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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: School Nurse Certification, Safe Zones, and More

This week was a relatively slow week in Concord, and neither the Senate nor the House will convene again until March 6, 2018 (everyone is off for Winter vacation week). What this means, however, especially for the House, is that there is an oncoming avalanche of legislation heading to the floor. Between March 6 and March 22, hundreds of pieces of legislation will need to be considered and dispensed with by the House, so there are some long session days impending.

School Nurse Certification Yesterday, the House passed HB 1217, which reduces the certification requirements for school nurses. Proponents of the bill emphasized cost savings to school districts of fewer certification standards to be met by school nurses, while opponents of the bill pointed to the complexities facing school nurses. Dealing with injuries, chronic illnesses, serving as a resource for psychological issues, all these involve school nurses. But in NH, we reduce standards to prior levels, rather than render pay more commensurate with more rigorous standards. And all of our school employees know we do not employ enough school nurses in our schools. The bill now moves to the Senate, which is likely to pass the bill and send it to the governor.

Safe School Zones and Gun Violence Speaking of the Senate, AFT-NH was heartened to see Senator Hennessey offer an amendment to SB 357, empowering school boards to determine whether firearms should be permitted in their safe school zones. Federal law bars weaponry in such zones but under NH law only the Legislature can regulate guns. The amendment is in response to the event in Florida and follows NH’s hallowed tradition of local control, leaving it to local school boards to determine their community safety needs. This is a step in the right direction, but only a very small step in beginning to address the complexities of school safety. Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the AFT national Executive Council passed a strong resolution condemning school gun violence as well as the calls to arm teachers AFT Executive Council Condemns Gun Violence. AFT-NH fully endorses this resolution and we wholeheartedly agree with our national president, Randi Weingarten, who has committed our union to “doing everything we can to protect kids and educators and prevent gun violence in our schools. We support every action being organized. . . . We are coming together with those who learn in, teach in, send their kids to and care about public schools, to take a stand.”

While national actions are being planned, many districts in New Hampshire are also planning and expecting student actions protesting gun violence and demanding solutions of our political leaders. So the Hennessey amendment is a start, but there is a long road that lies ahead. Another step along the way occurs on March 1, when Division I of the House Finance Committee holds a work session on HB 1415, providing a death benefit to the families of school personnel killed in the line of duty. NH has been fortunate in not suffering incidents similar to the heart-wrenching tragedies of Sandy Hook or Stoneman Douglas, but our good fortune can end at any moment. We hate the fact that we need legislation such as HB 1415 but sadly it is needed, at least as a mark of respect for those who give their lives in defense of their students, our children. AFT-NH continues to fully endorse HB1415 and we will keep you fully apprised of the bill’s progress.

SB 193 still looms ahead In other news, the SB 193 saga continues, with no public actions taken by Finance-Division II this past week. It appears that a significant amendment, if not another entire rewrite of SB 193 is underway, involving Governor Sununu’s office along House proponents of this so-called “voucher bill” (it uses savings accounts rather than vouchers). Their goals are to somehow limit the pool of eligible students and try to reduce the obvious costs to the State and to local taxpayers, as public monies are re-routed to private schools, religious schools, and home-schoolers. This is all being done quietly and out of public view, meaning the bill could have a completely new look to it without there ever being adequate opportunity provided for public hearings and testimony. Stay tuned, this one will have many more twists and turns to it.

Labor Bills and Retirement In the Labor Committee, HB 1762 (to repeal child labor regulations and gut wage-payment protective legislation) was abandoned by its sponsors and will be put on “Interim Study,” or what is often informally called “death with dignity.” At nearly the same time, HB 1803, prohibiting payroll deductions for any non-governmental entity, was recommended “inexpedient to legislate” by the Executive Departments and Administration committee. Both bills will likely be dispensed with quickly by the House on March 6 or 7, receiving the fate they richly deserve. On the down side, however, the Finance Committee has recommended against passage of HB 1756 which would provide a long-overdue COLA increase to those receiving pensions from the NH Retirement System. There have been no COLA increases since 2010, and there is no doubt that the cost-of-living has increased over the past eight years. Please be sure to read this week’s NH Retirement Security Coalition Legislative Recap.

Police Details versus Flaggers   Last week there were also two further developments of interest in the House. HB 193, the “flagger” bill, passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. This bill would allow for replacing police details at road construction sites with private company flaggers, as a means of saving money. However, police and other emergency professionals are trained to, well, handle emergencies, and emergencies (accidents, etc.) often happen at these sites. So it makes eminent sense to have individuals present trained in emergency protocols. When this bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate, we urge that you contact your senator and urge her/him to vote against this bill as a short-sighted cost-saving that places public safety at risk.

Collective Bargaining and Right to Know Law  Finally, the Judiciary Committee in the House voted along party lines to recommend passage of HB 1344, which would open collective bargaining sessions to the public under right-to-know laws. Negotiation is not a spectator sport, and much is said in negotiations by both sides that should not and never does leave the room. Prior personnel cases are often brought up with details that should not be made public, and the fluidity of negotiation would only be hindered by public presence and comment. Rather than aiding in the process, opening negotiations to the public will only harden positions and increase the bitterness, length and expense of negotiations. This is a bad idea and we will be asking you to help defeat this legislation.

#NeverAgain  I end this week’s bulletin with a heartfelt request that you take a moment to honor the memories of the students, coaches and teachers who lost their lives in the senseless Florida school shooting last week. A community is devastated, and we are all left to ponder what is next. But let us take heart from the example of the students from Stoneman Douglas and the students across New Hampshire and the United States, who are speaking out, demanding answers and taking a stand. They are calling us to account, as they should, and it now our obligation to live up to their high standards and expectations.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Included is the PDF version of the bulletin to download and share

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: “SB 193- Following The Wrong Path”, And Much More

From our perspective, the central event of the week was the hearing before the House Finance Committee regarding SB 193, the bill remove funds from public schools in order to fund home-schoolers and those sending children to private and religious schools. The focus of the hearing was on the financial implications of the bill, not the policy itself, and after four hours of testimony it was rather clear the proposal will force the State and local taxpayers to foot the bill through new or increased taxes.

The hearing featured a leading advocate of the bill understating the number of students eligible for the funding along with vague optimistic prognostications from a national organization supportive of “educational savings accounts” (i.e., laundered public money). The overwhelming number of witnesses, including a parade of school superintendents and school board members, testified that SB 193 will have a far more significant impact on budgets than is claimed by SB 193 proponents. As noted by Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, virtually all NH students could be eligible and the claimed estimate of a 1-2% rate of participation is contradicted by the historical experience of other states with similar programs, where participation rates ranged between 5% and 8.4% of students. You can read the full report at the following link, Virtually every student in New Hampshire could be eligible for a grant from the SB 193 voucher program- 1-17-18. AFT-NH’s own report, Following the Wrong Path: What Can Education Savings Account Programs In Other States Tell New Hampshire About SB 193? 1-16-18, submitted to the Finance Committee, confirms this comparative data, and further agrees with many witnesses who testified to the nearly total lack of public accountability regarding how such monies would be spent or recouped if misspent by parents or private schools. SB 193 places the entire handling of the savings accounts, accountability and audits in the hands of a private entity based in New York, an entity which earns more money by encouraging more families to participate. It is, as some have pointed out, a case of “the fox guarding the hen-house.” The goal of sponsors is to remove as much public involvement as possible, in order to circumvent the NH Constitution’s prohibition on expending public funds to support religious schools.

The Finance Committee will hold a working session on SB 193 next week (Tuesday, January 23 at 1 pm in LOB 209), and it is expected that at that time the Legislative Budget Office will have developed enrollment projections going out 13 years. The purpose is to estimate costs once the program is fully underway, with student cohorts in all twelve grades and kindergarten. This estimate will likely carry great weight with the Finance Committee and ultimately with the Legislature and will play a major role in determining the immediate fate of this measure. We will keep you informed.

This past week also featured a brief hearing on HB 1415, which would establish a $100,000 death benefit payable to the family or estate of school personnel killed in the line of duty. AFT-NH testified in favor of the bill, noting that like law enforcement and fire fighters, this death benefit would be for those giving their lives to protect the lives of other citizens, the students we entrust to their care. You can read the testimony here. As with the death benefits provided to law enforcement and to fire fighters, we hope the money is never expended, but to provide it is to demonstrate the State’s respect for those who put their lives on the line on behalf of others. The bill will likely undergo some technical amendments before the Executive Departments and Administration Committee takes it up again at the end of the month.

Looking ahead, the proposal barring payroll deductions for union dues (HB 438) will come to the House floor on February 7 and a similar proposal barring any payroll deductions for non-governmental entities will be heard in committee on February 13. The latter would end deductions for union dues, AFLAC, United Way, and any other deductions for organizations that are non-governmental. Both proposals are aimed squarely at public sector labor unions and serve no purpose other than making life more difficult for labor unions. They are companion proposals to the so-called “right to work” legislation killed in the House last year, and must be fought with equal vigor and intensity.

There are also a number of pending bills that would affect the NH Retirement System. HB 1756 would provide the first COLA increase for retirees in many years, but in a recent hearing it appeared there was little likelihood of passage, at least in its current form. Another bill, HB 1754, would establish a state-defined contribution retirement plan, completely up-ending the current system and contradicting the majority recommendations of the recent Decennial Commission. That bill will have its initial committee hearing on January 31. Finally, there is also a group of bills that will eventually be heard before the Education Committee regarding assessment and the determination of an “adequate education.” It is not unlikely that these bills, taken as a package, are designed to create a pathway to opt out of public schools yet retain public funding, an alternative pathway in case SB 193 does not pass muster. We will continue to watch these bills closely and update you in the upcoming weeks as the NH Legislature continues on its twisted pathway through the 2018 session.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Attached is the PDF version of this bulletin for you to download and share.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 1-19-2018

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: More Attacks On Public Employees And School Vouchers

The New Hampshire legislature is beginning to return to its accustomed rhythms and routines as both the House and the Senate met in session. More important, committees began holding hearings on this year’s avalanche of proposed bills and these hearings will continue unabated for the next six or seven weeks. It is in committees where the majority of the work of the Legislature is done, through listening to testimony, considering bills and amendments, and shaping recommendations for action on the floor of the House or the Senate. If you have never done so and if you have the time, look at the House or Senate calendars, find a hearing that might be of interest, and consider attending to observe or even testify. Testimony from members of the public is always welcomed, especially as it brings a perspective different from that of the usual lobbyists and fellow legislators. You might even conclude that you too can be a citizen legislator—believe me, there are no prerequisites other than a willingness to put in a lot of time for virtually no pay. But it can be satisfying and is certainly interesting.

HB 438 In the House this week, AFT-NH was most concerned with HB 438, a bill to prohibit public employers from withholding union dues from paychecks. The intent of the bill is punitive, to make the collection of union dues much more difficult and thereby cripple labor unions. Back in March 2017, the House Labor Committee held a very brief hearing on the bill. With virtually no evidence presented explaining why this bill was a good idea, the Committee voted to retain the bill and then in October, voted unanimously, both Republicans and Democrats, to recommend it be killed (the formal recommendation is “Inexpedient to Legislate). Despite this recommendation, the bill was set aside for debate, but on this past Tuesday, the debate was postponed until the next House session, possibly on February 7. So that is a momentary reprieve and breather, but I will be bringing it back to your attention and asking you to act and contact your representatives in just a few weeks.

Floor action in the House was quite interesting this week, with many Republicans peeling away from their leadership on certain bills. Measures repealing energy conservation programs were rejected, while a ban on controversial conversion therapy for minors questioning their sexual and gender identities nearly passed the House, defeated by the vote of the Speaker himself.   Late in the day, a proposed voluntary employee-funded family leave insurance plan, HB 628, won initial approval by the House, again with a number of Republicans concluding that NH needed to meet the shifting and sometimes conflicting needs to care for family or to continue working. The program faces a long and difficult road going forward, with visits to the Commerce Committee and then possibly the Finance Committee, but this is the first time the House has ever voted positively on such a program (it has been before the House numerous times over the past fifteen years). So, change is in the air, but there is much work yet to be done.

SB 193 The eyes and energies of those in the public education community, AFT-NH included, remain focused on SB 193 as amended, the legislation that uses public funds (tax dollars) to set up savings accounts for parents to use to defray costs of private schools or home-schooling. The legal legerdemain is that by depositing the money in these accounts, public funds are magically washed (laundered?) of their public nature and thereby use of the money for private religious schools will not violate the NH Constitution. That Constitution is quite clear on this issue, stating in Article 6 that “no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination.” This is reiterated in Article 83, which emphasizes the need and desirability of promoting education but concludes “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.” Thus, the goal of the education savings accounts is to make public money into private money, thereby evading the language and intent of New Hampshire’s Founders in regards to private, sectarian schools.

SB 193 passed the House last week by a 22-vote margin, and the Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the bill this coming Tuesday, January 16, starting at 1:30 pm. The bill proposes that State aid for public school districts be reduced whenever a student in the district withdraws to attend private school or is to be home-schooled. As a result, school districts will lose significant amounts of money, and while SB 193 promises to make up the losses, the costs to the State will be significant, especially in light of the State’s already tight budget and future declines in revenue due to business tax cuts passed over the past few years. Just this week, the Finance Committee reported that the State did not have the funds to resume long-promised contributions to help municipalities and school districts pay into the New Hampshire Retirement System and the NH House voted to defeat HB 413 which would have provided much needed property tax relief to communities by fulfilling the state’s promise to fund a portion of the NHRS. Yet at the same time, SB 193 proposes to find funding to make up the losses due to funds diverted to private schools.

Needless to say, if SB 193 passes, expect your property taxes to increase further, so that someone in your town can send their kids to private school and get a refund on much of their school taxes. Those without children pay those taxes, the elderly pay those taxes, because we believe it is in the interest of society to have and educated citizenry. But apparently those who choose private schools or home-schooling are a special category, and may get a major tax break. I encourage you to contact members of the House Finance Committee and ask them to oppose this bill. The Finance Committee will be focusing on the financial aspects versus the policy aspects of this legislation, so please direct your comments to loss of funding for our schools, lack of accountability for use of tax dollars and the long term implications of additional state funding for this bill.

The process of Finance Committee hearings will take a few weeks, so we will keep you informed of developments. A work session by Division II Finance has been scheduled for January 23 at 1:00 pm at the Legislative Office Building. Be assured we will be asking for your help on SB 193 in the very near future, so for now, relax and rebuild your energies. It is going to be a bumpy ride going forward.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

PDF to download and share attached. 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 1-12-2018

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-24-17: Kenogarten, State Budget, Final Votes Of The Session

Bow, NH – June 24, 2017  

Yesterday, the both the Senate and the House cast their final votes, and the long slog of the 2017 legislative session came to a merciful end. It seemed over the past two months that whatever day the House met in session, it was a beautiful day, often the only one in the entire week (remember all the chilly weather?), thereby condemning members to sit and sweat in Reps Hall. Keep in mind, there is no air conditioning there, and on a warm day with over 400 people crammed in the room, the ceiling fans just cannot keep up. Yesterday was no exception.

The work of the House and Senate yesterday was confined to voting on Committee of Conference reports where Senate and House conferees had come to agreement upon how to reconcile each chamber’s different version of a piece of legislation. In this process, no further amendments are permitted, and the vote is to simply concur or non-concur with each piece of remaining legislation as designed by the conferees. There was still debate, but business moved along briskly, enough so that we all were able to leave and enjoy much of the sunny afternoon.

Defeat of HB 620 If only the results of the votes were as bright as yesterday’s sunshine! This is not to say that the day was an unmitigated disaster. For example, the Senate killed HB 620, the bill which would have severely affected and weakened NH’s special education programs, leaving thousands of children with fewer services and greater challenges. Senators clearly responded to contacts from constituents and wisely rejected this extremist legislation, thereby preserving programs that currently place NH amongst the best states in graduation rates for students with special needs.

Kenogarten   The other significant and popular vote came on SB191, the so-called “kenogarten” bill. This column was rather scathing in its critique of this legislation last week, but in the end, the bill passed both chambers quite easily. Even yours truly ended up voting for the bill, determining it simply would be foolish to vote against more education funding coming to my property-poor town. I still believe it is outrageous to even partially fund kindergarten through the promotion of gambling. Yes, I know, the NH lottery already does so, but the lottery does not fund a specific grade which is what happens with the newly-enacted “kenogarten.” As I wrote last week, NH is highly dependent on “sin” for its revenues, and the piper will soon be calling for a reckoning. Kindergarten could easily have been funded in the new State budget, but instead of open and honest funding, the Legislature resorted to keno in order to provide new tax cuts for business. Those lost revenues will almost entirely go to large, out-of-state corporations (can anyone here say Wal-Mart?) and not actual NH-based businesses, but the majority chose this giveaway over fully funding kindergarten. I guess this is the NH Advantage.

Final State Budget   The most important legislation of the day was the State biennial budget, which despite many predicting a close vote, passed easily on a party-line vote through the House (the Senate was a foregone conclusion).   Business tax reductions, already noted above, mean the State will soon be facing a severe revenue crunch, meaning that by 2020 and beyond, it will become very difficult to fund critical existing programs, never mind expanding programs as needed. For the purposes of this bulletin, the key points are as follows:

  • Funding for the University System of NH is flat-funded, meaning four consecutive years of flat-funding. Given inflation, this translates into a real funding cut for the University System, and will invariably lead to higher tuition costs for a system that is already criminally underfunded and ranks as one of the most expensive for students in the entire United States.
  • Funding formulas for traditional public education remain unchanged, but monies were found to increase per-pupil support for charter schools. Thus, the erosion of support for public education continues, even if vouchers were not enacted this year. The classic New England image of a small-town with a neighborhood school may still catch the public’s fancy, but the State does less and less to support such a system in reality.
  • Most egregiously, the budget includes language making it quite likely that Medicaid expansion will come to an end in NH, throwing 53,000 people (children included) off of health insurance.

What does this all mean for us? The majority will tout the business tax cuts and claim they will spur business growth, but the cuts are too small to have any meaningful impact. In fact, the mantra of business and business organizations in NH is not tax cuts but job training and education, in order to be able to hire educated and prepared workers. Business tax cuts will have no impact when businesses must leave in order to find workers, the State’s infrastructure continues to slowly crumble, and electricity costs remain among the highest in the nation. Those are some of the real problems facing New Hampshire, but this budget resolutely refuses to solve, or even acknowledge them as substantive challenges threatening the economic future of our State. And so, the wealthiest reap the greatest harvest from this budget, and the rest of us will face increasing property taxes over time and a slow erosion of the basic institutions and infrastructure that are the elemental basis of our social fabric. In the end, it was a beautiful day outside, but not so bright and sunny “under the Dome.”

With the Legislature now in adjournment for a few months, this bulletin will also go on hiatus, barring any sudden policy crises or emergencies. It is our hope that this Bulletin has proven useful to you this year, and I wish all readers a restful and relaxing summer. The rigors of an election year legislative session loom ahead, so rest and recharge now.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 5-28-17: The Future Of Education Funding And Voter Suppression

This will be a very brief bulletin since neither the Senate or House were in session this past week. Having said that, there was activity.

The Senate has now crafted and released its proposed State budget for the 2017-19 biennium. In an effort to win over some of the extreme right-wing Republicans whose votes scuttled the House version of the budget, Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee adopted very conservative revenue estimates as a means of justifying leaving many programs and initiatives unfunded or underfunded. Full funding of all-day kindergarten has been removed from the budget, and funding for battling the opioid crisis remains inadequate. Yet despite the supposed financial stringencies, the majority in the Senate have found monies to pay for a spokesperson for the Dept. of Education at an annual $83,500 salary (to speak at the behest of Commissioner Edelblut) and also to increase the funding for charter schools (as opposed to the traditional public schools which the vast majority of NH students attend).

House committees were also wrapping up business this past week. The Finance Committee voted to partially fund full-day kindergarten, so while the House and Senate are not in entire agreement, it appears New Hampshire will again need to wait at least two more years before possibly joining the vast majority of states that do support all-day kindergarten. Why rush?

Elsewhere the Election Law Committee narrowly recommended passage of SB3, the bill designed to eliminate non-existent voter fraud while striving to deter and suppress voter registration. In particular, the amended bill still retains lengthy and onerous voter registration forms as well as threats to check up on claimed domiciles of new registrants. Tactics like these have virtually nothing to do with preventing unproven voter fraud, but will serve to deter same-day registrants, who tend to be young, less wealthy, and are often college students. The vote may be close in the House, Please contact your House Representative and ask her/him to oppose SB 3 (voter suppression) before next Thursday to ask that they vote against SB3.

Finally, the Education Committee voted largely along party lines to recommend passage of the amended SB 8, known as the Croydon or Edelblut bill. This proposed legislation authorizes using public funds to send students to private schools, and is so poorly written, that one informed observer speculated a district could convert all its schools to charter schools and then collect both all State aid for public schooling AND State monies for charter schools. This legislation will assuredly face constitutional challenges, centering on use of public monies for private schools and also on the abdication by the State of any responsibility for ensuring an adequate education for all students. This is a bad piece of legislation, and AFT-NH again asks that you contact your State Representative and urge them to reject the Croydon/Edelblut bill.

As promised, this is a short bulletin this week. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, be safe, and remember to pause, reflect and honor those who have fallen while in service to our nation.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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