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Rough Road Ahead: Republicans Take Governor, House And Senate In NH

All the votes have been counted and we are looking at a very rough road ahead.

With the election of Donald Trump we will see a revived national effort to cut taxes for business, cut regulations on environmental protections, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Here in New Hampshire we about to enter a new era of Republican control.  The NH Senate stayed the same with 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats. In the House, Democrats picked up a few seats but are still in the minority (235-165). With Governor-elect Chris Sununu’s win, we can expect a fast and furious legislative attack on many of the programs working people fought for.

From Dan Touhy’s Granite Status on the election results:

WHAT DOES IT all mean for New Hampshire? Watch for some Republican policy initiatives to be pitched with gusto. In Concord, that includes a return of right-to-work legislation, the “constitutional carry” firearms bill, and proposed business tax reform.

State Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, said veterans issues and tackling the state’s opioid and heroin epidemic are two of his priorities in the coming legislative session.

The combination of a Republican President and Republican controlled Congress could mean the end of the ACA which could mean the end of the New Hampshire Health Partnership Program that protects more than 50,000 Granite Staters.  Even without the repeal of the ACA, Sununu and many of his cohorts in the Legislature have already suggested ending the program in New Hampshire.

The question now is; What other attacks will working people face in the coming year?

Besides Right to Work will Republicans try to repeal our collective bargaining rights like they did in the O’Brien era of 2011-12? Will they attempt to reduce benefits for retiree’s and force workers to contribute more to the pension system?  Will they force through their so-called “school choice” legislation that takes public funds and gives it to private and religious institutions? Will they continue to attack a woman’s right to choose and to attack women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood?

It is time to start organizing so we will be ready when Sununu and his fellow Republicans begin their assault on workers.

State Senate Candidate Joe Duarte Questioned Whether a Female Applicant for a Town Committee Could Fulfill Responsibilities Because She is a Mother

In 2007, Duarte participated in a discussion about whether a woman – who was the only candidate for a Zoning Board of Adjustments alternate position – could dedicate the necessary time because she is a mother

Joe Duarte

Joe Duarte

Concord, NH – During a Candia Selectman meeting on April 23, 2007, several selectmen – including Senate District 16 candidate Joe Duarte – debated whether an applicant for a vacant zoning board of adjustments alternate position could dedicate the necessary time to the position because she was the mother of a young child.

The applicant, Amanda Soares, was the only person to apply for the position. While some public officials in the room stated that the applicant’s personal family commitments weren’t up to the board to comment on – and that the question would likely not come up for a male applicant – Duarte persisted:

“Selectman Lazott stated he did not want to stretch her too thin. Selectman Duarte stated he was not on with the ZBA appointment because she was just appointed to the Planning Board as an alternate. Selectman Brennan stated he did not think the appointment was a big deal pointing out that he holds a full-time job and serves on many Boards and Committees. One Selectman noted that Selectman Brennan did not have a family and this requestor does.

Selectman Giffen reiterated that Mrs. Soares was extremely capable and that the ZBA meetings were typically short. Selectman Giffen advised he would not want to turn any volunteers down. Tax Collector Sanders mentioned she was aware that Mrs. Soares no longer had a daily commute to Massachusetts. Road Agent Lewis stated some months the ZBA does not meet. Selectman Giffen motioned to appoint Amanda Soares to the Zoning Board as an alternate member. Seconded by Selectman Brennan. Chairman Kelley stated he was still deciding because he was not sure about her time considering she has a small child. Selectman Brennan said the Board should let her make her own decisions regarding her time. Selectman Duarte stated attendance for two alternates for the Planning Board last year was poor and both had families. Ingrid Byrd of Depot Road wondered if the Board would be having the family discussion if the applicant was a man … Selectman Giffen mentioned that Mrs. Soares had perfect attendance when she was on the Solid Waste Committee and Conservation Commission. (Candia Selectmen, Approved Candia Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, April 23, 2007)

The vote was postponed, but during the same meeting Duarte seconded a motion to approve two men for a town committee with no discussion of whether they have domestic responsibilities at home.

“Selectman Giffen to make recommendations on members for a Town of Candia Website Committee: Selectman Giffen advised public notice was placed in the paper for Public Meeting held on 4/19/07 for the purpose of establishing a website Committee. Selectman Giffen stated only two individuals showed up to volunteer. Selectman Giffen motioned to appoint Joe Miele and Larry Twitchell as members of the Town’s website committee with one-year terms, term to expire 4/23/08 effective today’s date. Seconded by Selectman Duarte. All in favor. Motion carried.” (Candia Selectmen, Approved Candia Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, April 23, 2007)

In a follow-up meeting about the appointment, Duarte directly questioned the female applicant about her “full agenda” including other time commitments. Soares responded by saying her husband could be home to run the household in the evenings.

Selectman Duarte noted Mrs. Soares had a full agenda and asked her if she had enough time to devote to another Board. Mrs. Soares stated most of the meetings were held in the evenings when her husband is home and able to maintain the household … ZBA Chair Boyd Chivers pointed out that Mrs. Soares was the only person who expressed interest and did not know how the Board could turn her down. Secretary Chabot verified an advertisement was run for the position and Mrs. Soares was the only interested party. Selectman Giffen moved to accept the recommendation of the ZBA for the appointment of Amanda Soares as an alternate member with a term to expire on 10/28/08. Selectmen Lazott and Duarte indicated they were opposed. ZBA Chair Chivers noted the ZBA unanimously recommended her appointment.” (Candia Selectmen, Approved Candia Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, May 14, 2007)

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“It appears Joe Duarte judges women based on his own personal opinion of what her domestic roles and responsibilities should be, rather than letting a woman decide for herself. While other public officials pushed back, Duarte persisted in making this an issue of a woman’s assumed role in a household and at no time raised concerns about the sexist nature of the conversation. In fact, he asserted that it was relevant despite the candidate’s demonstrated commitment to other town committees and the fact that she was the only applicant for the position. Duarte, himself, was serving on multiple committees at the time.”

This is not the only time Duarte has stood in the way of women. In 2014 Duarte voted against the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act, an act to ensure women receive equal pay for an equal day’s work; and in 2012 he voted to allow any employer to deny coverage for contraception based on the employer’s own personal beliefs. (SB207, Roll Call #235, 5/14/2014; HB1546, Roll Call #117, 3/7/2012) Duarte also endorsed Donald Trump for President.

Note: Soares later went on to successfully complete 5 years of service on the Candia Board of Selectmen. She resigned in early 2015 when her family moved out of the area. (Candia Selectman, Candia’s Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, 1.12.15)

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

ICYMI: Concord Monitor Editorial: “Budgets of Unmet Needs, Raided Funds”

Concord, N.H. – Republicans in the legislature continue to take heat for budget proposals that fail to meet the state’s economic needs, including failing to adequately fund substance misuse treatment and not continuing the state’s successful Medicaid expansion program.

The Concord Monitor editorial board wrote, “A seemingly sensible, but woeful, statement by Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Sen. Jeanie Forrester explains why New Hampshire is falling behind. ‘I would like it to be more,’ Forrester told Monitor State House reporter Allie Morris. ‘But this is what we can afford.’”

The Monitor noted that despite claims from Forrester and Republicans in the Legislature that the state can’t afford to adequately fund critical priorities like substance misuse treatment, “they want to reduce business taxes under the failed theory that it promotes business growth. That will guarantee a continued state inability to keep its promises and meet its obligations.”

The Monitor also points out that Republicans’ dedicated fund raids may be unconstitutional.

In a joint op-ed, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and Rep. Mary Jane Wallner wrote, “We were glad to hear that Republican senators agreed that the budget passed by the New Hampshire House was unacceptable. But, in trying to fix the House’s mess, Senate Republicans passed a budget that doesn’t actually do what they say it does… Now it’s time to work together to pass a responsible budget that actually funds the priorities it claims it does.”

See full roundup below:

Concord Monitor Editorial: Budgets of unmet needs, raided funds

… A seemingly sensible, but woeful, statement by Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Sen. Jeanie Forrester explains why New Hampshire is falling behind.

“I would like it to be more,” Forrester told Monitor State House reporter Allie Morris. “But this is what we can afford.”

Forrester was defending the Senate’s decision to once again default on its obligation to dedicate 5 percent of state liquor store profits to substance abuse treatment.

… In fact, funding for the past four years has been roughly the same amount. … The result: more deaths, more crime, more broken families and higher welfare and corrections costs.

But back to Forrester’s statement.

Many of the deaths were in her district, and the senator knows that more needs to be done.

… Forrester’s statement was just another version of the Republican “live within our means” mantra. Mention revenue, in the state with the sixth-highest per capita income in the nation and Republican legislators sit down, put their hands over their ears and begin chanting, “La, la, la, la, la.”

To make matters worse, they want to reduce business taxes under the failed theory that it promotes business growth. That will guarantee a continued state inability to keep its promises and meet its obligations.

Neither budget includes money to continue the expanded Medicaid program that has allowed some 40,000 low-income adults to have health insurance, many for the first time.

… The budget the governor will either veto, sign or let pass without her signature will probably include money from raids on several dedicated funds, a practice former Concord mayor and constitutional savant Martin Gross and others say is clearly unconstitutional.

Recipients of grants from the state’s renewable energy fund, which has been raided in the past and will be to a smaller degree in the new budget, are debating whether to sue to prevent the raid. [Full editorial]

Nashua Telegraph Op-Ed: Time to come together on the budget

By Reps. Steve Shurtleff and Mary Jane Wallner

To pass a budget that truly meets the needs of our state requires both parties to put partisanship aside and work together to get things done.

No one political party has a monopoly on good ideas, and it’s crucial that both parties work together during the budget process to develop a responsible budget that will make progress for our people, businesses, and economy.

Back in February, Gov. Maggie Hassan presented a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that makes strategic investments to lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth, without a sales or income tax.

Unfortunately, House Republicans took a very different approach, passing a strictly partisan budget that prompted outcry from all corners of our state.

We were glad to hear that Republican senators agreed that the budget passed by the New Hampshire House was unacceptable. But, in trying to fix the House’s mess, Senate Republicans passed a budget that doesn’t actually do what they say it does.

The Senate budget misleads the people of New Hampshire about what priorities are actually being funded, while relying on gimmicks that leave the budget unbalanced.

Senate Republicans claim to have restored critical services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, including Meals on Wheels and services for individuals who experience developmental disabilities. But the reality is that their budget gimmicks – including things like magical savings estimates and unrealistic projections – place all of these services at risk.

Take for example, funding for mental health services. After claiming to “restore” $6.25 million in mental health funding, senators actually told the department to cut $6.25 million from the landmark mental health settlement the legislature approved last year, threatening critical services.

And when it comes to substance misuse treatment, senators used accounting tricks to try to hide the fact that they actually cut $3 million from the governor’s proposal for substance misuse treatment.

That’s to say nothing of their failure to adequately fund public safety, higher education and their decision not to continue our bipartisan Medicaid expansion program.

While even Senate Republicans agree that our state’s Medicaid expansion is working exactly as intended – if not better – their budget places 40,000 Granite Staters at risk of losing their coverage and creates uncertainty in the insurance market that could lead to higher rates for all of our people and businesses.

Though the Senate claimed we couldn’t afford to invest in priorities like Medicaid expansion and higher education with proven results for economic growth, they expressed no concerns about giving unpaid-for tax giveaways to big businesses, blowing a huge hole in our budget.

We believe the approach laid out in the governor’s fiscally responsible proposal would be the best way forward for our state. That said, we appreciate that passing a budget requires compromise, and as we enter the committee-of-conference process, we stand ready to do just that.

The good news is that Democrats and Republicans agree on many of the critical priorities that must be met for our economy to thrive. Now it’s time to work together to pass a responsible budget that actually funds the priorities it claims it does.

The people of New Hampshire didn’t send us to Concord to point fingers or engage in political gamesmanship. They sent us to Concord to solve problems and get results for our state.

We’ve come a long way together throughout this budget process, and it’s time to get ourselves over the finish line.

New Hampshire’s families and businesses are depending on our ability to work together to pass a budget that keeps our economy moving in the right direction, and we look forward to working with our Republican colleagues to do exactly that.

Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D–Penacook, is the New Hampshire House Democratic Leader; Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D–Concord, is the ranking Democratic and former chair of the House Finance Committee.

The New Hampshire House Passes Minimum Wage Increase

The New Hampshire House of Representatives today by a vote of 173 to 118 approved HB 1403, a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $9.00 an hour over two years and apply cost of living adjustments in future years. New Hampshire’s current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and the wage has remained at this level since 2008.

“New Hampshire’s current minimum wage leaves workers struggling to get by,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “Raising the minimum wage and ensuring it is adjusted for the cost of living in future years would help families make ends meet, boost sales at local businesses, and put New Hampshire on a path towards an economy that works for everyone.”

HB 1403 would increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015, and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. Beginning January 1, 2017, it would automatically increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to account for inflation (based on the Consumer Price Index).

An analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute indicates that HB 1403 would either directly or indirectly increase the wages of 76,000 Granite Staters. Of those who would be affected, 72 percent are adults age 20 and older; 32 percent work full-time; 59 percent are women; and 14 percent are parents.

On average, those who would be affected by a $9.00 minimum wage would see their pay go up by $870 per year. As minimum wage workers spend every dollar they earn, this spending will boost the bottom lines of stores, shops, and businesses in communities across the state while adding $64 million to the New Hampshire economy over the next two years.

The WMUR Granite State Poll released on February 6 found that 76% of state residents support increasing the minimum wage to $9.00. The poll question asked respondents if they supported an increase to $8.25 in 2015 and to $9 an hour in 2016. Across the political spectrum, the majority of Democrats (91%), Republicans (64%), and Independents (70%) favored this proposed increase to the minimum wage.

“I applaud members of the House of Representatives for their recognition of the need to restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage,” said Governor Hassan. “In order for economic growth to truly accelerate, working families and individuals must be confident in their own financial circumstances and able to afford critical goods and services.”

Governor Hassan continued, “This measure will help improve the financial security of working families and people of all ages and will support businesses by putting more money in the pockets of their consumers. I look forward to working with members of the Senate, as well as workers, businesses and all stakeholders, to strengthen our state’s economic future by restoring and increasing New Hampshire’s minimum wage.”

“The legislators were not swayed by false testimony or attempts to weaken the bill,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “We all know that a strong minimum wage means more money in the pockets of families and more money in the cash registers of local businesses. Raising the wage is a win-win situation for our whole economy and we strongly encourage the Senate to support it.”

“The vote in the House today signals a strong desire to help working people and we are proud of the legislators who voted with us,” continued Rice-Hawkins.  “Three-quarters of Granite Staters, including majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, also support increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour.”

Now everything lies in the Senate.  Will they do what is right for Granite Staters or hold fast to the anti-worker ideology of the current Republican Party?
UPDATED: The NH Senate rejected this House bill therefor killing the Minimum Wage increase in 2014.

Updated 2015: State Rep Jackie Cilley proposes a new minimum wage increase to $14.25 per hour and eliminates the “tipped minimum wage”. 

ANHPE Asks Why Do Even Need A Voucher Law, It Is A Proven Failure

Why do you keep after the New Hampshire voucher program? Won’t it just die on the vine? (Answer: It’s a bad seed.)

We have a lower court decision saying that New Hampshire’s voucher tax credit program can’t fund religious schools, where most of the money would have gone, and the Supreme Court may well agree.

Business and public school parents have shown little interest in the program, though it’s hard to know how much of that is a result of the controversy.

There’s only one active scholarship organization to collect donations and hand out the money and, without the capacity to run a publicly funded program, it probably won’t be able to do much with the program.

So why keep after it? Why not let it just die on the vine or trundle along getting a little money to some families who could use it?

It’s true, the voucher program is not worth all the air time it takes up.  Education funding, the role of charter schools in the State, support for early childhood development, the State’s role in the current education reform debates – these are all much more important topics.

And doing a better job educating our low income students, as the voucher program purports to do, is an important topic.  But the voucher program has proved a random and unsystematic way to do that.  Giving money to a group that helped write the law (“We want as many students as possible out of the ‘system’”) to select a small number of children to go to unaccredited religious schools is not a solution to that problem.  There are many more purposeful and direct ways to help low income families get better educations for their children.

However, the voucher law will not go away by itself.  It may continue to function even if the Supreme Court agrees that it cannot fund religious schools.  Supporters assert that the kind of slow start we are seeing here has been the normal experience in other states and that the program will grow large over time.  Any future legislature could expand the program overnight but even with no attention at all it will grow automatically if it gets enough use.

There is no legitimate public purpose for this law, no public support, no state oversight for the money and now we’ve had an opportunity to see the result of this kind of ill-conceived legislation.  There is no reason to leave this kind of failed program in place.

Cross-posted from ANHPE

6-10-13 AFT-NH Legislative Update By President Laura Hainey. Included SB100, HB1 and HB2, and More

aft sqaureLET THE GAMES BEGIN

This past Thursday the State Senate attached SB 100: AN ACT authorizing electronic payment of payroll to HB 357: AN ACT prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions and authorizing electronic payment of payroll. HB 357 has strong support from labor, working families and the unemployed.

It seems that SB 100 is a priority of Senator Bradley and it is a shame he would jeopardize a much needed and supported bill.

Keep in mind that SB 100 will affect all public employees in New Hampshire. This bill will do the following:

  • Deletes the requirement that an employer who pays wages by electronic fund transfer offer employees the option of being paid by check.
  • Permits an employer to pay wages with a payroll card after offering employees the option of being paid by direct deposit.

We understand that many employees do receive their paycheck by direct deposit but there are many who prefer the paper check and they should still have this option. What is most shameful is that if this passes it can be imposed on employees, thus taking away their voice at the work place.

Now that the bill has been amended and the House is not in session until June 26th this will be sent to a committee of conference.  We ask the committee make the recommendation to pass HB 357 without the amendment of SB 100.

BUDGET UPDATE

There will be a presentation on June 11th at 1 p.m. in LOB 210, by the LBA regarding Senate changes to HB 1 and HB 2, followed by a presentation by the House Ways and Means Committee, on revised revenue estimates.

As I stated last week there is good and bad in this budget and AFT-NH will monitor this presentation and the Committee of Conference. To review all the documents on the proposed budget click here.

HB 142 RELATIVE TO TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEMS.

The first Committee of Conference on HB 142 has been scheduled for June 11th at 10 a.m. in LOB 207. The house appointed Representatives Anne Grassie, Mary Gile, Mary Gorman, and Rick Ladd, while the senate appointed Senators Nancy Stiles, John Reagan, and Molly Kelly.

AFT-NH is opposed to this bill as amended. It does include the involvement of teachers but it left out “Nothing in this paragraph shall supersede collective bargaining rights under RSA 273-A”.  We ask that the committee reinstate this language back into the bill.

2013 HOUSE COMMITTEE OF CONFERENCE PROCEDURES
(This section was taken from House Calendar Volume 5, Number 44, date June 7, 2013).

The Chairmen of the policy committees will receive bills amended by the Senate and should check with their committees to determine whether to recommend that the House concur, non-concur, or non-concur and request a Committee of Conference.

When a committee requests that the bill be sent to a Committee of Conference, the Chairman will recommend members for appointment. If the bill has gone to more than one committee, the members may come from the different committees as determined by the Speaker. Chairmen should recommend only those members from their policy committees. The Speaker shall make the final decision of Conference committee members, and the committee choices are generally limited to those who support the House position.

The first named House member shall serve as Chairman of the House Conferees. For House bills in Committee of Conference, the House Conferee Chairman shall set the time and place of the first meeting with the Clerk’s Office and shall chair each meeting of the Committee of Conference. Each meeting shall be posted in the Clerk’s Office and outside the committee room at least 24 hours in advance. [House Rule 43 (c)]. If a Committee of Conference meeting recesses, the reconvening time shall be posted in the Clerk’s office and outside the committee room.

The House and Senate Conferees on a bill shall meet jointly but vote separately while in conference.

The Committee of Conference may not change the title of the bill. The Committee also may not add amendments that are not germane to the subject matter of the bill or contain subject matter that has been indefinitely postponed. A non-germane amendment is one in which the subject matter is not contained in either the House or Senate version of the bill. [House Rule 49 (g)]

The sponsor of a bill that is in Committee of Conference shall, upon request, be provided an opportunity to be heard.

A unanimous vote of both the House and Senate Conferees, voting separately, is necessary for an agreed upon report to be sent to the House and Senate.

Reports of all Committees of Conference must be filed with the Office of Legislative Services by the June 20, 2013 deadline adopted by the House. All Committee of Conference members must sign their reports in the Office of Legislative Services by June 20, 2013 by 4:00 p.m.

The first-named House member on all bills in Committee of Conference must prepare an analysis of the report. This “blurb” should contain a complete explanation of all changes made to the bill since it was passed by the House and must be submitted to the House Clerk for printing in the calendar.

All Committee of Conference reports shall be distributed in seat pockets to be acted on some subsequent day. [House Rule 49 (f)].

See House Rule 49 for more information.

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

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

At Legislator Luncheon, NH Labor Pushes For ‘Job Creating’ Casino Bill

Credit Joe Casey

Credit Joe Casey

Organized labor united in support of “job creating” bill, makes case for expanded gaming at legislative luncheon

Nearly 300 State Representatives packed the State House Cafeteria today for a legislative luncheon in support of SB152, the bill to create jobs and state revenue by licensing a casino in New Hampshire. The luncheon was sponsored by the New Hampshire labor community, and included presentations from Senator Donna Soucy, NEA President Scott McGilvray, SEA representative Jay Ward, Building Trades President and IBEW 490 Business Manager Joe Casey, Representative Ed Butler, and Matthew Landry of Strategic Market Advisors.

NH Building and Construction Trades Council President Joe Casey issued the following statement:

“The turnout today was incredible, even though we were forced to change the venue at the last minute. It’s clear that support for SB152 is building in the House. The Representatives who attended today understand that SB152 will create thousands of jobs and create a critical revenue stream to fund our state’s priorities.

The New Hampshire labor community is united in support of this bill, and the luncheon today was a great opportunity to showcase that. I was proud to stand alongside Scott McGilvray and Jay Ward, and to speak to the importance of this bill to our memberships. For our part, the construction industry needs our legislators to support SB152 in order to create more than $425 million in private investment that will create thousands of jobs. Estimates show SB152 will create 3,165 on-site construction jobs, 567 indirect construction jobs, another 1,087 jobs through increased economic activity due to construction, and 1,949 full time ongoing jobs in operating the casino. Our legislators have an opportunity to stand with New Hampshire’s working men and women by passing SB152, and the great showing we had at the luncheon today shows that many of them are ready to do that.

The anti-gaming lobby tried every dirty trick in the book to try and stop this luncheon from happening – even stooping to bullying St. Paul’s church into canceling it. Their support is slipping every day, and they’re desperate to stop us from being heard. But we will not be intimidated, and we will make sure there is a full, open, and honest debate on this issue in spite of their dirty tactics. We expect to see more of their big money misinformation campaign in the coming weeks, but the people of New Hampshire support this proposal, and momentum is clearly building among our legislators. No amount of dirty tricks and robo calls from the anti-casino lobby can stop that. ”

Sponsors of today’s event include:

NH Building and Construction Trades Council
IBEW 104
IBEW 490
IBEW 2320
Granite State Teamsters
Ironworkers Local 7
NEA NH
NH Troopers Association
Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 131
Professional Fire Fighters of NH
State Employees Association

New Hampshire’s pull-back is part of the national rethink on private school vouchers (@ANHPE)

As we move toward repealing the ill-conceived New Hampshire voucher program, a pseudonymous commenter toward the bottom of this Patch thread encapsulated the debate this way:

 All this focus on having “choices” makes me ask: why do taxpayers who are already providing a structure to educate every child in a given community need to also pay for additional choices based on nothing but the desire of the parent? I distinctly recall those who put this law in place two years ago telling us that churches and charities were the proper way to fund programs for “the poor.” Why is this different?

New Hampshire is one piece, but an important piece, of the national debate on privatization of public schools.  Here is today’s New York Times on the occasion of the Indiana Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s voucher program, reviewing the national state of play in the push for vouchers in Republican dominated states:

“This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.”via States Redefining Public Schooling – NYTimes.com

But public school privatization is trench warfare on a state-by-state basis.  Here is Kansas, turning back a voucher program, with each side making the familiar arguments:

 The Kansas House defeated legislation on Monday that would create a school choice scholarship program funded by corporate donations.

….
“We are sacrificing their future because we are protecting a system,” said Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican.

“What we’re really talking about is diverting public funds to private or parochial schools,” said Rep. Nile Dillmore, a Wichita Democrat opposed to the measure.

And, under the headline, “Idaho lawmakers dump private school tax credits:”

A Senate panel ended hopes of private and religious schools that were pushing for Idaho to extend a tax break to people who donate to scholarships meant to defray the cost of tuition.

“The donor is going to profit off making this donation at the cost of the public,” Hill said. “That’s just not fair.”

Private, religious school officials who flew to Boise from northern Idaho for Tuesday’s hearing argued these scholarships would boost school choice for more students who wanted an alternative to the traditional public school classroom, but didn’t hail from families with the financial means to foot the bill.

Vouchers advance in lopsided Republican legislatures and are defeated in more balanced legislatures.  We need to correct the errors our last Legislature.

Reposted from ANHPE Blog

NH House Passes Gas Tax Increase To Fund Infrastructure Repairs (And Create New Jobs)

NH House

The NH House has done their part, now it is up to the NH Senate.  

Today the NH House passed HB 617 a bill to increase the gas tax by 12 cents with all of the increase in funding to be used to fix New Hampshire’s roads and bridges.  The tax will be phased in starting with a four cent increase in July 2014.  Then continues with a four cent increase for the next three years.

The House Ways and Means Vice Chair Rep. Patty Lovejoy spoke in support of the bill:

“New Hampshire’s highway system is our economic lifeblood; supporting commerce, tourism and our everyday lives. A good infrastructure is imperative for NH to compete with other states for new business and new jobs.”

This is huge step for the NH Legislature who have spent much of the last two years attacking workers and taking away the rights of women and minorities.  This increase is an example that the House really cares about the people of New Hampshire.

Currently New Hampshire has 140 State Red Listed Bridges and several hundred red listed municipal bridges. More than 1600 miles of state roads are rated in Poor condition, roughly one­-third of our state roads. The increase in construction would lead to hundreds of additional construction jobs over the next several years.

The bill’s primary  sponsor Rep. David Campbell of Nashua also spoke on this bill:

“The people want and expect us to solve problems facing our state…We were elected to make our state a better place by having the wisdom to identify the problems, the tenacity to work together to find the solutions and the political will to enact them.”

For many states these much needed repairs have sat dormant while austerity was being pushed through legislatures.  This is a good jobs bill, and one of the first that I have seen in NH in a while.

This is a problem and a solution that has been staring us in the face for years.  The gas tax (road tax) has not been increased since 1991.  I urge the Senate to pass this bill immediately so we can begin working on repair our broken roads and bridges as soon as possible.

March 24th Legislative Update From AFT-NH President Laura Hainey

On Friday the Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee heard testimony for four hours on HB 370: repealing the education tax credit program. There was similarity when people spoke in favor or opposition of this bill. Those favoring HB 370 attacked the program as vouchers for private and religious schools.  Those opposing HB 370 said it was about choice and called it a tax credit, not a voucher.

AFT-NH joins those in favor of passing HB 370 in believing that this program is unconstitutional.  New Hampshire’s Constitution is clear—state money shall not be used to fund religious instruction (“no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination.”– Article 6, NH Constitution).  The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have filed suit in Strafford County Superior Court. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the tax-credit program unlawful and block the state from further implementation. To read the press release click here. To read the complaint click here.  The court hearing has been scheduled for April 26th. We hope for a decision by the summer.

There is also much to be concerned about regarding the group that will be overseeing this program. This California based group is called “Alliance for Separation of School and State,” and here in New Hampshire they are called the “NH Network For Educational Opportunity.”  Make no mistake they are one in the same, animated by the goal of “ending government involvement in education,” In other words…privatizing public education. To read more on this group click here to read Bill Duncan’s research on it.

There is no oversight and the only accountability is a parent survey. There is no oversight board and the donors are not going to be public. The only oversight is a summary on statistics that will be produced.

New Hampshire cannot afford to divert scarce resources to private and religious schools as well as home-schoolers.

This is just bad policy. This tax credit program initiated in 2012 is an ill-disguised attempt to begin dismantling and privatizing our public education in NH while weakening our good schools. We are justly proud of our schools in NH and these “vouchers” disguised as tax-credits will only harm public education.

For the above reasons we ask that the Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee make the recommendation of ought to pass.

If you have not taken action and sent a letter to the committee members it is not too late. By clicking here you can take action and ask that they pass this bill.

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

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

OTHER HAPPENINGS AT THE STATE HOUSE AND WHAT WE KNOW!

The Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee will be holding a hearing on HB 142 relative to teacher evaluation systems on March 26th at 9:40 a.m. As I read this bill, any teacher evaluation and support system will be developed with teacher involvement and must be adopted by both the local school board and the teachers. The State teacher evaluation model may serve as a guide and reference only, meaning that it is not mandated that the State model be adopted at the local level. To protect current negotiated provisions in contracts, language was added to the bill, reading “Nothing in this paragraph shall supersede collective bargaining rights under RSA 273-A.” This bill has come a long way from when it was introduced.

We know that the NH School Board Association was not happy with the amended language and I believe they will be coming back with language that is more like the original bill. Keep in mind the original language gave local school boards the entire responsibility for the development, adoption, implementation, and monitoring of a teacher evaluation system. The school board might consult with school administrators and teachers in the development of a teacher evaluation system, but it would not be required to do so.

The House Finance committee is still working their way through the budget bill HB 1 and 2. The full house will have to vote by April 4th.  To read the full text of the budget bill click here. Once the full house has voted on HB 1 and HB 2 they will move over to the Senate. The Senate has until June 6th to take a full vote. We know that each chamber will have different budgets and HB 1 and 2 will move to a committee of conference, where both chambers will have till June 27th to take action.

UPCOMING HEARINGS FOR NEXT WEEK
Note the ones in red are priority bills for AFT-NH

MONDAY, MARCH 25

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
Division Budget Presentations to Full Committee:
10:00 a.m. Division I and Division II.
1:00 p.m. Division III.

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015, HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

FINANCE – (DIVISION II), Room 209, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015, HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015, HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

TUESDAY, MARCH 26

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB

9:00 a.m. HB 161, relative to school district policies on health and sex education.
9:40 a.m. HB 142, relative to teacher evaluation systems.
10:00 a.m. HB 629-FN, relative to the criteria for approving and calculating school building aid grants.

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015, HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27

10 a.m. House in session

THURSDAY, MARCH 28

10a.m.  Possible House session

1 p.m. Senate in session

MONDAY, APRIL 1

TASK FORCE ON WORK AND FAMILY (RSA 276-B:1), Room 207, LOB
1:15 p.m. Organizational meeting.

TUESDAY, APRIL 2

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Department of Education – Presentation Common Core.
11:00 a.m. Department of Education – Smarter Balance Assessment.
1:15 p.m. NH school safety and security.

FRIDAY, APRIL 19

FISCAL COMMITTEE (RSA 14:30-a), Rooms 210-211, LOB
10:00 a.m. Regular business.

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