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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-9-17: School Vouchers And The NH Budget

Bow, NH – June 9, 2017

Slowly, ever slowly, the 2017 legislative session crawls towards its June 22 conclusion. Yesterday, the House and Senate both met in session, though for the House, it was certainly the shortest meeting of 2017, not even lasting one hour. The primary, in fact the only order of business, was to consider reports from the Senate. These are when the Senate has amended a bill that originated in and passed the House, and now it gets sent back to the House for further consideration. The choices are simple. First, the House can concur/accept the Senate’s amendment, meaning the bill is now passed and sent to the governor. The second choice is to simply non-concur/reject the Senate’s amendment and thereby kill the bill. The third option is to request a Committee of Conference, wherein the House and Senate each appoint conferees who meet and try to reach agreement on the bill. All Committees of Conference must finish their work by June 15, and then the House and Senate will vote on June 22 to accept or reject those Conference reports where agreement was reached. And that, folks, should be the end of the session, until the legislative process starts to wind up again in September.

The House quickly disposed of the bills acted upon by the Senate today, and now the Committees of Conference are organized and underway, with the most important being those dealing with the Senate’s budget proposal, the Senate’s version of the NH capital budget, and the so-called “trailer bill.” This last is often the most interesting, for it is here that statutory changes are made to accommodate the provisions of the State budget, but often other sorts of items have a tendency to “sneak in.” Everyone in the media will be closely watching what happens in these Committees of Conference over the next week. Many House Republicans want deeper budget cuts than Senate Republicans and larger cuts in business taxes, so the real battle will be an intra-party battle amongst Republicans. The minority Democrats are certainly not pleased with the Senate’s budget, and will look for openings to push their own agenda items (for example, limiting business tax cuts, more spending on opioid crisis, no punitive legislation directed at Planned Parenthood and limiting women’s health choices). So the battle will rage on, though largely in Committees of Conference and in behind-the-scenes negotiations, so we will just need to wait and see.

School Voucher Bill   With the House session ending very early, the House Education Committee used the free time to hold a work session on SB 193, the voucher bill. This bill would rob public education in order to fund private education via the use of vouchers or education savings accounts. The bill has been retained by the committee for 2017 but will need to be acted upon in 2018. Today, representatives from both parties raised the same concerns as before, focusing upon the lack of any accountability regarding effectiveness of private schools, the role played by public funding of religious schools, and the overall constitutionality of using public funds to pay for private education. Other issues raised included whether private schools could be required to accept students with special educational needs or conversely, whether such schools would be allowed to set their own academic standards for admission? And then there are the cost issues—what sorts of cost controls would exist regarding private schools, how would the decline in funding for public education be met (if one student in each grade leaves for private schooling, you can’t really cut any staff but the public school would lose significant funding). There is even the question of what happens if a parent enrolls their child in a private school, takes the money, and then at some point in the year, transfers their child back to the public school—what happens to the money expended? These and many other crucial questions still swirl around SB 193, but above all else, there is the question of “Choice for whom?” Who is privileged and in the best position to take advantage of this giveaway of taxpayer money? Is this fair? Did not sound like it when one Republican representative blurted out that monies spent on educating “black children and Latinos” could be put to better use funding the SB 193 giveaway.

In the end the Committee made no further progress and will take up SB 193 again in September 2017. For now, the bill remains a bad piece of legislation. If there are problems in public education, the legislature would make better use of its time trying to resolve those problems, rather than taking money from public education and showering it upon those best positioned to send their children to private schools. Not much fairness and equity there!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President


The bulletin is also available in PDF if you would like to download and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN June 9, 2017

NH Senate Battles Over State Budget, Slashes Funding For DCYF, Drug Treatment And Kindergarten

Last night, the New Hampshire State Senate was burning the midnight oil as Senators battled over the State’s budget.  After 11pm last night, the Republicans pushed through their budget along party lines (14-9).  Along with cuts to drug treatment programs, funding for full day kindergarten, and DCYF, the budget is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest in our state.  Republicans also rejected a budget amendment to ensure low-income families would still be able to access healthcare through low cost options like Planned Parenthood.

“This budget creates an artificial, trumped-up surplus to sell the biggest Republican ruse of all, that slashing taxes for the rich will grow revenues and improve the lives of poor, middle-class people,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Jeff  Woodburn (D-Whitefield). “The reality is that this budget props up the wealthiest 1% in our state and kowtows to the most conservative 5% in the House.

“Throughout every step of this process, Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But the right-wing budget passed this evening is purely a political document and fails to adequately address the challenges and needs of our state,” added Woodburn.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told the Concord Monitor, “We find ourselves doing as much as we can while protecting taxpayers and growing our economy.”  This is essentially the same argument the Trump administration is using to justify massive cuts to the Federal Budget and to justify cutting taxes on the people who pay the most in taxes.

The Governor’s budget undercuts the alcohol fund which is key in combatting the opioid crisis. Tym Rourke, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, said yesterday that the additional dollars directed toward the alcohol fund are deceptive, and could be diverted elsewhere, forcing treatment and prevention programs to scramble for resources. Sununu’s uprooting of opioid funds is similar to the Trump budget, which cuts money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, slashes drug prevention funding by 11%, cuts Medicaid funding in half, and cuts $400 million in substance use disorder and mental health funding.

In addition to underfunding the fight against opioids, Sununu’s Senate budget does nothing to avoid tuition hikes at community colleges and state universities, dedicates no funding toward job training of Community Mental Health Centers, and stops short of providing adequate funding to the Department of Children, Youth & Families and the developmental disability program. Most surprisingly, the Senate Republicans refused to spend even a dollar in the budget on the popular full-day kindergarten program.

The underfunding of key programs for New Hampshire’s working families and most vulnerable citizens are designed to make room for $216 million in business tax cuts in the next 4 years. After 12 years of Democratic leadership in the corner office, New Hampshire has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country and was rated the number one state in America for economic opportunity by US News.

“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters,” added Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord). “This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors, and doesn’t invest in full-day kindergarten, something necessary to closing the opportunity gap and attracting and keeping young working families in New Hampshire. The budget fails to adequately address DCYF and child safety. It also fails to adequately address our mental health crisis in the short-term, nor does it make the cost-effective investments that will prevent the crisis from expanding; including in childhood mental health. Quite simply, this budget fails to meet the critical and time-sensitive challenges we face.”

“A budget based on incorrect, deflated revenue estimates is one that needlessly discards invaluable resources for New Hampshire’s most needy. The budget is the bill that impacts every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. While the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester). “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. The people of New Hampshire deserve better than what was passed in the Senate today.”

Among the highly contested sections of the budget was severe cut to Planned Parenthood funding. The Senate ultimately rejected an amendment to keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open in the event of a federal “defund.” A federal “defund” of Planned Parenthood, as proposed by the Trump Administration, would block Medicaid patients from receiving care. This move, if passed in Washington, would be immediate, giving no time for budget writers to come back to the table to find a New Hampshire solution to funding.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Feltes (D-Concord), and was an opportunity to ensure that there is continuity of care for patients if Planned Parenthood is “defunded” at the federal level. Currently,  New Hampshire consistently ranks one of the top healthy states in the nation, with one of the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the country, and excellent maternal health outcomes. This contingency amendment aimed to keep that enviable status by using state Medicaid dollars to protect federal losses in the event of a federal “defund”.  Also speaking on behalf of this amendment were Senator Soucy and Senator Hennessey.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that most of the federal savings from eliminating Planned Parenthood would be offset by the high-risk, high-cost of unintended pregnancies which would result in additional Medicaid births. Because many of those patients won’t be able to find another provider, taking away cancer screenings and preventive care will only drive the costs up in other parts of our health care spending. Furthermore, since our state currently uses Medicaid funds to purchase coverage through Medicaid managed care and premium assistance – there wouldn’t be any additional cost for these capitated rates, while there would be the very important benefit of maintaining continuity of care for thousands of Planned Parenthood patients,” said Senator Dan Feltes.

In addition to providing quality care for many Granite Staters, Planned Parenthood’s services are also extremely cost effective, as every dollar spent on publicly-funded contraception saves more than $7 in other costs. Ensuring that Planned Parenthood stays part of New Hampshire’s health care system helps prevent unintended pregnancies and STI occurrences.

The amendment was rejected by a partisan vote of 14-9.

“We’re grateful for the efforts of State Senators to protect the health of people who rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control and other needed health care in New Hampshire. However we’re deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans took a partisan approach which could result in disruption of access to reproductive care. We will continue to strive for a bipartisan approach to protecting women’s health and rights,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of New England.

“Last night’s vote comes as politicians in Congress are threatening the health and lives of millions of people across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood. We applaud the efforts of our state legislators to help shield  our patients in New Hampshire, yet the health and well-being of millions of people across the country still hangs in the balance. If members of Congress do not abandon this attack, it will be nothing short of a health care disaster,” Frizzell added.

Senate Democrats added their distain for this attack on women’s health providers.

“It’s a disturbing reality that in 2017, women in the United States, and now in New Hampshire, continue to play defense against constant efforts to restrict access to the healthcare services that women need to lead safe, healthy and independent lives,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth). “As Republicans in Washington explicitly target major women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood for elimination, there is significant, substantiated anxiety that women are in imminent danger of losing access to the affordable, high quality and preventative health services that clinics like Planned Parenthood provide.”

“When Republican members of the all-male, Senate Finance Committee introduced an amendment on the final day of deliberation in executive committee, without first holding a public hearing, to codify a state-level version of the Hyde amendment to prohibit the use of state funds for diversion to reproductive healthcare clinics, they made clear their intent to promote their personal and political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” said Senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover). “This is especially clear given that it is already established in practice that no federal or state funds in New Hampshire are used to cover abortion services. The ulterior intent of the amendment is clear: it is to send a message that Senate Republicans do not value or intend to preserve the lifesaving services that Planned Parenthood provides to the women of New Hampshire.”

“These efforts to defund and restrict access to Planned Parenthood are not only unconstitutional, they also disproportionately impact low income women, women of color, young people and immigrants who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare coverage,” added Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “In Manchester alone, upwards of 5,000 women utilize Planned Parenthood’s services, including physical exams, cancer screenings, family planning resources and STI testing and treatment. These clinics are invaluable to New Hampshire families and our communities. Given the uncertainty in Washington, we should be doing all that we can to assure the thousands of women who rely on these services that their care will not falter.”

“We find it disturbing that our Republican colleagues not only doubled down on their efforts to deny women’s healthcare coverage, they triple and quadrupled down on it with every subsequent amendment to restrict access,” said Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua). “While I respect that this is a contentious issue open to debate and disagreement, these amendments should have gone through the proper, public process, not introduced in the late hours of the night as we take our final votes on the budget.”

Senate Republicans Push Through Budget That Democrats Say “Fails Granite State Families”

CONCORD – Today, the Senate Finance Committee approved their version of the budget on a party line 4-2 vote. After the vote, Senate Democrats released the following comments:

“Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget. But the budget passed this afternoon does not address the challenges of everyday Granite Staters and fails to make critical investments in priorities that expand opportunity for all, not just those at the top,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have chosen to pass a partisan budget that rewards the wealthiest among us at the expense of working families and our state’s most vulnerable.”

“Despite many attempts by Senate Democrats to amend the budget to allocate dollars where they are most needed, the Senate Republican budget pushes the same out-of-touch, tone-deaf agenda that failed miserably in the House,” Sen. Woodburn continued. “This budget fails to reduce tuition at our colleges and universities, fails to preserve the benefits of our successful, bipartisan NH Health Protection Program, and prioritizes more tax cuts for the wealthy over hard working families. Senate Democrats will continue to fight for a budget that makes a difference in the lives of everyday people, bolsters our businesses, and fuels our economy.”

“The budget is the bill that affects every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. And while the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro. “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. Make no mistake, this is not the budget I wanted and I will continue to work to ensure that the critical needs of the people of New Hampshire are met.”

“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters. This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors,” added Sen. Dan Feltes. “It fails to live up to our obligations to Granite Staters living with disabilities by failing to fund our developmental disability waitlist and does not adequately deal with childhood mental health. And it fails to provide resources to reform DCYF and protect our most vulnerable children. Quite simply, this budget fails to adequately address the critical and time-sensitive challenges facing our state. ”

 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: NH Budget, Kindergarten Funding, And Voter Suppression

May 11, 2017  

The wheels turn slowly in Concord, as we grind towards the inevitable mid-June end of the 2017 legislative session The House did not meet in session this week due to a lack of bills coming to the floor for action, so everything will be condensed into sessions at the end of May. The House meets in session on May 18th to vote on an emergency supplemental appropriation to fund the Department of Health and Human Services until the end of the fiscal year. There will be no consideration of committee reports at this session.

Senate Action   The Senate did meet in session this week. The Senate’s proposed budget is yet to be unveiled. Committees did meet, however, and legislation continues to be refined and revenues continue to be sought for funding of various proposals. HB 356-FN, the bill with the attempted power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut, was voted on by the Senate and for now, the power grab has been held at bay. The final amended bill as passed by the Senate creates a committee to study education funding and the cost of an opportunity for an adequate education, the original intent of the bill, and “establishes a committee to study the organizational structure of the department of education and the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner of the department of education”.  The report of this committee is due out on November 1, 2017. The bill as amended also “authorizes the commissioner of the department of education, with the advice of the state board of education and after consultation with the deputy director and affected division directors, to transfer or assign functions, programs, or services within or between any division. Vigilance will be necessary to monitor the work of this committee and recommendations for the session in January.

Voter Suppression The House Election Law committee met earlier this week to once again consider SB 3, the voter suppression bill. A lengthy amendment was presented to the committee by Republican members, but while it redrafted many sections of the bill, most of the changes were technical and related to issues raised by groups such as the NH Municipal Association. One interesting proposal was to change who might come to your door to follow up and check on your domicile. Rather than election officials or local law enforcement, the proposed change had county officials doing this work, that is until it was pointed out that county sheriffs and their employees would likely be tasked with this duty. So, back to the drawing board. Given that there are virtually no reported instances of voter fraud in New Hampshire, the idea of having law enforcement confirm the domicile you listed when registering seems just a bit sinister. But to hear some House members and Senators speak, bringing law enforcement into the voter registration process and creating lengthy and confusing forms for new voters to fill out is all just normal, not an attempt to dissuade people from voting. According to the docket, the House Election Law Committee has this scheduled for Executive Session on May 16th at 10:20am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 308.

Funding for Full Day Kindergarten   In other news, the House Finance Committee held hearings this week on funding of full-day kindergarten across New Hampshire. No one can accuse New Hampshire of rushing into new and innovative ideas, since 76% of kindergarten students in 2012 were already in full-day sessions. Whether the Finance Committee will recommend financing this initiative or ask the House to reject it, it will be a difficult vote to defeat this initiative, given that it passed as a policy measure by nearly a 2 to 1 margin in the House just a couple of weeks ago. The public hearing was held last week and the Finance Committee (Division II) has scheduled an executive session for SB 191-FN, funding for full day kindergarten on Tuesday, May 16th at 11:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 209. The Finance Committee is also investigating the financing of SB 247, which will mandate early childhood testing for lead poisoning and require it as a prerequisite for public school enrollment. Everyone concedes that lead poisoning has very serious developmental consequences for young children, consequences that last a lifetime. Where the battle-lines are being drawn in the House is over the proposal to establish a fund to aid landlords in remediating for lead in properties they own. So there are costs associated with this initiative, costs that must then be counter-balanced by the public health benefits, especially in regards to young children who are not responsible for the environment in which they live. It is a public health issue, but also one with serious educational and social welfare ramifications, so it will prove interesting to see how this plays out at the end of the session.

New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony   On Friday, May 19th at 9:45 am in front of the Legislative Office Building at the memorial site, the annual service to honor our fallen NH law enforcement heroes will be held. If you can attend, please do make the effort. Next week is National Policer Officers Week to honor the work of law enforcement. We gather on May 19th to honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice keeping us all safe and every day we should appreciate and support the work of our law enforcement officers.

Finally, the House Committee on Legislative Administration held its public hearings on Republican Robert Fisher, accused of misogynistic commentary and running/contributing to a web platform with postings favorable to rape as well as claiming women lose value once past the age of thirty. Fisher defended himself in his hearing, admitting to some comments, denying others, but showing little in the way of remorse or contrition. As for Democrat Sherry Frost, the committee is investigating uncivil language used by her in a series of tweets a number of months ago, for which she already apologized. As noted last week, the political balancing act here is quite clear even if the allegations are not remotely equivalent, but this is life under the golden dome of the State House. The committee will issue its report and recommendations next week, and it will be interesting to see if the committee goes beyond a reprimand. That leaves it to the voters in Laconia (Fisher) and Dover (Frost). However, when the front page of NH’s leading newspaper features headlines on Fisher’s hearing and then the sentencing of former Republican representative Kyle Tasker on drug charges and using the Internet to solicit sex with a minor, well it just wasn’t a good day. Of course, if Tasker were proposing marriage to the 14-year old, that would be fine—remember, the House refused to raise the age for marriage for girls from 13 to 18 years old. It has been that kind of year. 

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Below is a PDF copy of the Bulletin you can print and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN May 11, 2017

ICYMI: NH1 Reports on Former Kansas Budget Director Warning of Perils of Unpaid-For Corporate Tax Cuts

Concord, N.H. – As Chris Sununu and Republicans in the legislature continue to push their plan to blow a $90 million hole in the budget for unpaid-for tax cuts for big corporations, NH1 News reported on comments from former Kansas State Budget Director Duane Goossen warning of the negative impact of unpaid-for tax cuts.

Goossen warned that after Kansas implemented massive, unpaid-for tax cuts, the state is now “falling behind its neighbors in economic growth” and “has moved into a cycle of perpetual budget crisis.”

 

Click here for video of Goosen’s comments or see transcript below:

GOOSSEN: “Kansas is falling behind its neighbors in economic growth. The economic benefits that were touted at the beginning have not proved to be true and Kansas has moved into a cycle of perpetual budget crisis.”

Governor Hassan And Senator Shaheen Call For Full Funding Of Meals On Wheels

Meals on Wheels dinner (image by Roger W, Flickr)

Meals on Wheels dinner (image by Roger W, Flickr)

(SALEM, NH) –  New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today called for bipartisan support for full funding of the state’s Meals on Wheels Program, which faces inadequate funding at the federal level and is threatened by unpaid-for corporate tax cuts at the state level. The two participated in a roundtable discussion about the effects of inadequate funding with staff, volunteers and clients of the Rockingham County Meals on Wheels Program at the Ingram Senior Center in Salem this afternoon.           

“Our older citizens have made significant contributions to our communities, our economy, and our high quality of life, and we must maintain our commitment to providing the support that they deserve in order to maximize their ability to continue engagement in our society and economy,” Governor Hassan said. “I have presented a fiscally responsible, compromise budget proposal that protects our ability to support critical priorities like Meals on Wheels now and into the future, and I continue to urge Republicans in the legislature to negotiate in good faith and offer a true counter-proposal that addresses the central issue of our disagreement – unpaid-for corporate tax cuts that create a $90 million hole in future budgets – so that we can reach a fiscally responsible, bipartisan budget agreement as soon as possible.” 

“In New Hampshire, Meals on Wheels delivers food to more than 30,000 seniors, and the demand is only growing, with our state’s over-65 population expected to nearly double by the end of the decade,” said Shaheen. “Meals on Wheels can deliver nutritious meals to a senior for an entire year for less than it would cost for that senior to spend one day in the hospital, potentially saving us billions in Medicare and Medicaid costs. We need bipartisan cooperation in Washington and Concord to keep this program funded and benefiting our seniors. I’m asking my Republican colleagues in the Senate to work with Democrats to adequately fund Meals on Wheels moving forward.”   

In June, Governor Hassan vetoed the Republican budget because it was unbalanced and fiscally irresponsible, including unpaid-for business tax cuts that would create a $90 million hole in future budgets at the expense of critical priorities like Meals on Wheels. The Governor has since presented a fiscally responsible compromise budget proposal that provides Republican legislators with what they have indicated is their highest priority – cutting corporate taxes – in a faster timeframe while addressing concerns about long-term fiscal responsibility and protecting our ability to support critical economic priorities.

In the United States Senate, nearly every Republican Senator voted for a budget that is going to result in drastic cuts to funding for Meals on Wheels over the next decade. In the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Labor-Health-Education Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2016 fails to provide enough funding to Meals on Wheels’ growing needs in New Hampshire and across the country. Shaheen strongly opposed the Republican budget as well as the Appropriations bill.

The GOP In The NH Senate Push Their Utterly Disgusting Budget Through To Committee Of Conference

The New Hampshire Senate recently passed their version of the budget, right down party lines. Their budget reduces taxes on corporations and slashes funding to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Senate has also voted to cut funding to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) formerly known as Medicaid Expansion, effectively booting 40,000 low-income families off their healthcare.

Senate Republicans would rather show working families that they care more about a few hundred businessmen than 40,000 hard working Granite Staters.

The NHHPP is already showing great progress as New Hampshire area hospitals are reporting a 20% drop in uninsured emergency room visits.

Governor Maggie Hassan said, “Reauthorizing this bipartisan program beyond the end of 2016 is critical for the health of our people and our economy, as uncertainty about the continuation of the program could lead to rising rates for all consumers. Uncertainty about the program’s future could also cause insurers to decide not to offer coverage in New Hampshire in 2017. We must work together to find a bipartisan path forward.”

This budget is pushing New Hampshire in the wrong direction. Forcing people off their healthcare to give tax breaks to a few select corporations.

“In light of the Department of Revenue Administration’s new findings that the Senate’s proposed tax cuts will primarily benefit a small number of very large businesses operating in the state, we should be especially concerned that these revenue losses will simply flow out of the state with no benefit to New Hampshire,” wrote the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. “There is no guarantee that these tax cuts will produce jobs or economic growth for New Hampshire, but they will leave the state with fewer resources to invest in the things we need today to keep our economy strong: good schools, safe roads, a healthy workforce, and public services that support the state’s current high quality of life.”

This would blow an $80 million dollar hole in the budget and force even more cuts in the future. “These proposed reductions in business tax rates will reduce revenue by more than $80 million per biennium when fully phased in, with no plan to replace the lost revenue,” said the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

Republicans in the Senate are pushing to make New Hampshire more like Kansas and New Jersey whose tax cuts have resulted in massive cuts to education funding, credit downgrades, and ultimately tax increases on working families.

To add further insult to injury, the NH GOP will be starting a “countdown clock” to shutting down the New Hampshire Government.

The [finance] committee said state government would be forced to shut down at midnight June 30 if a budget is not approved.”

“It’s extremely disappointing that New Hampshire Republicans are sending such a clear signal that they are not willing to compromise during the Committee of Conference process and are threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get their way. Enacting a balanced, fiscally responsible budget will require Republicans to compromise with Democrats – not just with Bill O’Brien and the Tea Party,” said Ranking Democratic Finance Committee members Representative Mary Jane Wallner and Senator Lou D’Allesandro in a joint statement.

Shutting down the government is not a viable option either. It will cause unnecessary harm to thousands of state workers who be forced to lose their paycheck because Republicans are unwilling to work with Democrats to craft a fiscally responsible budget that truly helps New Hampshire families.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, though at this moment it seems unlikely.

 

 

 

Senate Democrats Denounce Cuts to Substance Abuse Prevention

Senate Finance Republicans Cut Funding for Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health

 

CONCORD – Today, Senators Lou D’Allesandro andAndrew Hosmer, Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, condemned the cuts to substance abuse prevention made by Senate Republicans in the budget: 

“We are in the middle of a substance abuse and heroin epidemic and it is completely irresponsible to eliminate this funding,” said Senator D’Allesandro.“All session long, we have seen the outcry from our communities for help dealing with this epidemic and funding in this area should be a priority for all Senators, not one that is open to cuts that go beyond the House’s draconian budget.”

 

Along a party-line vote of 4-2, the Senate Finance Committee voted to remove the Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health along with funding for a senior director position that would coordinate the state’s response to the substance abuse crisis. This position was proposed by Governor Hassan and included in the House version of the budget. Funding for this office and position was established by a grant from the NH Charitable Foundation last year and the Charitable Foundation will continue to ease the state’s burden by helping fund the position until the end of this calendar year, at which point state general funds would be required to continue this effort.

 

“This is an economic issue and a public safety issue. It requires a leader to cross-collaborate among all state agencies to find solutions to this crisis,” said Sen. Hosmer. “This office funds a key position that ensures that we are strengthening our treatment and prevention efforts is a common-sense way to ensure that the state is responding effectively to the substance misuse epidemic. The Senate Republicans move to strip this essential position shows they are out of touch with the needs of NH communities and I urge them to reconsider their actions that are putting the health and wellbeing of Granite Staters at risk.”

 

3-24-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: 2015-16 State Budget

AFT NH Legislative Update

The three divisions of the House Finance Committee have been meeting to develop their version of the State budget. There have been many stories regarding what is going on and none of them offer good news. We need to keep in mind that this is just one step of many and there will be several changes before the final budget is voted on in June.  The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) has put out the most detailed report as to what the committees have recommended. To read this click here. The full House will be voting April 1st  (no I am not kidding), on their version of the budget.

Throughout the budget process AFT-NH has supported incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors, and vital to our shared economic success. But both chambers of the Legislature have voted on reducing much needed revenue.

After the full House votes on HB 1 and HB 2 it will move over to the Senate. They will hold a public hearing and then start their work on recommendations for the budget. We know the Senate version will be different from the House’s version which means a Committee Of Conference will be formed. This committee will work towards resolving differences and will bring a final version for both chambers to vote on.

This Wednesday or Thursday the full House will be voting on HB 215-FN, relative to school building aid grant payments.  AFT-NH is not in support of the committee’s recommendation and asks that it be overturned and a recommendation to pass this bill be voted on.

It is shocking that Representative Weyler feels this bill is unnecessary. For the past eight years many districts have not been able to afford to complete upgrades, repairs or build new building because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school building are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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Upcoming Hearings

Monday, March 23

House FINANCE, Room 210-211, LOB
10:30 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, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
Divisions I, II & III may meet from time to time, throughout the day.

STATEWIDE EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT AND ASSESSMENT PROGRAM LEGISLATIVE
OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 193-C:7), Room 207, LOB
3:00 p.m. Regular meeting.

Tuesday, March 24

Senate EDUCATION, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 126, establishing a commission to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school.

9:20 a.m. HB 142, relative to student social media policies by educational institutions.

9:40 a.m. HB 206, relative to non-academic surveys or questionnaires given to students.

10:00 a.m. HB 662-FN-L, relative to property taxes paid by chartered public schools leasing property.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

House CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Rooms 206-208, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 116-FN, repealing the license requirement for carrying a concealed pistol or revolver.

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
9:30 a.m. SB 166, relative to facilitated individualized education program meetings.

9:50 a.m. SB 71, relative to the administration of glucagon injections for children in schools.

10:15 a.m. SB 194-FN, relative to epinephrine administration policies in postsecondary educational institutions.

10:40 a.m. SB 69, establishing a commission to study social impact bond funding for early childhood education for at-risk students.

11:15 a.m. SB 101, prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards.

House FINANCE, Room 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, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
Divisions I, II & III may meet from time to time, throughout the day.

House LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 264, relative to tipped employees.
11:30 a.m. SB 47, repealing the payment of subminimum wages to persons with disabilities.

Wednesday, March 25

10 am House in Session

Senate PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB

9:00 a.m. HB 102, relative to consideration of warrant articles.

House LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
12:00 p.m. or at session lunch break. Executive session on
SB 47, repealing the payment of subminimum wages to persons with disabilities.
SB 264, relative to tipped employees.

Thursday, March 26

10 am Senate in Session

10 am House in Session if needed

Wednesday, April 1

10 am House in Session

Thursday, April 2

10 am House in Session if needed

Monday, April 6

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

Now A Proven Fact, NH Can Opt Out Of Medicaid Expansion At A Future Date

In a giant I TOLD YOU SO, Medicaid supporters received support on their push to expand Medicaid in New Hampshire.

The Gary Rayno’s article, “State told it can opt out of Medicaid expansion at any time” reports:

CONCORD – The director of the Center of Medicaid and Medicare Services sent a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan assuring her the state may opt out of Medicaid expansion without penalty.

In a letter stamped June 13, CMS director Cindy Mann told Hassan, “Should New Hampshire choose to expand Medicaid coverage, the state may drop that expanded coverage at any time, without financial penalty from the federal government.”

One of the reasons Senate Republicans gave for not wanting to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act at this time was uncertainty over the state’s ability to opt out of the program. Republicans were concerned if the federal government failed to live up to its promise to pay 100 percent of the cost of expanding eligibility for three years and then at least 90 percent in the following years.

This letter may have come in a day late as the NH Senate has already voted to reject the Medicaid Expansion.  The expansion could still be included in the budget ‘horse-trading’.

Senator Bragdon

Senator Peter Bragdon at Medicaid expansion meeting with residents at Milford Library

The idea that once New Hampshire took the money to expand Medicaid there was no way to go back was one of the sticking points for Senator Bragdon when he met with constituents in Milford a couple of weeks ago.   He said implied that it would not completely change his opinion but it would move him closer.  Senator Bragdon was not alone in this. It seemed to be one of the biggest questions to accepting the expansion money.

Well now you have the facts. New Hampshire can take the expansion money with no strings attached.  Take the 100% funding now, and if in three years we need to go back, we can have that discussion then.

If you support Medicaid expansion, consider showing your support to the Budget Committee of Conference on Monday June 17th (details here).

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