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Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class

Happy Hour

Happy Hour

So, late last night… Congress decided that it was just fine to bailout Wall Street bankers again, if they should happen to get into trouble again. Gotta make sure the ol’ FDIC is there in times of trouble.

BUT… gosh… that old PBGC?

Oh… Congress doesn’t want to risk the possibility that taxpayers might have to bailout Middle Class pension funds. At last estimate, “the fund that backs multi-employer plans is about $42.4 billion short of the money needed to cover benefits” for pension plans that are expected to fail.

And what have private employers been doing, to keep those pension plans financially sound? Well… Hostess declared bankruptcy. Peabody Energy declared bankruptcy. Verizon “de-risked” itself of pension obligations. And that’s just what immediately comes to mind.  But I’m digressing.

So last night… LATE last night… Congress included in the “must-pass” budget bill something called the Kline amendment. The measure will allow multi-employer pension plans that are underfunded to significantly cut benefits to retirees under age 75.

Because… why would Congress want to risk having to have the PBGC bailout those middle-class pension funds? … when cutting benefits to retirees under 75 will accomplish the same thing.

Yep, what’s good for Wall Street… isn’t even a possibility for Main Street.

Want to know what I noticed?

One Federal Reserve economist put a number on how much that FDIC guarantee is worth to the Big Banks. He estimated it was worth $450 to $900 billion a year to the financial services industry.

OK, so this “government insurance policy” is coming to Wall Street through the efforts of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

And yes, those are the same Republicans who are such firm believers in the “free market economy” and “privatization” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  

And now they’re… giving a government benefit to the banks.

What happened to “the free market will take care of it”? Why can’t these banks buy their own insurance on the open market? From a private insurance company?

But I’m digressing again.

Here’s what I noticed: it looks to me like the annual “value” of what Congress gave away last night is about the same amount as what Congress spent on the infamous TARP program.

TARP, of course, was a one-time thing. (Or at least… hopefully… not a very frequent thing.)

The FDIC insurance is ongoing. Every year, the big banks are going to get that government-subsidized insurance policy. Underwriting their risky investments.

It’s like a TARP program, year after year after year.

While all those retirees… get their benefits cut.

Enough is enough!

Smashed Piggy Bank Retirement

Smashed Piggy Bank RetirementToday the Nashua Telegraph posted the article, “Pension tension: New research dispels old notion that public employees make less than private sector peers,” which highlights supposedly “new” research focused on public employee pensions.

There are many things wrong with this article and I feel obligated to correct some of these inaccuracies.

Let’s start with the fact that the “new research” they cite was written in 2012, hardly making it breaking news. It was based on surveys taken in 2004 and 2006. The report basically says that while public employees do make less per hour than their private sector counterparts, when you include their retirement benefits public employees make more.

Here are the facts.

1) Research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) shows that public employees earn 11-12% less than their private sector counterparts. There is no denying that public workers have a better benefits package than private sector employees – however, even when you add in retirement benefits, public sector employees still fall behind private workers by 6-7% overall. Many people choose to work in the public sector for less pay because they want the better benefits and a real retirement plan.

Unfortunately the trend in the private sector is to take away defined benefit pension plans and force workers into 401(k) programs. This makes employees responsible for funding and managing their own retirement plans. Employers are able to reduce their contributions, reducing what they pay for the benefits they offer. This shifts the entire burden onto the employee. This is also why private sector worker are paid slightly better: because they are expected to save that extra pay for their retirement.

2) Public sector employees are better educated than private sector employees. NIRS found that only 23% of private sector employees have a college degree – compared to 48% of public sector employees with a college degree.

This is easy to understand when you think about some of the jobs in the public sector. You have thousands of literal rocket scientists at NASA and thousands of doctors and medical professionals at the Center for Disease Control. Every teacher is required have a college degree. The result is a highly educated public workforce.

3) It is an outright lie to blame public employees for underfunding of the NH Retirement System. The fact is that in 1999, the NHRS was 100% funded – until Wall Street shenanigans started cutting into its value.

As reported by Liz Iacobucci, “the Trust Fund lost 10% of its value in the recession of 2001.” The NHRS Trust Fund continued to decline and hit rock bottom during the 2008 economic meltdown. “It lost another 25% of its value in the 2008 recession,” said Iacobucci. In 2008, the NHRS had more than $5.9 Billion in investments – and when the stock market crashed, that created what many are calling an unfunded liability.

Think tanks often spin the numbers, calculating that if every employee retired today, the trust fund would be short by “X” amount of money. The fact is that new employees replace the retiring workers, and the new employees pay into the Trust Fund. Investment returns are hugely important to the Retirement System: about 75% of NHRS pension benefits are funded by investment returns. The employers’ contributions are – literally – just pennies of each dollar paid.

Wall Street has rebounded nicely from the 2007-08 crash. The stock market has been setting new records for almost 18 months now. The NHRS has recovered much of its lost ground – and as the market continues to grow, so will the NHRS Trust Fund.

I also can’t believe that Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy Studies, is suddenly so concerned about municipal budgets. His conversion is almost laughable. In the article, he says “Your town budget is higher than it would be because the pension system is more expensive than it should be. That’s money that’s not going to hospitals, to universities.”

But the Bartlett Center was one of the biggest proponents of “pension reform” bills during the 2011-12 legislative session – and back then, Arlinghaus didn’t talk about the impact those bills would have on municipalities. Cities and towns are paying more now for employee pensions thanks to the hard work of Arlinghaus and the JBC.

Enough is enough!

We need our elected leaders and these Koch-funded “think tanks” to stop lying to the people. The media pits worker against worker when these think tanks are given unwarranted publicity.

Blaming workers for the consequences of two stock market crashes isn’t “new research” – it’s political spin.

Calling retirement benefits unaffordable – without mentioning the fact that the Legislature underfunded the NHRS for years – isn’t honest “research,” it’s political spin.

And we as workers need to change the conversation away from “look at what he gets” – and start asking, “why am I not getting that?”   We as workers, both public and private need to stop blaming each other, and start demanding better from our employers.

AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Retirement Lawsuits, and Finishing Up Education Bills

AFT NH Legislative Update

It is that time in the 2014 legislative session for Committees of Conference. Bills that were amended by either chamber will need a recommendation of concur, non-concur, or non-concur with a request for a Committee of Conference from the committee in which the bill originated.  At the moment, the following bills will be moving to Committees Of Conference, and both chambers have till June 4th to act on these bills.

HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school. AFT-NH is in support of the bill’s intent.

Around 2011-2012 the state passed a bill which mandated that local districts must pay for support services for special education students enrolled in Charter schools. This means that a district must send someone to the Charter school, contract out the service, or pay the Charter school to provide the services. All of which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. We need to have a clear picture on what it is costing districts to educate special education students enrolled in a Charter school in or out of their home district. Because this is a mandate from the State we also need to have the discussion on who should be paying for these services.

HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.We were originally opposed to this bill but when amended we came out in support.  This bill moves to a committee of conference, AFT-NH will monitor this process.

The original bill was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

RETIREMENT LAW SUITS

This past Thursday, May 15, 2014 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on our Merrimack County I (rate case).

In this case, the Superior Court found that the recently imposed rate increases were substantial and were not justified by any particular public policy requirements.   The rate increases were, thus, improper for any employee vested in the Retirement System under the Contract Clause of the NH Constitution.  The Contract Clause prohibits the state from breaching its contracts.  The judge, however, found that employees do not become vested in the Retirement System until they complete ten (10) years of service.

The Retirement Coalition appealed because it believes employees become vested upon achieving permanent status, not at ten years.  The State appealed because it claims employees do not ever vest or do not vest until they actually retire.   The Retirement System also filed a brief in which they claim not to take any positions, but at the same time claim that the Retirement System should not be required to refund any monies that become due.  The NH Municipal Association and the NH School Boards Association filed a brief that essentially sides with the State.

It will be a few months until the Supreme Court issues its written decision; once it is out I will send out a summary as to their ruling.

RETIREMENT LAW SUITS STILL WORKING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE COURTS

Merrimack County II (COLA and Special Accounts).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees do not have vested rights in their COLAs and no right to challenge the defunding of special accounts.  The judge also repeated his findings about a ten (10) year vesting period for other aspects of the Retirement System.

The state’s brief are due May 20, 2014, our response is now due July 7, 2014, their response to us is now due August 5, 2014. The next step will be for the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments.

Hillsborough County (Definition of Earnable Compensation, Benefit Structure).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees vest in the Retirement System upon achieving permanent status.   The judge ruled, however, that she cannot tell without a trial whether definitional changes made by the Legislature regarding factors such as what constitutes “earnable compensation” are substantial enough to have violated petitioners’ rights.   (Merrimack I and II were determined on an agreed statement of the facts, without a trial).

Case Status:  Over our objection, the Hillsborough County judge stayed proceedings in this case pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeals.  As a result, there is not pending activity in this case.

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

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, MAY 20

LEGISLATIVE ADMINISTRATION, Room 104, LOB
10:00 a.m. Interim study subcommittee work session on HB 1440-FN, including the writing, promoting, or distributing of model legislation to elected officials as lobbying and requiring disclosure of scholarship funds, money, or other financial support received from such lobbyists by elected officials.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on Revenue Updates.

THURSDAY, MAY 22

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4

10:00 a.m. House in Session

Shea-Porter Listens to Seniors, Discusses Affordable Care Act and Importance of Social Security & Medicare in Manchester

image001

image001MANCHESTER, NH – Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) joined 35 seniors in Manchester to discuss the Affordable Care Act and answer questions about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. During the open forum with residents of Birch Hill Terrace, Congresswoman Shea-Porter answered questions about New Hampshire’s ACA Marketplace, how the Affordable Care Act is strengthening Medicare, and how Congress can work to improve the long-term outlook of Social Security.

“Granite State seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work,” Shea-Porter said. “These programs are vital to the retirement security of millions of Americans, and we must protect them for future generations.”

In Congress, Shea-Porter has led the fight against reckless schemes to balance the budget on the backs of New Hampshire seniors. Last February, she wrote to President Obama urging him to reject any proposals to cut benefits to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. She has cosponsored the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, which would improve benefits for current and future Social Security recipients, extend the life of the Social Security trust fund, and ensure greater economic security for America’s seniors. And she has spoken out against chained CPI and other cuts to benefits that seniors have earned through a lifetime of hard work.

As of December 2012, the average monthly benefit for those receiving Social Security was $1,215. Over the course of a year, this averages out to $14,580. As Shea-Porter reiterated, the idea that we should balance the budget on the backs of seniors relying on less than $15,000 is simply wrong.

Shea-Porter was joined at the forum by Helen Mulligan from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Karol Dermon, from the Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services.

 

Senate Republicans Blaming Public Employees for State’s Revenue Shortfalls

NH Retirement Coalition

NH Retirement Coalition

CONCORD – Yesterday, New Hampshire Senate Republicans were quick to attack their fellow legislators and public employees after Standard & Poor announced New Hampshire’s bond rating was adjusted following a court ruling on the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET).

In 2007, responsible and bipartisan retirement reforms were enacted. Instead of allowing these changes to work, in 2011 Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and his fellow Senate Republican colleagues added to the unfunded liability (UAAL) by slashing employer contributions. Due to Senate Republicans’ so-called pension reforms in 2011, they increased the UAAL by 11.5% – adding over $400 million to the state’s underfunded status, exacerbating the problem. These failed policies were a contributing factor to New Hampshire’s lowered bond rating.

Embracing real pension reform for newly hired employees and encouraging an open discussion with public employee groups would have been a responsible solution to our state’s financial concerns. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans refused to discuss retirement security for all public workers, and sentenced newly hired police officers and fire fighters to a future reliance on taxpayer-funded services.

 

For more information on the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition, please visit nhretirementfacts.com and follow us @NH_RSC

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

AFT NH Legislative Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee will be hearing testimony on:HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.  AFT-NH was originally opposed to this bill as it was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

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

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

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

Around 2011-2012 the state passed a bill which mandated that local districts must pay for support services for special education students enrolled in Charter schools. This means that a district must send someone to the charter school, contract out the service, or pay the Charter school to provide the services. All of which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

AFT-NH supports this bill.  We need to have a clear picture on what it is costing districts to educate special education students enrolled in a Charter school in or out of their home district. Because this is a mandate from the State we also need to have the discussion on who should be paying for these services.

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

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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

UPCOMING HEARINGS

TUESDAY, APRIL 8

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9

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

THURSDAY, APRIL 10

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

10:00 a.m. House in session

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

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

MONDAY, APRIL 21

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

Wondering Where Your Retirement Has Gone?

wall street bull

 

If you’re wondering what happened to your retirement security, then you really need to read the NY Times excerpt from “The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street.”

The same system that once gave us subprime-mortgage collateralized debt obligations no investor could possibly truly understand now gave us stock-market trades involving fractions of a penny that occurred at unsafe speeds using order types that no investor could possibly truly understand…

“It was so insidious because you couldn’t see it,” Katsuyama says. “It happens on such a granular level that even if you tried to line it up and figure it out, you wouldn’t be able to do it. People are getting screwed because they can’t imagine a microsecond.”

…Even giant investors simply had to take it on faith that Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch acted in their interests, despite the obvious financial incentives not to do so.

“Giant investors” would include – yes, that’s right – public pension trust funds.

Like the NH Retirement System Trust Fund… which was 100% funded, as recently as 1999.

Or Detroit’s public pension systems, which were fully funded as recently as 2008 – but are now being used as the “reason” that the City “has” to go through bankruptcy.

Wonder where your retirement has gone?

Read about Wall Street’s “dark pools”… then get really, really mad.

3-23-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Retirement, False Claims against Public Employees, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative UpdateWe are now entering the final week prior to “crossover” on Thursday, March 27.  The House will be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while the Senate will be in session on Thursday. Each will have to finish up on all their own bills by Thursday, after which they begin taking up those bills sent from the other chamber.

AFT-NH thanks the representatives that stood with us by voting to defeat:

  • HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid.
  • HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms.

We would have liked HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils to have been defeated as well but the House referred this bill to interim study.

HB 1122, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property was tabled (which AFT-NH supported),  because HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant will be voted on this week with a recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of ‘Ought to Pass As Amended’.

As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

THIS WEEK THE HOUSE WILL BE VOTING ON THE FOLLOWING BILLS:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1105-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH asks that this recommendation be overturned and a motion of Ought To Pass be brought forward. AFT-NH supports this bill because it lifts the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funds it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education costs for our severely disabled children.

The Finance recommended ‘Ought to Pass’ on HB 1494-FN,relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees. AFT-NH supports this recommendation. We were originally opposed to this bill as it was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

PART I OF THE CALENDAR

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

COMMON CORE AND THE SMARTER BALANCE STATE ASSESSMENT

There are several bills that will be voted on that are related to the Common Core and the Smarter Balance state assessment. I think it bears repeating where AFT-NH stands:

AFT-NH knows that a Recent AFT Poll found that 75 Percent of teachers support the Common Core standards, but it also found that they have not had enough time to understand them, put them into practice or discuss them with colleagues.

If these standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice.
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class,
  • Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students, AND
  • Develop best practices and strategies alone with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments, AND
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered, AND
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

We also know that:

States and districts must work with teachers to develop a high quality curriculum and professional development programming, provide teachers with the time needed to try out new methods of teaching to the standards in their classrooms, commit financial resources to ensure success, and engage parents and the community.

When assessing students, we need to make sure these tests inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning. All children deserve a rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as they become contributing members of a democratic society.  Growing our nation’s future citizens and workers is a serious undertaking that calls for a thoughtful focus on teaching and learning. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the growing fixation on high-stakes testing has undermined that focus, putting at grave risk our students’ learning and their ability to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy and fulfill their personal goals.

We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.  Because each district is at different stages in their teacher/staff development and student curriculum changes that meet Common Core Standards and the assessment of their students, the Department of Education should waive the Smarter Balance testing deadline for at least another two years.

Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

PART II OF THE CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH is in support of this bill and would like the committee recommendation to be overturned and a recommendation of Ought To Pass be brought forward. It puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district 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 buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS WEEK OF MONDAY, MARCH 24

TUESDAY, MARCH 25
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate COMMERCE, Room 101, LOB
1:15 p.m. HB 1404, relative to payroll cards.
1:35 p.m. HB 1405, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.
1:55 p.m. HB 1407, relative to privacy in the workplace.
2:15 p.m. HB 1188, relative to paycheck equity.

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1132-FN, relative to school building security.

9:20 a.m. HB 1260-FN-L, relative to communication of the cost of services provided under the children in need of services (CHINS) program to parents.
9:40 a.m. HB 1113, requiring school districts to distribute a concussion and head injury information sheet to student-athletes and establishing a definition for head injury.
10:20 a.m. HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school.
EXECUTIVE SESSION

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
9:15 a.m. HB 1137-FN, relative to annulment of certain obstruction of justice crimes and relative to the crime of escape.
9:30 a.m. HB 1533-FN, requiring a warrant to search information in a portable electronic device.
9:45 a.m. HB 1144, establishing a committee to study information included in arrest records and access to information on the disposition of criminal cases.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
10:00 a.m. HB 1102, relative to membership of the police standards and training council.
10:20 a.m. HB 1222, prohibiting commercial use of the law enforcement and fallen firefighters memorials.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

THURSDAY, MARCH 27
10:00 a.m. House in Session

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 1
House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
11:30 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating to a police checkpoint.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.
11:00 a.m. SB 183-FN, (New Title) relative to identification of voters, processing absentee ballots, and voluntary political expenditure limitations.

House JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 262-FN, revising the form for “summons instead of arrest” and prohibiting attachments in small claims actions.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
11:15 a.m. SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

House FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

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

3-17-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: School Building Aid Bill, Retirement, Charter Schools, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative Update

Both the House and Senate are finishing work on their bills prior to the crossover deadline of March 27th (after which bills from one chamber can no longer cross-over to the other chamber for consideration).  The House will be meeting on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the next two weeks to finish up on bills and the Senate will be meeting Thursday the 27th to finish up. Then we start all over again with the House holding committee hearings on passed Senate bills and the Senate holding committee hearings on passed House bills.

This coming Wednesday and Thursday the House will be considering the following bills:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee made the recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate‘ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH asks that this be taken off the consent calendar and the recommendation be overturned and a recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass’  be presented. AFT-NH supports this bill for it puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many districts have not been able to afford upgrades, repairs or build new buildings because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

REGULAR CALENDAR PART II

AFT-NH supports the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s recommendation of ‘Ought to Pass as amended’ on HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

AFT-NH supports the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid. This bill is unnecessary for there is already a process in place for recouping overpayments, and this puts the entire onus on the employee, penalizing them when the error is more likely to be made on the other end.

AFT-NH is in support of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms. AFT-NH knows that this bill gives unprecedented authority to the executive director of the NHRS to apply punishments at his/her discretion to the employee, when part-time work reporting is both an employer and employee responsibility. To put all the onus on the employee is wrong.

AFT-NH would have like the Finance committee to recommend ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  and not ‘Referred Interim Study’ on HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils. Keep in mind that Charter Schools:

  • Do not accept all children that walk through their doors,
  • They entire teaching staff are not certified,
  • They do not take on all the responsibility of educating special education students but they  rely on the child’s local school system to offer services,
  • They do not take on the responsibility of transporting the students to school.
  • They do not have to follow all the laws and rules that current public schools follow.

Also remembers when a charter school opens, your local tax dollars, taken from your local school district budget, must pay for services for special education students attending the charter school.  If a charter school opens in your community your tax dollars are going to transport any student that lives in your community attending the charter school.  All of this is mandated by State law, and in a time when budgets are tight charter schools seem to be coming back and asking for more and more. And you have no say in the matter unless our local elected state leaders stand up and say “No more!”

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

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

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARING FOR THE WEEK OF MARCH 17, 2014

TUESDAY, MARCH 18

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on
HB 1122-FN, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property, –this is the same as HB 1565 which AFT-NH supports

RULES, Room 303, LOB
2:30 p.m. Regular meeting

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

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive Session May Follow

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

10:00 a.m. House in session

PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 297, relative to the management of trust funds and capital reserve funds and pertaining to library trustees.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20

10:00 a.m. House in session

02-16-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: SB 364 (Retirement) and SB 322 (Nomination of Teachers)

AFT NH Legislative Update

This week the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee held a hearing on SB 364: relative to group II service retirement allowances and relative to establishing a supplemental savings plan in the retirement system. This is the bill that the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC) asked Senator Larsen to submit on our behalf.

The New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC)spent the last 18 months working on drafting this bill, always going back to our Core Value Statement – an agreement between all 12 unions and organizations at the Coalition table. We solicited input from current and past legislators, tax payers, and our members. We hired an independent actuary to analyze the ins and outs of the New Hampshire Retirement System, and developed this legislation to meet our needs. What we have arrived at is reasonable and responsible, a true middle ground. This is a  big step for us, adding in a supplemental savings plan to be housed in the NHRS alongside our DB benefit.We have agreed to the understanding that it will be part of what is currently in place for employees hired after January 2012. It is important that this saving plan is managed through the NHRS. By doing this it will increase the buying power and investment returns.

AFT-NH and the NHRSC support SB 364 for the following reasons:

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

The House Education committee held several hearings regarding the Common Core Standards, Smarter Balance, and student data collection. AFT-NH sent out a statement last week on where we stand. I think the following is important to repeat:  Knowing that each district is at different stages in their teacher/staff development and student curriculum changes to meet Common Core Standards and the assessment of their students, the Department of Education should waive the Smarter Balance testing deadline for at least another two years.

The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services held a full committee work session on HB 1228: establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. AFT-NH is in opposition to this bill. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, AFT-NH urges legislators to consider some suggestions from the past which have been ignored or set aside:

•    Change the start date when negotiation can commence with towns from 120 days to 180 days out from when budgets must be submitted.

•    The NH Public Labor Relation board should offer training for all employers participating in local negotiations on the skills and process of negotiations.

•    If local contracts are not approved on towns’ traditional voting days there should be a way to call for a special meeting to bring forward a new tentative agreement for the community to vote on.

UPCOMING FULL SENATE VOTES
ACTION ALERT

The full Senate will be voting on SB 322: relative to re-nomination of teachers.  The Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee made the recommendation to defeat this bill.

AFT-NH supports this bill and we ask that the full Senate overturn the Committee recommendation and instead move to accept passage of this bill. It is time we move back to supporting our teachers in New Hampshire. Three years is long enough to deny teachers their due process when non-renewed. When decisions with such high stakes are being made, all staff should be given reasons why, and should be given time to improve though an improvement plan.

Please contact your state Senator and ask that they pass SB 322 for the above reasons.

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

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!
UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS FOR THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 17, 2014

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
9:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on
HB 1496, relative to the objectivity and validity of student assessment materials,
HB 1262, relative to student assessment data privacy,
HB 1432, delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and studying the effects of delaying implementation of certain curriculum changes in the public schools.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1330-FN, prohibiting the disclosure by search warrant of privileged individual medical records,
HB 1361, prohibiting law enforcement agencies from using a drone to collect evidence,
HB 1533-FN, requiring a warrant to search information in a portable electronic device,
HB 1566-FN, relative to warrant requirements,
HB 1567-FN, requiring a warrant to obtain electronic device location information,
HB1619-FN, prohibiting the acquisition, collection, or retention of certain information,
HB 1620-FN, relative to the use of drones

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
8:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on
HB 1393-FN-L, relative to tuition payments for students attending a chartered public school in the student’s district of residence,
HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school,
HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school.

9:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on
HB 1496, relative to the objectivity and validity of student assessment materials,
HB 1262, relative to student assessment data privacy,
HB 1432, delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and studying the effects of delaying implementation of certain curriculum changes in the public schools.

10:45 a.m. HB 1432, delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and studying the effects of delaying implementation of certain curriculum changes in the public schools.

11:30 a.m. HB 1238, relative to access to assessment materials.

1:00 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school,
HB 1141, requiring chartered public schools to share enrollment information with school districts,
HB 1200, relative to student social media policies by educational institutions,
HB 1212, relative to social media privacy in higher education,
HB 1252, establishing a committee to study and propose a recodification of the education laws currently in RSA title 15,
HB 1321, relative to reporting of Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores,
HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school,
HB 1445-FN, relative to providing an education plan for certain students upon request of a parent or guardian,
HB1447, prohibiting discrimination in educational standards for certain students.
HB 1298, relative to additional criteria for review of chartered public school applications.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1617-FN, permitting the retirement system to access death, marriage, and divorce records of the division of vital records administration for the administration of RSA 100-A, 1:00 p.m.
HB1102, relative to membership of the police standards and training council,
HB 1399-FN, relative to the application for a vested deferred retirement allowance in the retirement system.

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
11:00 a.m. Work session on
HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.

FINANCE – (DIVISION II), Room 209, LOB
11:00 a.m. Work session on HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
1:00 p.m. Work session on HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19

10:00 a.m. House in Session

1:00 p.m. Senate in Session
Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. SB 218-FN-L, relative to group I retirement system membership for all member hired on or after July 1, 2014.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Senate RULES, ENROLLED BILLS AND INTERNAL AFFAIRS, Room 103, SH
10:30 a. m. SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United amendments to the United States Constitution.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
9:00 a.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. HB 1586-FN, relative to student and teacher information protection and privacy.
10:30 a.m. HB 1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of pupil data.
11:00 a.m. HB 1508-FN, terminating state participation in the common core educational standards.

1:00 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1247, requiring the department of education to share costs of implementing statewide online assessment technology requirements,
HB 1393-FN-L, relative to tuition payments for students attending a chartered public school in the student’s district of residence,
HB 1449, relative to the requirements for filing a charter school application, HB1488-FN, adopting the interstate compact on educational support for military children.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. HB 1285, relative to recommendations by the department of revenue administration regarding municipal fund balance retention.
10:30 a.m. HB 1350, relative to prior public hearings for acceptance of unanticipated funds.
11:00 a.m. HB 1354, relative to municipal appropriations for certain capital projects.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full Committee work session on HB 1633-FN-A-L, relative to expanded gaming in New Hampshire.

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