lieu of payments to estates in certain circumstances.  AFT-NH has no position on this bill but is monitoring. Senator Watters states:

“This legislation allows the retirement system to make payments of $15,000 or less to the next of kin of deceased member of a beneficiary when no probate proceedings are pending. This legislation was requested by the NH Retirement System.”

HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school. The committee recommended Ought to Pass, Vote 5-0.  AFT-NH is asking that Senators not support the Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee recommended Ought To Pass but instead, support a recommendation of Inexpedient To Legislate. There has been no past problem for any student wishing to attend a charter school. Furthermore, the unintended consequence could negatively impact the public school by depleting a grade level of attendance or curriculum options.

HB 1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of student data.The committee made the recommendation of Ought to Pass. AFT-NH supports the committee’s recommendation. We believe that this bill will help protect the privacy of students in New Hampshire.

THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HELD A HEARING ON THE FOLLOWING

HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights. AFT-NH is in support of this bill. This bill updates our current juvenile justice system by:

  • Raising the age at which youth are treated as adults in the justice system from 17 years to 18 years,
  • Improving procedures to determine competency of youth,
  • Clarifying a youth’s right to and waiver of legal counsel,
  • Determining the qualifications for legal counsel to defend youth,
  • Defining data to assess the effectiveness of current interventions and proposed changes.

To read more on this bill click here.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

9:30 a.m. NH Supreme Court Oral Argument –voucher case

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 396, relative to child restraint practices.

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 355, relative to access to social media by educational institutions.

10:30 a.m. Rescheduled SB 414-FN, relative to Medicaid-funded services provided as a part of a
child’s individualized education program.
1:15 p.m. Presentation by the Department of Education: Perspectives on Accountability and
Assessment.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
10:00 a.m.  Regular meeting of Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Retirement.

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 193-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study pathways to oral health
care in New Hampshire.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and
recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

10:00 a.m. House in session

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:00 p.m. or 1 hour following House session:  Executive session on SB 395-FN, relative to the
retirement classification of the director of the division of forests and lands.

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 193-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study
pathways to oral health care in New Hampshire.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
1:30 p.m. Executive session on SB 207-FN, relative to paycheck equity.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
1:15 p.m. Full committee work session on SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table
gaming.

12:30 p.m. Big Money and Politics – New Hampshire is the highest per-capita recipient of outside special-interest money. Learn about the efforts to address this issue at the state level, understand the federal landscape and what you can do about it. This presentation, including a panel discussion led by the Coalition for Open Democracy and Americans for Campaign Reform, is part of New England College’s education series to take place at the college’s new Concord facility, 62 North Main Street. Walk south on North Main. Located on the clock tower side, near the Norway Bank, three minutes from the steps of the State House.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and
expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive session on SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.

MONDAY, APRIL 21

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OPEN ENROLLMENT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 194-B:21), Room 100, State House:
11:30 a.m. Regular meeting. Presentation by Paul Leather, Deputy Commission Department of
Education on HB 435

THURSDAY, APRIL 24

STATE FEDERAL RELATIONS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Rooms 201-203, LOB
1:00 p.m. SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United amendments to the United
States Constitution.

THURSDAY , MAY 1

STATE FEDERAL RELATIONS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Room 203, LOB
11:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United
amendments to the United States Constitution.

Expanded Gambling Is About Creating Jobs (Testimony by NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

NH AFL-CIO LogoAs president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to workers and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

This Committee and the entire New Hampshire House now have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, legislators have been presented with a bill, SB 366, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

SB 366 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state and our municipalities, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach SB 366 takes.

SB 366 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of this committee personally don’t approve of gambling, and that’s certainly your prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downside of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without SB 366, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

SB 366 was amended in the Senate to include provisions drafted by the bipartisan, multi-agency Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with previous gaming proposals, concerns we shared in many cases. We believe that SB 366 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse gaming legislation this year because we are convinced the current proposal represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. SB 366 is legislation that would accomplish these goals, and I urge the committee to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mark MacKenzie
President of the NH AFL-CIO

Expanded Gaming Helps All Of NH Cities And Towns (SB 366 Testimony by Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH)

roulette wheel casino

aft sqaureI am here today in support of SB 366. AFT-NH is affiliated with NH AFL-CIO and we stand in support of our union brothers and sisters for whom this bill will create thousands of badly needed New Hampshire jobs.

We know that expanded gaming will:

  • create thousands of construction jobs,
  • create even more good jobs to  operate the facilities,
  • bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax state revenue,
  • boost economic development by hundreds of millions of dollars as well.

We also know that this bill:

  • Is a responsible NH solution for expanded gaming, and includes robust regulations crafted by the bipartisan Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority..
  • Protects the New Hampshire charities who depend on charitable gaming.
  • Provides that the gaming commission may not delegate its rulemaking authority to any other person.
  • Prohibits the use of credit, debit or ATM cards at a slot machine or table game.
  • The gaming commission must enforce the prohibition on the use of EBT cards for gambling.

But the same could be said about previous casino bills that failed to pass the House. SB 366 is different because it includes a new provision to guarantee revenue, and to make sure every community in New Hampshire sees the benefits. SB366 uses casino revenue to reinstate revenue sharing for cities and towns, to the tune of $50 million per biennium.  Revenue sharing means much needed funding for cities and towns across the state. City and town officials who struggle to adequately fund schools, roads, public safety, and other basic services will be pleased to know this bill will directly help their communities.

For example, in my hometown of Rochester, the Rochester School Department has to cut $2.8 million from their budget, with significant cuts will be made to personnel. With SB 366 revenue sharing the city of Rochester would receive $530,950 to help stop layoffs.

In the city of Nashua over the past several years the school department has eliminated 83 positions and has only been able to restore a few of these positions. They are planning to cut another 12 positions in the coming year. These cuts in services will be very difficult decisions, but there is no doubt they will directly impact students in the Nashua school system.. With SB 366 revenue sharing the city of Nashua would receive a little over $2.4 million. Just imagine the benefit the citizens of Nashua would realize with that revenue.

In fact, every single city and town in our state would receive substantial revenue sharing under SB 366. Just imagine the cuts in services and layoffs your community could avoid if we pass this bill..

In Closing, I ask that you support SB 366 and recommend Ought To Pass.

Laura Hainey,
President of AFT-NH

4-7-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Retirement System Bills, Charter Schools, and Special Education

AFT NH Legislative Update

The following bills were acted upon in the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee this past week:

The committee recommended Ought to Pass on HB 1152: This amended bill repeals the optional benefit program available to eligible call, substitute, or volunteer firefighters through the retirement system, and provides for the refund of remaining funds after the completion of payments to the two remaining beneficiaries. AFT-NH has no position on this bill but is monitoring. This bill transfers to a subtrust the assets required to fund this benefit. All individuals who are entitled to benefits will continue to receive them in full.

The committee recommended Ought to Pass on HB 1398: This bill allows the retirement system to make a payment of $15,000 or less to the next of kin of a deceased member when no probate proceedings are pending. Like the bill above AFT-NH has no position on this bill but is monitoring.

The committee recommended Ought to Pass on HB 1617: This amended bill grants NHRS electronic access to a limited data set of death, marriage, and divorce information of members and beneficiaries held by the Division of Vital Records Administration for purposes of administering RSA 100-A.  Again, AFT-NH has no position on this bill but is monitoring.

The House Finance Committee is still working on SB 339: This amended bill authorizes the NH  Department of Administrative Services to contract for a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability. The committee will be meeting again April 10th at 1:40 p.m. in room.

This bill allows the Department of Administrative Services to contract with a credit card issuer to establish a credit card affinity program in which the fees received by the state are dedicated to reducing the retirement system’s unfunded liability. This is a “feel good” bill, that will have little impact on the unfunded liability.

The Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee will be hearing testimony on:HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.  AFT-NH was originally opposed to this bill as it 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.

The Senate Health, Education and Human Services committee will be hearing testimony on the following:

HB 1449, relative to the requirements for filing a charter school application.  What we need are laws and regulations requiring full transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies.  We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voice in school policy and program, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools. AFT-NH believes that this bill is a small step in increasing transparency in Charter Schools.

HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school.  The duties of this committee include studying issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered school, including responsibility for funding and provision of special education services, and any other issue deemed relevant by the committee.

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.

AFT-NH supports this bill.  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.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING HEARINGS

TUESDAY, APRIL 8

ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
11:00 a.m. SB 378, relative to identification information contained in political advertising.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:30 p.m. Executive session on:
SB 376, requiring pooled risk management governing board members to comply with financial disclosure requirements,
SB 418, relative to the proclamation of firefighters memorial day.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 207-FN, relative to paycheck equity.  Please note Rooms 305-307, LOB.
3:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 295, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.

12:30 p.m. LOB 305-307:  Showing of the acclaimed documentary “Inequality for All” which features Robert Reich, economics professor, best-selling author, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, as he demonstrates how the widening income gap is having a devastating impact on the American economy. The film is described as “a passionate argument on behalf of the middle class.” The showing is open to all. This event is part of the film’s “50 State Capitals Tour” this winter and spring, designed especially for Legislators and policy-makers.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9

Senate Executive Departments And Administration, Room 100, SH
9:00 a.m. HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1447, prohibiting discrimination in educational standards for certain students.
9:20 a.m. HB 533, relative to the mathematics requirement for high school graduation.
9:40 a.m. HB 1141, requiring chartered public schools to share enrollment information with school districts.

10:00 a.m. HB 1449, relative to the requirements for filing a charter school application.
10:20 a.m. HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school.

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 343, relative to the duties of the statewide education improvement and assessment program legislative oversight committee and repealing the school administrative unit legislative oversight committee.
11:00 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of adequacy aid calculation data from the Department of Education to the Department of Revenue Administration.
1:15 p.m. SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools.

WAYS AND MEANS, Rooms 202-204, LOB
9:00 a.m. SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

9:30 a.m. NH Supreme Court Oral Argument –voucher case

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
1:00 p.m. HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the Department of Education.

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 355, relative to access to social media by educational institutions.
11:00 a.m. SB 414-FN, relative to Medicaid-funded services provided as part of a child’s individualized education program.
1:15 p.m. Presentation by the Department of Education: Perspectives on Accounting and Assessment

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executives session on
SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body,

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

10:00 a.m. House in session

12:30 p.m. Big Money and Politics – New Hampshire is the highest per-capita recipient of outside special-interest money. Learn about the efforts to address this issue at the state level, understand the federal landscape and what you can do about it. This presentation, including a panel discussion led by the Coalition for Open Democracy and Americans for Campaign Reform, is part of New England College’s education series to take place at the college’s new Concord facility, 62 North Main Street. Walk south on North Main. Located on the clock tower side, near the Norway Bank, three minutes from the steps of the State House.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

MONDAY, APRIL 21

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OPEN ENROLLMENT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 194-B:21), Room 100, State House
11:30 a.m. Regular meeting. Presentation by Paul Leather, Deputy Commission Department of Education on HB 435.

Granite Staters Call For An End To Deportations That Are Literally Tearing Families Apart

Image from AFSC-NH

What has happened to our great country, a country that welcomed millions of immigrants from around the world, into America with open arms?

We are a nation of immigrants, yet now we evicting people by the thousands who are just trying to become Americans.

“This Administration is deporting more than 1,000 immigrants every day.  It’s time to stop the practice of tearing families apart. President Obama can and should act immediately to halt deportations,” said Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees.

Nearly two million people have been deported since Obama has taken office.  These are people with families, some who have children who are legally American citizens.

According to estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, there are 4 million U.S.-born children in the United States with at least one parent who is an unauthorized immigrant, plus 1.1 million children who are themselves unauthorized immigrants and have unauthorized-immigrant parents. Moreover, Department of Homeland Security estimates that nearly three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the United States for more than a decade. In other words, most of these people are not single young men, recently arrived, who have no connection to U.S. society. These are men, women, and children who are already part of U.S. society.”
(Research from the Immigration Policy Center)

However the legal status of the children does not seem to make much of a difference to the government who is deporting them.

“New Hampshire people are raising our voices in support of our immigrant brothers and sisters who simply want to work hard and be with their families.  We say ‘Not one more deportation,’ ” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee’s NH Program.

Image from AFSC-NH

Image by Arnie Alpert / AFSC-NH

On April 5th, the AFSC, the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and the Immigration Working Group of the United Church of Christ NH Conference held a rally in Nashua, NH calling for an “end to deportations.”

Here is just one example from the Nashua rally of how the current deportation policy is literally ripping families apart.

“Octavio, a native of Mexico, said immigration police took him from his home while he was giving his little girl a bath.  When he was deported, his family hoped to reunite in Mexico, but the grave illness of his youngest child forced his wife to return with the girl for medical treatments.  After substantial effort, Octavio was able to overcome what was initially a ten-year ban on re-entry to the USA and win a temporary visa to join his own family, all of whom are US citizens.”   (Dozens Call for End to Deportations at Nashua Rally, AFSC Blog)

“Immigration enforcement greatly increases the chances that families will never see each other again,” said Rinku Sen President of Applied Research Center. “Detaining and deporting parents shatters families and endangers the children left behind. It’s unacceptable, un-American, and a clear sign that we need to revisit our immigration policies.”

A report from the Applied Research Center (2011) conservatively estimates that there are more than 5,000 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been either detained or deported.

“The Obama Administration is deporting the very people who would qualify for the legalization we are fighting for,” said Maggie Fogarty.

Fogarty pointed out that the US Congress has mandated that 34,000 immigrant prison beds be kept full, at a cost to taxpayers of $164 a day.  With many of those cells in privately owned prisons and others in county lock-ups that have grown to depend on the flow of federal dollars, the detention bed mandate serves as a driving factor behind detentions and deportations.

John Sandweg, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the New York Times, “We are fulfilling the mandate.”

We call on Congress to stop funding the detention bed mandate,” stated Fogarty.

Due to policies like the detention bed mandate and others, the Department of Homeland Security (Border Patrol) budget has grown immensely.  “The annual budget of the Border Patrol has increased ten-fold, from $363 million in FY 1993 to $3.5 billion in FY 2013.”

Border Patrol Budget

We must act now to stop the deportations, and pass meaningful immigration reforms.

“The House of Representatives should vote on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill that passed overwhelmingly nine long months ago,” stated AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Since the U.S. Senate voted 68-32 last June in support of a bipartisan bill to address our long-standing immigration crisis, America has suffered more than 250,000 deportations, and House Republicans have made a partisan decision not to allow that bill a single up or down vote.”

“At the same time as we fight to end House Republican stalling, we will continue to push the Administration to take broad executive action to relieve the ongoing deportation crisis for millions of workers,” continued Trumka.

As a government agency, the Department of Homeland Security must follow any executive orders issued from the President.  This means that with the stroke of his pen, President Obama could say “no more deportations.”

Will President Obama do the right thing to keep families together, while they wait for Congress to take action and pass a real immigration bill?

Senator Shaheen Introduces Bill To Help Students Manage Debt

SenJeanneShaheen

Shaheen’s legislation would give students access to comprehensive online database to manage debt and better navigate repayment 

SenJeanneShaheen

Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Image from WikiCommons

(Washington, DC) – In a new effort to help students better manage their debt burden, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation today that will strengthen an existing federal student loan data system to give students more comprehensive access to and a better understanding of debt and repayment options. Shaheen’s proposal, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act, calls for the development of a central online portal that will allow students to review all their public and private student loans as well as repayment options in one place, which would in turn help students better manage, understand and repay their debt.

“While higher education is one of the best investments we can make to keep our country a magnet for jobs and economic opportunity, the soaring costs of higher education are pushing middle class families and students into debt,” Shaheen said. “For many Americans, student debt prevents them from buying a home, getting married, starting a family and pursuing career goals.”

“We need to not only make college more affordable and accessible, but better help students manage their costs and debts after they graduate,” Shaheen continued. “My proposal will give students in New Hampshire and across the country tools to help better manage repayment, know their options and get help when they need it.”

Nationally, students hold nearly $1.2 trillion in student debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Project on Student Debt estimates that 74 percent of New Hampshire students leave school carrying loan debt. In total, the group also estimates average debt for New Hampshire students is nearly $33,000. Shaheen’s legislation would help students manage their debt burden and navigate the borrowing and repayment processes with confidence.

Specifically, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act would amend the Higher Education Act and the Truth in Lending Act to expand the National Student Loan Data System to include comprehensive student loan information for both private and public student loans. Currently, only federal student loan information is available within the database. Shaheen’s proposal would create a virtual one-stop shop where students and borrowers can better manage their debt and gain easier, more comprehensive access to debt and repayment options. Additionally, the legislation Shaheen introduced today would require the Secretary of Education to establish a competitive five-year pilot program to encourage non-traditional, personalized outreach to student borrowers to encourage better communication, which would ultimately lead to the development of suggested best practices for reducing default, forbearance and deferment rates.

Throughout her career Shaheen has worked to make college more affordable and accessible, leading efforts to increase access to higher education for New Hampshire students and voting to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans  and the Pay As You Earn repayment plan to help students and families manage college tuition. Shaheen’s legislation follows a recent call to the President, urging him to work with Congress on a plan to lower student debt.

The full text of the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act is available here, and the following organizations, colleges and universities have endorsed Shaheen’s bill:

 

·         Colby Sawyer College

·         Community College System of New Hampshire

·         Dartmouth College

·         Franklin Pierce University

·         Granite State College

·         Keene State College

·         National Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England College

·         New Hampshire Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

·         New Hampshire College & University Council

·         New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation

·         New Hampshire Institute of Art

·         Plymouth State University

·         Rivier University

·         Saint Anselm College

·         Southern New Hampshire University

·         University of New Hampshire

 

Senators Fight to Protect Medicare for Seniors

Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)
Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)

Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)

WASHINGTON D.C. -U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) today introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors. Today, more than 46 million Americans rely on Medicare.

“We’ve seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits,” Pryor said. “I refuse to let that happen. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone.”

“Seniors cannot afford cuts to their Medicare benefits,” Brown said. “As the cost of living continues to rise, the budgets of many are already stretched to the breaking point. Instead of privatizing Medicare, we should focus on ensuring the health and wellness of our country’s seniors. The Medicare Protection Act would protect Medicare as we know it so that we aren’t reducing the deficit on the backs of our seniors.”

“I want to make sure that Medicare can continue to provide New Hampshire seniors with the care they need,” Shaheen said. “Preserving Medicare is crucial to the health and financial security of our seniors.”

“Raising the Medicare eligibility age would be absolutely disastrous. In my town halls, I hear from a lot of Oregonians who are in their early 60s and are praying they make it to 65 to receive their Medicare benefits. If anything, we should be lowering the eligibility age. Medicare is an important lifeline for our seniors, and must be protected from hostile attacks to privatize it or weaken it,” said Merkley.

“About 700,000 Minnesota seniors rely on Medicare to cover most of their health care costs,” said Franken. “It not only keeps them healthy and out of poverty, but also brings peace of mind to their families who don’t have to worry about whether they can afford to see a doctor. I disagree with those who want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, slash benefits, and tell seniors that they’re out on their own. This legislation will help protect this important program that millions of Americans depend upon.”

“Since the program’s creation, Medicare has been a vital lifeline for our seniors, ensuring access to health care for people who need it the most,” Schatz said. “Yet time and time again, changes to the Medicare program are wrongfully used as a bargaining chip. This bill will help us protect seniors’ Medicare benefits. In Hawai‘i, generations take care of each other and it is our responsibility in Congress to make sure benefits are there for America’s seniors.”

“Our seniors rely on Medicare, they paid into Medicare, and they deserve to know they can count on Medicare when the need it,” Tom Udall said. “I have been proud to fight for Medicare, and will continue to push for measures like this that will keep this program strong.”

“Millions of seniors rely on Medicare to pay for critical health care services, and we should not cut these essential benefits for people who need them most,” said Warren. “Cutting benefits will not stop people from getting sick, it will only shift more of the cost of health care onto our seniors. We should be focused on bringing down the costs of health care, not slashing benefits for people who need care. I’m pleased to support the Medicare Protection Act, which will help protect older Americans from irresponsible benefits cuts and efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program.”

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process. The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system.
Full text of legislation

Momentum Growing To Pass Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill

Shaheen Portman Bill HEADER

At Environmental Business Council luncheon, Shaheen highlights economic and environmental benefits of bipartisan bill

(Manchester, NH) –With growing momentum in Congress to pass energy efficiency legislation, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) touted the economic and environmental benefits of her bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) this afternoon at the Environmental Business Council’s (EBC) New Hampshire Chapter Luncheon in Manchester. Shaheen updated EBC members, business leaders and environmental advocates about her renewed efforts to pass a new version of the Shaheen-Portman ESIC legislation she recently reintroduced with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).  The reintroduced Shaheen-Portman legislation is backed by Republicans and Democrats, businesses and industry leaders, and environmental advocates and will drive job creation, consumer savings and reduce pollution.

“Efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to address our nation’s energy challenges,” Shaheen said. “There is a growing set of leaders all around the country who want to see energy efficiency policy enacted and I hope we can pass my bipartisan bill to create jobs, save billions, and reduce pollution.”

Shaheen has been a leader on energy efficiency policies since her time as Governor of New Hampshire when she established the New Hampshire Building Energy Conservation Initiative. Earlier this month, Shaheen reintroduced the widely supported bipartisan Shaheen-Portman legislation, incorporating 10 bipartisan amendments into the bill that will help the United States transition to a more energy-efficient economy while driving economic growth and private sector job creation.

A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that the reintroduced Shaheen-Portman bill will create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion a year, and cut CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road – all by 2030. Last week, the House of Representatives passed energy efficiency legislation with provisions that are also included in Shaheen’s bill.

3-9-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Videotaping Public Officials, NHRS, Charter Schools, and Town Voting Information

AFT NH Legislative Update

“AFT-NH, dedicated professionals serving NH individuals and families through collaboration with others, striving to advance NH communities and improve the workplace with integrity and commitment.”

REPORT ON LAST WEEK’S FULL HOUSE VOTES

The full House overturned the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommendation on HB 1550, permitting the audio and video recording of a public official while in the course of his or her official duties by a vote of 88 to 200. The recommendation of Interim Study was passed, which means the bill is dead for at least the remainder of this legislative session.

AFT-NH requested that the Representatives considered the public employee when voting on this bill. All employees, both public and private, should have a reasonable understanding that when they are performing their jobs that they are not intimidated or harassed and should have a safe working environment. We want to thank all the representatives that supported employees in the state of New Hampshire.

The full House also defeated HB 1126, establishing a committee to study alternative public employee retirement plans.  There have been several committee / commissions that have studied this topic and at this time it is not needed.

Lastly, on a simple voice vote, the House defeated HB 1394-FN-A, relative to funds for chartered public school facilities and making an appropriation therefor.  AFT-NH supports this action, since it would not be fair to pass this bill when for the past 6 years there has not been any new money given to public schools for building aid.  Thank you to all the representatives that supported defeating these two bills.

UPCOMING HOUSE VOTES MARCH 12TH AND 13TH

The following bills are on the consent calendar, meaning they will likely go the way each committee recommends (unless a House member insists on a debate).  AFT-NH is in support of the committee recommendations and ask that representatives support these recommendations.

The House Education committee recommended Ought To Pass on HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school. The duties of this committee would include studying responsibility for funding and provision of special education services, and any other issue deemed relevant by the committee.

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.

On another bill, the House Education committee recommended Inexpedient To Legislate HB 1180.  This bill increases the minimum number of days of school from 180 to 190 and authorizes up to 10 of those days to be completed online in a manner to be determined by the school board. We know that this bill is unnecessary because increasing the school year is something that can be done now if negotiated between the district and the union. If districts and the State want to improve education they can, as I have often stated, offer school employees appropriate and useful staff development opportunities, giving us the tools and materials to do the jobs and trust us as professionals.

THE FOLLOWING ARE ON THE REGULAR CALENDAR

AFT-NH is asking that representatives not support the House Education committee recommended Ought To Pass but instead, support the minority report of Inexpedient To Legislate on  HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school. AFT-NH agrees with Representative Mel Myler:

The Minority was not convinced that the 10% restriction limiting students to transfer from a public school to a public charter school was warranted. There has been no past problem for any student wishing to attend a charter school. Furthermore, the unintended consequence could negatively impact the public school by depleting a grade level of attendance or curriculum options.

AFT-NH supports the House Education committee of Inexpedient To Legislative on HB 1393-FN-L, relative to tuition payments for students attending a chartered public school in the student’s district of residence.  AFT-NH believes that this bill is unnecessary. The state should not force or mandate an agreement onto the local district in regards to charter schools. If the local district wants to do this they can at the local level with the local citizens voting to approve or not.

AFT-NH agrees with the House Education committees’ recommendations of Inexpedient To Legislate on HB 1449, relative to the requirements for filing a charter school application. This is one law that moves to more transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies.  We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voice in school policy and program, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.

The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee moved without recommendation on a 9-9 vote HB 1399 FN, relative to the application for a vested deferred retirement allowance in the retirement system.  Given the following facts, AFT-NH asks Representatives to support Inexpedient to Legislate because:

  • The term “vested” is currently in litigation. We must let the courts handle the outcome of this definition; and to manipulate it further would be unwise.
  • Before 2011, this is the only part of the RSA100-a statute that specifically mentions the term “vested.” Any change must be carefully examined, and given the status of the court cases, should be left alone at this time.
  • This bill was brought forward on behalf of the New Hampshire Retirement System as a house keeping bill—we believe that this is a policy change.

FULL SENATE VOTES ON THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 2014

AFT-NH supports the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee recommendation of Inexpedient to Legislate on SB 218-FN-L, relative to group I retirement system membership for all members hired on or after July 1, 2014. AFT-NH knows that if you close a group it would cost cities and towns millions of dollars.

AFT-NH does not support the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee recommendation of Inexpedient to Legislate on SB 364-FN, relative to group II service retirement allowances and relative to establishing a supplemental. We ask that the full Senate overturns this recommendation and put forth a recommendation of Ought To Pass for the following reasons:

  • SB 364 establishes real pension reform by creating a new hire benefit program that is responsible and follows a reasonable approach,
  • If we do nothing, New Hampshire is in a situation where 30 years down the road, we are going to have public employees – at the end of a career – eligible to apply for food stamps, and other social services. This puts a strain on working families by forcing our public employees into social services. This is financially irresponsible for New Hampshire and undignified for our public employees.
  • New Hampshire has enough trouble recruiting young and talented employees into our workforce – who would sign on to a career in public service, making typically lower salaries than counterparts in the private sector, and not even have retirement security to rely on?
  • Since the changes made in 2011, our new hires have been stripped of any hope for COLAs or medical insurance subsidies. With such a reduced benefit being offered, the employers are paying next to nothing.
  • SB 364 adds in a supplemental savings plan component to Group I members (teachers, support staff, state employees and municipal employees), which allows free market utilization and personal responsibility to prevent these employees from enrolling in social services.
  • We all share the goals of lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, as tax-paying residents of New Hampshire ourselves.
  • We need a plan that is predictable for the employers, and provides a fair benefit that recognizes long-term public sector service.
  • Our state is stronger, and our economy more stable when all retirees have the ability to live independently – a benefit that we should all strive towards.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.
Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!
COMMITTEE HEARINGS WEEK OF MARCH 10, 2014

TOWN MEETING ALERT—Voting information

MONDAY, MARCH 10

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
11:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on HB 1130-FN-L, relative to the Northeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
1:00 p.m. Work session on SB 413, relative to access to health insurance coverage.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:30 a.m. Rescheduled full committee work session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education,

TUESDAY, MARCH 11
VOTING INFORMATION

Farmington School District
Farmington School Custodians, AFT Local #6212
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #9 and #10.
Farmington Town Hall: 8:00am-7:00pm

Fremont School District  
Ellis School Support Staff, AFT #6233
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #4 and #5.
Ellis School: 7:00am to 8:00pm

Hudson School District
Hudson Teachers AFT #2263, Hudson PSRP’s, AFT#6245, and
Hudson School Secretaries, AFT Local #6260
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #2, #4 and #5.
Hudson Community Center:   7:00am – 8:00pm

Timberlane Regional School District  
Timberlane Support Staff Union, AFT #6530
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #6 and #7.
Atkinson:    Atkinson Community Center     7:00 am – 8:00 pm
Danville:    Danville Community Center     8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Plaistow:    Pollard School            7:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sandown:    Sandown Town Hall         8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Weare School District
Weare Educational Support Staff, AFT #6349
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #6 and #7.
Weare Middle School   7:00am to 7:00pm

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12
Henniker School District
Henniker Community School Support Staff, AFT #6314
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #6 and #7.
Henniker Community School     7:00pm

10:00a.m. House Session

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
12:00 p.m. or at lunch break from session Executive session on HB 1130-FN-L, relative to the Northeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact.

THURSDAY, MARCH 13
9:00 a.m. House in Session

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

TUESDAY, MARCH 18
WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education,

SATURDAY, MARCH 22
VOTING INFORMATION

Barnstead School District
Barnstead Educational Support Team, AFT #6332
Please vote YES on Warrant Articles #7 and #8.
Barnstead Elementary School       9:00am

Bipartisan Coalition of Senators Introduce Resolution Honoring International Women’s Day

int-womens-day

Resolution celebrates international achievements of women, U.S. commitment to equality 

int-womens-day(WASHINGTON, D.C.)In advance of International Women’s Day on March 8, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) led a bipartisan coalition of Senators to introduce a resolution Thursday commemorating the 103rd International Women’s Day. The International Women’s Day Resolution was co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Mark Udall (D-CO) and celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future while also recognizing the obstacles women continue to face in the struggle for equal rights and opportunities.

“International Women’s Day recognizes the important achievements women have made around the world and reiterates an ongoing commitment to supporting and inspiring women and girls everywhere,” Senator Shaheen said. “I am proud of the support behind the International Women’s Day resolution because it represents a core value we hold and obligation to improve the lives of all people and fight inequality wherever it exists.”

“Empowering women can lift the family out of poverty for generations to come,” Senator Kirk said. “When families are elevated, the community benefits, and we are all better off.  Today let’s recognize the contributions of the many who dedicate their lives to this mission every day.”

“I’m pleased to join this bipartisan effort to honor International Women’s Day and recognize the immeasurable contributions women make around the world every day,” Senator Begich said. “As the son of a strong mother and a brother to three sisters, I know the important roles women play not only in our families, but also in the workforce, our economy, and as leaders in the community.  I will continue to fight every day in the Senate for equality and to make sure Alaska women and girls have the same opportunities to grow and contribute to the world as their male counterparts.”

“The world needs a new generation of women, inspired by the monumental achievements of past generations to help us move forward. March 8th is a day for us to reflect on the important contributions women have made in every field, past present and future. International Women’s Day is also a time for us collectively take strides to break down barriers that stand in the way of women’s progress across wherever they may be,” Senator Cardin said. “I want my granddaughters to know that my colleagues and I are working daily to give them every opportunity to succeed by erasing gender inequality.

“International Women’s Day reminds us to celebrate the contributions women make around the world and here at home,” Senator Mikulski said. “Every day, women fight to build stronger economies, improve conditions for families and communities, and inspire the next generation of young girls.  That’s why every day I fight to make sure that women are at the table and empowered to make a difference.”

“International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the tremendous progress that has been made in the United States and around the world to promote women’s issues and their contributions to families and society,” Senator Murkowski said.  “But it is also an occasion to envision the strides we have yet to make, and recommit ourselves and our energy to continue elevating women to the heights they aspire to and deserve.”

“International Women’s Day is at its core a day to reflect on the achievements of women in politics, in business, and in society,” Senator Murray said.  “It is a day to think about what women’s role was in the not-so-distant past and to celebrate how far we have come. I am proud to join my colleagues in honoring this important day when women and men across the world celebrate and recommit to what more must be done.”

“Safeguarding women’s empowerment is critical to ensuring our prosperity, stability and future success as a nation,” Senator Mark Udall said. “In order for Colorado and our nation to thrive, women and men must be afforded the same opportunities. I am proud to lead the effort in the U.S. Senate to mark International Women’s Day, and I will keep fighting to confront gender inequality wherever it exists and to ensure all Coloradans have equal access to opportunity.”

The bipartisan International Women’s Day Resolution recognizes the United States’ continued commitment to pursue policies that guarantee the basic human rights of women and girls worldwide and end the discrimination and violence against women and girls. The resolution also recognizes the advancement of women as a foreign policy priority for the United States and that the ability of women to realize their full potential through education and economic empowerment is critical to a nation’s ability to achieve strong and lasting economic growth as well as political and social stability.

The International Women’s Day Resolution has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is expected to be considered next week.

The full text of the resolution is available here.