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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.

Raising The Gas Tax To Fund Our Failing Infrastructure And Help Our Economy

ASCE Report NH

There has been much debate over the last few weeks over the proposed 12-15 cent gasoline (road toll) increase.

HB 617 has been debated in every public forum and in nearly every media outlet in the state.  Many of the “No Tax” pledgelings say ‘no’ to any increase in the gasoline (road ) tax.  This is the completely wrong approach.

There is no denying that New Hampshire is failing to maintain our 16,000 miles of roads and bridges.  In fact the American Society of Civil Engineers just released their latest report on the state of New Hampshire’s infrastructure.  Surprise, it is not good.  Overall the report says as a whole the U.S. infrastructure rates at a D+.  For New Hampshire we came in a little better than average a ‘C’.  Below are a few of the items that the ASCE report found.

BRIDGES

  • 362 of the 2,429 bridges in New Hampshire (14.9%) are considered structurally deficient.
  • 445 of the 2,429 bridges in New Hampshire (18.3%) are considered functionally obsolete.

ROADS

  • Driving on roads in need of repair costs New Hampshire motorists $267 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $259 per motorist.
  • 54% of New Hampshire’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • New Hampshire has 16,006 public road miles.
  • New Hampshire’s highway vehicle-miles traveled in 2009 was approximately 9,922 per capita, ranking it 30thin the nation.
  • New Hampshire’s gas tax of 19.6 cents per gallon has not been increased in 21 years.

This additional money from the increase to the gas tax is specifically designed to combat this issue.  The increase will go directly to the roads and bridges.  This is a very important part of this bill that is being overlooked by many others.  Even on The Exchange with Laura Knoy, Senator Andy Sanborn tried to tell people that this money would not being going to roads but to State Police and others.  This was directly contrary to what Rep Campbell had stated on the show only moments before.

This increase will help New Hampshire in many ways.  It will help to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, and it will help our state economy.  By spending millions on road repair will help put more worker back to work.  Workers who earn a paycheck are not drawing unemployment and are spending money in the local economy.  This is a complete win-win.

Isn’t that our real goal, to create good paying jobs?  Then why have we not passed this already?

3/18/12 A Legislative Update Laura Hainey and AFT-NH

Both the House and Senate are finishing up on their respective legislation.  March 28th is ‘crossover day’ so all hearings and votes must be completed by that date (the House has until April 4 to finish budget bills).  Both sides will then start working on bills that have passed the other Chamber.  It’s like starting all over again but with new faces.

As for the budget bills there have been several public hearings on the budget, with two more coming up up on Monday, March 18th:

  • Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, 111 South Street Claremont.5:00 p.m. Public hearing 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 and HB 2-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
  • Rochester Community Center, 150 Wakefield Street, Rochester.5:00 p.m. Public hearing 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 and HB 2-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

If you live in either of these communities it is a good time to attend and express your support or concerns with the proposed budget. The House is working from the Governor’s budget and they will be making changes as they move through the process. NEW HAMPSHIRE FISCAL POLICY INSTITUTE has written up a complete analysis of the Governor’s budget proposal, which I found to be very helpful in understanding the proposed budget.  To read this full report click here.

Below is  a summary of the status of bills being monitored by AFT-NH.

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

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

HOUSE BILLS THAT ARE MOVING OVER TO THE SENATE

HB 178:
relative to public employer collective bargaining agreements. This bill was amended and replaced with the following:

This bill requires the PELRB (Public Employee Labor Relations Board) to:

  • Post online training for collective bargaining.
  • Maintain a record how political subdivisions vote on collective bargaining agreements and provide the legislature with an annual report.

AFT-NH supports this amended bill and hopes that the Senate will pass it as well.

HB 342: relative to part-time employment of retired members of the retirement system.

This bill has been amended in its entirety into a reporting requirement,

  • It will provide valuable information regarding NHRS retirees. Employers will report the number of hours worked and the compensation earned to the NHRS on a quarterly basis, so NHRS can collect and maintain data that is unavailable now.
  • The bill does not take effect until 120 days after passage to allow time to prepare, and includes a sunset provision in 2018, which allows time for sufficient data to be developed.
  • The New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC) hired, Thomas Lowman from Bolton Partners and he provided us his actuarial opinion stating that the practice of replacing full time position with part time positions is setting the state up for greater costs down the road. He included numerous reasons why employers who either hire more part-time positions than full-time, or encourage full-time employees to retire and then hire them back part-time, are negatively impacting the overall state retirement system and the Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability. To read the full letter click here.

AFT-NH supports this amended bill and hopes that the Senate will pass it as well.

HB 142 as amended: 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 you adopt this State model 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, and AFT-NH will continue to monitor this as it works its way through the Senate.

HB 370: would repeal the education tax credits. Keep in mind that two bills passed last year diverted scarce resources to private and religious schools as well as home schoolers. In fact, these laws do not even contain any accountability provisions to ensure the money is put to good use!

AFT-NH also believes that it is unconstitutional to divert state money to religious schools. Our Constitution is clear—state money will 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). AFT-NH support the passage of this bill and hopes the Senate will pass it as well.

HB 187: relative to deliberative sessions in towns that have adopted official ballot voting. This bill was submitted by retired AFT-NH member Marjorie Porter. This bill provides that the dollar amount agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement between a public employer and an employee organization shall not be modified by the legislative body of the public employer and that amount is what the voters should vote on.

AFT-NH is in support of this bill; we believe that what is negotiated in good faith should go before the voters for a vote and not be sidelined by a few. We hope that the Senate will pass it as well.

SENATE BILLS NOW MOVING OVER TO THE HOUSE

SB 132: relative to part-time employment in the retirement system and establishing a committee to study police special details.

  • This bill was amended by the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee to establish a committee to study police special details and will move to the full Senate with the recommendation of passage.
  • The committee is tasked with studying the use and efficacy of police special details, and alternatives which may be available to towns, cities, and the state.

AFT-NH does not support forming another committee to study the New Hampshire retirement system or parts of it.

SB 82: This bill establishes a commission for the purpose of identifying strategies for developing and implementing a competency-based public education. AFT-NH is staying neutral on this bill. We understand that moving to a competency-based system will take much time and consideration when developing this system. AFT-NH hopes that the final report will include recommendations for adequate time and staff development for the educators charged with implementing this new system.

If you are currently moving forward in implementing a competency-based system and you have concerns, suggestions and recommendations please send them to LHainey@aft-nh.org. This way we can makes sure they are passed along.

DEFEATED BILLS

HB 609: relative to possession of a firearm on school property. AFT-NH was in opposition to this bill, as it created far too many unanswered questions.  Where and how are these guns to be stored? Who would have access to the guns? Would it really prevent a shooting at a school or increase the risk of one? Would there be any training for those who have guns at the schools? What about the liability if something goes wrong? This bill was defeated in the house. AFT-NH thanks all who supported us on this.

HB 620: relative to the adjustment of member and employer contribution rates in the retirement system.

  • This bill provides that contribution rates for members in the retirement system and employers shall be calculated by assigning one half of the biennial change to the liabilities of the system to each.
  • The full House voted to defeat this bill, and AFT-NH supports this action.

HB 322: This bill would have required proficiency on the statewide assessment for advancement to grades 4 and 8. AFT-NH was in opposition to this bill. Since the implementation of No Child Left Behind, we’ve seen a growing fixation on high-stakes testing as a central piece of the effort to improve schools. Unfortunately, the result has been exactly the opposite. The low-level, high-stakes tests that now hang over our teachers and students—and their extreme misuse as a result of ideologically and politically driven education policy—have seriously damaged our public education system. AFT-NH believes that Learning Is More Than a Test Score.

SB 37: relative to management rights under collective bargaining. This bill would have eliminated your ability to bargain over wages, standards for evaluation, selection, layoff and retention, discipline, assignment and transfer and “other traditionally accepted management rights”. In essence, this would have ended collective bargaining for public employees. This bill was defeated by the Senate; AFT-NH fully supported defeating this bill.

CACR 6 and CARC 7:  Relating to education. Both of these proposed constitutional amendments concerned funding public education and left full discretion in the hands of the elected representatives at the State House. These proposals are almost carbon-copies of CACR 12 from 2012, which was defeated. Keep in mind we have come a long way since the Claremont Decision. We cherish public education in NH, but we also know that in a difficult budgetary environment, one of the most tempting areas to make spending cuts is in State support of education, thereby downshifting costs onto localities.  AFT-NH supported the defeat of these constitutional amendments, which happened this past Wednesday in the House.

And of course HB 323 the Right to Work for less bill. AFT-NH was in opposition to this bill and it was defeated once again!

BILLS THAT HAVE BEEN RETAINED BY THE SENATE OR HOUSE
These bills will be worked on by a committee and there will need to be a vote on the first day of the 2014 session

HB 494:  This permits other school personnel to administer a glucagon injection to a pupil. AFT-NH stands with our fellow organization New Hampshire School Nurses Association in opposition to this bill.

HB 341: relative to the cost of fiscal analysis of legislation relating to the retirement system.

  • This bill requires that whenever any proposed legislation needs a fiscal analysis of its impact on the NHRS, the administrative and professional cost of that fiscal analysis shall not be paid from Retirement System assets or charged as an expense of administration.
  • In the last two sessions it has cost the New Hampshire Retirement System over $100,000 to investigate the costs associated with proposed legislation.  This is money coming out of our system that could fund close to three pensions.
  • If a legislator puts in a bill then the funds to cost this should come out of their budget not ours.

AFT-NH supports passage of this bill.

HB 627: requiring unused vacation and sick leave to be converted to service time for purposes of calculating retirement system benefits.

  • This bill provides that at retirement the accrued but unused sick and vacation time of a retirement system member shall be converted to hours and applied as additional creditable service.

AFT-NH supports defeat of this bill.

HB 435:  relative to funding for chartered public school pupils. AFT-NH opposes this bill because it diverts scarce funding from our public schools just like the education tax credits initiated last year. If charter schools truly want to be considered public then they must:

  • Accept all children that walk through their doors,
  • The entire teaching staff should be certified,
  • They would take on all the responsibility of educating special education students and not rely on the local school system to offer services,
  • They would take on the responsibility of transporting the students to school.
  • In short they would have to follow all the laws and rules that current public schools follow.


BILLS THAT STILL NEED ACTION IN THE FULL HOUSE OR SENATE


HB 124:
relative to the determination of gainful occupation for a group II member receiving an accidental disability retirement allowance from the retirement system.

  • This bill reinserts a provision which removes the application of the gainful occupation reductions to retirement allowances of group II accidental disability beneficiaries who have years of service plus years of accidental disability retirement which total at least 20 and who have attained the age of 45.
  • The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has no recommendation for this bill. AFT-NH -NH supports the recommendation of passage.

HB 364: relative to notice required concerning employment of a retired member of the New Hampshire retirement system of the limitations on part-time employment.

  • This bill was amended its in entirety.
  • This bill requires New Hampshire Retirement System employers to notify existing and prospective part-time employees, who are retired members in the retirement system, of the annual limitations on hours for part-time employment. The bill also requires the Retirement System to provide similar notice to all retired members.
  • An employer shall provide written notice of the hourly limitations on part-time employment and the potential effect that exceeding such hourly limitations could have on the retired member’s retirement benefits.
  • The Retirement System shall annually provide written notice to all retired members of the retirement system of the hourly limitations on part-time employment and the potential effect that exceeding such hourly limitations could have on the retired member’s retirement benefits.
  • AFT-NH supports the recommendation of passage from the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee.

HB 455: establishing a committee to study the use of a cash balance retirement plan for new state employees.

  • This bill establishes a committee to study the use of a cash balance retirement plan for new state employees and other groups electing to participate.
  • AFT-NH supports the recommendation of the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee of defeating this bill.

HB 381: relative to citizen complaints against a police officer. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee made the recommendation of defeating this bill. AFT-NH is in support of this recommendation and request that legislators support this recommendation when it comes before them. Keep in mind that there is already a process in place for complaints, and this bill would just provide a tool to those who want retribution against police officers who have faithfully performed their duties.

AFT-NH is also supporting the efforts of the New Hampshire Child Alliance Network on HB 260. This bill authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to provide voluntary services to a child who would otherwise be found to be a child in need of services under RSA 169-D. This bill passed the House Children and Family Law Committee 19-0 and passed the full House on March 6.  The bill is now before the House Finance Committee, where they will discuss the cost of the bill. Governor Hassan did put in her budget $7.5 M in total funds for CHINS over the next two years. For more background information on this click here.

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

MONDAY, MARCH 18

FINANCE, Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, 111 South Street Claremont.
5:00 p.m. Public hearing 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 and HB 2-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Rochester Community Center, 150 Wakefield Street, Rochester.
5:00 p.m. Public hearing 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 and HB 2-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

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
10:00 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,
HB 260-FN, relative to voluntary services provided to children in need under RSA 169-D (if needed).
1:00 p.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 19

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 260-FN, relative to voluntary services provided to children in need under RSA 169-D,
HB 269-L, authorizing a city or town to conduct a special meeting necessitated by changes in adequate education funding,
HB 299-FN, relative to tuition payments for chartered public school pupils,
HB 319-FN, relative to benefits for state employees serving in the armed forces,
HB 344-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for the cost of special education,
570-FN, relative to school building aid grant eligibility for the White Mountain Regional school district,

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:00 p.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
1:00 p.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
1:00 p.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.

FRIDAY, MARCH 22

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 100, SH
1:00 p.m. HB 370-FN, repealing the education tax credit program.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

MONDAY, MARCH 25

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
2:30 p.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.

TUESDAY, MARCH 26

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued 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.

MONDAY, APRIL 1

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

NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie Pushes For A Higher Minimum Wage For NH Working Families

For Cost-Effective Economic Development, Consider the Minimum Wage
By President Mark MacKenzie

President Obama raised the hopes of thousands of Granite Staters when he called for raising the minimum wage in his State of the Union address.

His words should also raise the hopes of our state leaders. We’ve seen intense debate in our Legislature and town halls over the past few years about how to strengthen our economy after the Great Recession and help working people get back on their feet.

For thousands of Granite Staters living on the edge, the minimum wage determines whether their jobs pay enough to make ends meet. Yet it isn’t just workers who have a stake in the minimum wage. The small businesses they patronize and the communities they live in all stand to gain from reestablishing New Hampshire’s minimum wage. If our leaders are serious about encouraging New Hampshire’s economic development, they will consider reestablishing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.

Throughout the recession, Granite Staters relied increasingly on low-wage jobs to support their families. We lost nearly 6000 jobs between January 2012 and December 2012, according to the New Hampshire Economic & Labor Market Bureau.  Alarmingly, the largest losses were in construction, healthcare, education, local government and manufacturing – all sectors that historically pay a living wage. And of the sectors that added jobs, one third paid an average of $10.85 an hour.

This is not an isolated trend. Contrary to popular belief, changing the minimum wage will not just impact teenagers and semi-retired people. As wages for working families have fallen and breadwinners come to rely on low-wage jobs to support their families, the minimum wage plays an increasingly critical role in determining whether a job gets a family out of poverty or keeps them in it.

Most businesses in New Hampshire are small employers whose wellbeing is intimately tied to the strength of their local economy and the fortunes of their customers. Lower wages mean fewer nights out, fewer ice cream cones bought for our children, fewer gifts at Christmas and birthdays. They mean waiting another year to fix the muffler on our car or replace our old winter coat. Ultimately, by paying their employees more, local businesses fare better.

It’s been argued that raising the minimum wage will force employers to reduce hours for their employees or lay them off. That this will happen to a degree large enough to hurt our economy is, at this point, simple speculation. A 2010 study from economists at the University of North Carolina, University of Massachusetts, and University of California-Berkeley found “no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States”.

The reason for that is quite simple – a minimum wage means customers with more money in their pockets.

As Governor Hassan and our Legislature come to an agreement over the state budget, they will be asked to make a lot of tough decisions on how to foster economic development in New Hampshire with the resources we have available.

What they choose to fund is ultimately a reflection of their priorities. Yet they should keep in mind that the minimum wage offers a simple way to foster economic development without spending resources from the state.

Ultimately, the debate over the minimum wage comes down to the type of economy that we want. Do we want an economy that relies on subsidizing the employers who pay their workers the least? Or do we want one that recognizes that every worker’s toil is worthy of a living wage?

Jobs should keep Granite Staters out of poverty, not in it. It is time to reinstate the minimum wage and create a path to prosperity for workers and their families.

That’s It, REP ITSE Has To Go For Jeopardizing The Safety Of Our Children (HB 609)

I am outraged at State Rep Dan Itse and his new bill HB 609 that would allow teachers to carry loaded weapons at schools. Rep Itse, told AP reporter Norma Love that he submitted this legislation in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy.

This idea just sickens me! The idea that we should be encouraging our teachers to openly carry loaded weapons in our school. The place where we are trying our best to keep guns away from! Scott McGilvray, President of the NH chapter of the National Education Association said,

“It is both astounding and disturbing that following the recent tragedies, politicians and pundits who have spent little if any time in public schools have taken to the airwaves and to the State House floors to call for arming our teachers. (2)”

“As the rest of the country debates how to keep guns out of schools. In New Hampshire, we are actually proposing bringing more guns in. Guns have no place in our schools.”

This is asking for problems. Rep Itse is asking for more guns in our schools. This idea of more guns in our schools appalls me and I have not hidden that fact (see also The Last Thing We Need Is MORE Guns In Our Schools And State Houses). More guns in our schools mean a higher possibility of a child being shot accidentally. Dean Michener of the New Hampshire School Boards Association said, “the chances an armed teacher will hit a child are high.” This is an unacceptable risk to on our most prized possessions.

Michener also made reference to the study from New York where police officers involved in a ‘fire fight’ have an accuracy rating of only 18%. These are trained police officers who have mandatory training and marksmanship testing. Even with all of this testing and training, when an officer is being shot at, their accuracy rating drops to 18%. This alone is enough to say that a teacher should not be carrying a gun into any school. Teachers would not be required to have any training, any testing, or regulated requirements before they carry their loaded weapons into our schools. All a teacher would need is a licesene to carry a concealed weapon under Rep Itse’s proposed bill.

Rep Itse is trying to say that teachers need guns to protect themselves in the event of an armed gunman going through the school. To show you how crazy Itse is he said, “They (teachers) wouldn’t be hiding under their desks looking for a pair of scissors.” I assume that this is to stop the armed gunman. I guess Rep Itse did not read any of the stories of what educators at Sandy Hook did to protect the children all without guns, or scissors.

Why is Rep Itse not working to find ways to stop these events from happening. Instead he is wasting time creating laws that will only make tragedies in our school worse when they happen.

I am glad to see that Governor Hassan will not stand for this type of legislation. “The governor believes we must always be working to improve the safety of our schools and communities, but encouraging weapons in the classroom would put New Hampshire’s children at risk of harm,” said Marc Goldberg, Hassan’s press secretary.

I hope the voters in Fremont realize that this is the guy they voted in. The guy who wants to revive the NH Militia and put armed teachers in our schools. Hopefully the good people of Fremont will see what Rep Itse is doing in Concord and reject his extremist view for New Hampshire. Unfortunately we have to wait another year and a half till we can remove Rep Itse, however I will not forget this.

 

The Professional Firefighters Of New Hampshire Praise Legislators For Voting Down ‘Right To Work’ Bill

Professional Firefighters of NH President Dave Lang, and IAFF General President Schaitberger applaud legislators for voting down the 'Right to Work' bill. (via PFFNH Facebook)

Professional Firefighters of NH President Dave Lang, and IAFF General President Schaitberger applaud legislators for voting down the ‘Right to Work’ bill. (via PFFNH Facebook)

New Hampshire House of Representatives Votes Down ‘Right-to-Work’ Bill 

H.B. 323 would have dealt a blow to collective bargaining in the Granite State

In a major victory for public employees, the New Hampshire House of Representatives today voted down a bill that would have crippled collective bargaining and silenced the voices of workers across the state.

H.B. 323, which would have prohibited employers and labor organizations from including fees for non-union members in collective bargaining agreements, was defeated by a vote of 212-141.

“In November, the citizens of New Hampshire voted in a legislature more focused on issues like jobs and the economy, rather than out-of-state interests,” said David Lang, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire. “It is clear from today’s vote that ‘Right- to- Work’ is still not wanted or needed in New Hampshire. This has always been an unnecessary distraction, and I’m pleased that today the bill was killed so we can move on to the issues that matter to New Hampshire.”

The defeat of H.B. 323 in the New Hampshire General Court today marks a key turning point in the battle over the rights of public employees in the Granite State. In 2010, the rise of the Tea Party movement helped Republicans take control of both the House and the Senate. But in November 2012, amid rising public discontent with anti-labor politics, Democrats regained control of the House and brought the Senate closer to balance.

“I want to congratulate New Hampshire lawmakers today for listening to the people and defending the rights of all of the state’s hard working public employees,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, who was on hand for the vote. “These so called ‘right-to-work’ bills are cropping up in legislatures all over the country, but the name hides the truth because they are designed to take away the rights of workers, not protect them.”

The PFFNH, headquartered in Concord, NH represents more than 2,000 active and retired fire fighters and paramedics.  More information is available at www.pffnh.org

Once Again Former Speaker Bill O’Brien Spews Hate Filled Anti-Union Propaganda

Bill O'brienOver the last two years Bill O’Brien has never ceased to amaze when it comes to the garbage that he spews.  Do you remember when he blamed the ‘Union Thugs’ at the USPS for delaying his mail?  O’Brien used his facebook account to attack the hard working men and women at the USPS for what turned out to be his own mistake.

Once again the TEA Party leader used his Facebook account to go after another respected profession, Teaching.

From O’Brien’s Facebook page:

Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 6.54.42 PM“Government schools are failing in NH and throughout the country for one fundamental reason: teacher unions. 

Teacher unions maintain incompetence and inefficiency on the local level through collective bargaining and school district-based political activism. They don’t bargain for the children. Like any union they bargain for more pay for less work.

Teacher unions constantly fight to structure our state laws to obtain funding for their jobs and monopolistic control of our children.”

It is obvious that O’Brien is already pushing back against the possible repeal of the School Voucher program that he forced through.

O’Brien continues….

Who would not, if they could afford it, get their child out of a government school so he can obtain a useful education?

The mantra of the teacher union bosses and lobbyists is that it is all for the children; but that claim as a lie is personified in Maggie Hassan, who opposes a tax credit funded charitable scholarship program for the poor….”

He is using this statement as a way to get himself media attention and bring he opposition of voucher repeal to the front page.

The truth is that vouchers are wrong for NH schools and the different teachers unions throughout the state have been opposed to it from the beginning.  Schools need to be properly funded, yet the legislature continues to cut funding forcing towns to cut programs like art and music and staff increasing class sizes.  This is not a result of teacher bargaining, in many cases the collective bargaining has helped teachers and schools.  Teacher bargain for such outrageous things as like solid professional evaluations, professional development programs to help create effective teachers, class sizes, aside from pay, healthcare and other items.

It has also been proven that state with collective bargaining for teachers have a higher graduation rate than those who are “Right To Work States” and not support collective bargaining.

Vouchers take money away from the state through a tax credit.  Those credits result in a loss to local schools only making it harder for schools to pay their bills.  What O’Brien also omitted is that vouchers (or tax credits as he calls them) take public money to pay for private religious schools.

O’Brien and others like to say that Charter Schools provide a better or “useful education.” This is another fundamental flaw in O’Brien’s rant, there is no real evidence that charter schools are better than public schools.  Actually Diane Ravitch, a well known education advocate, reports that in Milwaukee public schools fare better than private schools.

Teachers unions are not to blame for O’Brien’s idea that education in New Hampshire is failing.  I wonder what changes would have been made in NH education if instead of making massive cuts he would have pushed more money to public education?

A Big Week For Governor Hassan: Budget Expected Thursday

Maggie HassanThe political news writers around New Hampshire this week were all talking about the Governor’s first budget.  What will be included, and what will be excluded?

Everyone will be watching very closely to see if Governor Hassan will uphold her campaign promises to restore funding the University Program and the CHIN’s (Children in Need of Service) programs.

I have no answers or insider information to give you. I just want to you to think about a few things that are going to dictate how this might budget come out.

Two years ago the NH GOP extremist completely destroyed our state budget.  Current State Rep Sylvia Gale went as far as to say that the GOP Leadership “raped” our budget. So what will Gov. Hassan put out to correct these draconian cuts?   The rumor is that she requested department heads to submit a budget proposal of 97% of last years budget.

WHAT? (Candidate) Hassan was quick to say how the TEA PARTY extremist’s drastic cuts to programs hurt New Hampshire families, and yet Gov. Hassan is telling agency heads that budgets will be 97% of last year.   Will this result in more State Employees being laid off like the last budget?  Where is the logic in that?

What will we see in revenues?  The House has already put forth legislation to increase fees on car registrations (a fee that was cut last session) and proposed a $.05 cent increase on the gasoline tax. Everyone is also looking forward to the end of the $.10 cent reduction in the tobacco tax.  That will increase some revenue.

I will be the first to admit that I think New Hampshire has a revenue problem.  This is no different that the wage issue facing America right now.   Wages (and NH Revenues) have been stagnant for many years yet the cost of living (or cost of running a state) have continued to rise.  This results in more and more cuts to our budgets.   We simply cannot get to the place we want to be without considering new sources of revenue.

Since Governor Hassan (and pretty much every Republican in the House and Senate) have vowed to oppose any sales or income tax where is this money going to come from?  GAMBLING!

Previously the NHLN has stayed out of the gambling debate, however that is going to change.  Gambling has proven to have some very real and significant social impacts.  If the gambling bills are written in the proper way (which the Sen D’Allesandro bill is) these  impacts will be mitigated by offsetting revenue to fund social programs.

It is a thin line to walk pushing for expanded gambling to increase revenues to pay for schools.  We need our schools and other fundamental programs to be funded by solid revenue sources not vice spending.  However the infusion to the states revenue stream would be greatly appreciated.  The gambling bill will also help many of our brothers and sisters in the building trades.  Expanding gambling will create new ‘casinos’ and that means millions of dollars in new construction.

The other big question about the budget is what money will be pushed out in this bill to help repair our crumbling infrastructure?  Everyone agrees that our roads and bridges are falling apart, some are literally crumbling.  What will Governor Hassan’s budget do for our infrastructure?

These are all questions that will soon be answered when Governor Hassan releases her budget proposal. Just like hundreds of economist have been staying out the Federal Budget, austerity is not the answer.  Cuts do not promote economic growth.  Given that NH must pass a balanced budget, until new revenue sources are discovered, the Governor is handcuffed to a set dollar amount.

Nashua Area Union Members Hold In-District Meeting With Legislators

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7cLast night members from the Nashua Teachers’ Union (AFT) and the State Employees’ Association (SEIU) hosted an in-district meeting with local Nashua legislators.

Around sixty union members that all work in the Nashua area came to speak directly with the legislators who represent different areas of the city. The legislators in attendance were Martin Jack, David Murotake, Jan Schmidt, Sylvia Gale, Daniel Hansbury, Susan Vale, Efstahia Booras, and Senator Bette Laskey.

The event was emceed by Deb Howes (NTU) a teacher from Nashua, and Magnus Pardoe (SEIU) from the Nashua Community College.

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7b“It is great to see so many people here and engaged in the legislative process. We need to keep an open line of communication with our legislators” said Deb Howes in her opening remarks.

The overall tone of the event was much calmer than a similar event held last year. With Right To Work (for less) already voted down by the Labor Committee, the teachers were still very interested in hearing what the legislators had to say on SB 37 (a bill to restrict collective bargaining rights) and HB 142 (a bill surrounding teacher evaluations). Deb Howes wanted legislators to understand that these bills would have significate impacts on the teacher evaluations in the Nashua School District.

Deb Howes said “We have worked very hard to have a say in how teacher evaluations are conducted in Nashua”

Overall all of the legislators in attendance were against SB 37 and HB 142, including David Murotake who was the only Republican to attend the event. Murotake is also a member of the Nashua School Board and does not like HB 142 for the potential impact on teacher evaluations. Murotake said “The Nashua Teacher Union’s involvement in teacher evaluations have really helped Nashua move ahead.”

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7aOne of the teachers in attendance wanted to make it very clear that the Department of Education officials are not ‘content experts’, they are more politicians. She said she would welcome anyone with real and practical experience into her classroom to provide feedback, however this bill does not provide for that.

The SEIU Members at the meeting also wanted to bring awareness to a couple of bills they are working on as well. The first is HB 445, a bill to allow all public entities to join in the state’s healthcare plans.

Magnus Pardoe, who is also the President of the Nashua Community College (NCC) chapter of the SEA/SEIU said, “this is a bill to help all public workers in NH. It would open up options for cities, towns and all municipal employees to have a choice in their healthcare options.”

Diana Lacey, President of the State Employees’ Association reminded the legislators that right here at the NCC, full time employees are being replaced with part time employees who have no benefit options. Lacey stated, “80% of the community college instructors are part time with no benefits.” This is a sad trend in many of the state agencies.

The other bill that sparked conversation was HB 591, a bill about ‘bullying’ of public employees. Currently there is no place for workers to report abusive behavior by their supervisors. This bill could be similar to those provided in the federal whistleblowers protections act.

As a former state employee, Rep Sylvia Gale is very much in favor of this bill. She is even a co-sponsor of the bill in the House.

Senator Laskey admitted she was unfamiliar this specific house legislation. She said this is why we need to have more events like this to ensure that legislators know what bills are really important to the people she represents. She encouraged everyone to take the time are reach out to your legislators and tell them how you feel on these bills.

Everyone was deeply interested in the soon to be released budget by Governor Hassan. All of the legislators were in favor of restoring the cuts made to education and especially the university programs.

Rep Gale was completely sincere when she said that the previous legislature “raped” our state budget with their draconian cuts. She said, “there are many people who were hurt by the last budget.”

Everyone agreed that the community college system is a great way for people gain the real world knowledge and experience to find work at a livable wage. Not everyone can afford or even want to attend a major four year university. The community college system is perfect for those people.

Senator Laskey said “NH has always been a frugal state, spend has never been our problem.”

This prompted some discussion on the current tax structure, however the conversation quickly ended when the crowd was reminded that Governor Hassan has already stated she would veto any broad base tax.

Overall the night was a success for the memberships and the legislators. Both gain an awareness and insight into what the people want, and what the legislative process truly entails.

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