The newly elected New Hampshire House and Senate have been busy preparing legislation for the New Year. As you might imagine, not all of it is good news for our students and members.
It is likely that Republicans, who now control both houses of the Legislature, will push legislation aimed at lowering business taxes, reducing the cost of energy and promoting “local control of education” – all stated priorities among Republicans in the House and Senate. But they lack the supermajority necessary to override vetoes, strengthening Governor Hassan’s veto power and likely stopping any efforts to approve right-to-work legislation or prematurely end the state’s Medicaid expansion program. House Leaders believe that social issues are unlikely to be a priority.
“Right now, we are following 129 bills and LSRs,” said Rick Trombly, NEA New Hampshire’s Executive Director and former Government Relations Director. “That number is pretty indicative of an activist Legislature with their sites set on public employees.”
From 2010 to 2012, when Bill O’Brien led the House, NEA-NH targeted 47 bills for defeat and were successful on 37 of them. Of the 129 we are currently tracking, 25 deal with modifying current NH election laws, 21 with changing or establishing new school district polices, 21 with labor laws as they relate to public employees, 17 with funding public and higher education, 11 with college and career ready standards and statewide testing, 9 with charter schools, 7 with the role of the NH Department of Education, 4 with higher education policy, 5 with the NH Retirement System, 4 with special education, and 2 with vouchers.
“As soon as these new LSRs and bills were drafted, the enormity of what we’re facing this session became obvious. The new majority is going after public sector collective bargaining rights, education policy, school funding and voter qualifications. It’s 2010 all over again. Bill O’Brien isn’t leading the House this time. But don’t be fooled – he is still leading the charge,” said Trombly.
During the height of our efforts to defend public education in 2010 and 2011, NEA-NH sent out 11 “Take Action Alerts” to our members asking them to contact their elected Representatives. These requests resulted in 12,351 emails and 784 letters sent to elected New Hampshire officials that year. These messages were written by 3,251 members. That year, every elected New Hampshire House and Senate member received at least one message from an NEA-NH member. “We will need to be that active again this session – maybe even more so,” continued Trombly.
In 2014, four NEA-NH members or retired members ran for State Senate, double the number that ran in 2012. While only one was successful, that member was later elected Senate Minority Leader; a position that will ensure him, and NEA-NH significant influence on any legislation proposed this biennium. In the House, nearly thirty members ran, with eleven elected, including two new Representatives. We also had a retired member challenge an incumbent for Executive Council. While pro-education candidates at the federal level were ousted in all but the safest of states, New Hampshire successfully re-elected Senator Shaheen, Governor Hassan, and Congresswoman Kuster. At the state level, there were a number of losses in the Legislature; the resulting Republican majorities in the House and Senate are more reasonable than the landslide majorities that 2010 brought. Recent events in the State House indicate that even many Republicans are tiring of the Tea Party rhetoric, as former Speaker O’Brien was rejected in his attempts to return to the office, in favor of a compromise candidate elected by Democrats and some Republicans.
While it would be a stretch to call the 2014 elections a success for NEA-New Hampshire, the outcomes were probably the best that could be accepted under the circumstances.
Some of the bills we’ll be watching this year include:
- 2015-H-0017-R: Relative to membership in a union.
- HB116: Relative to the renomination of teachers.
- 2015-H-0819-R: Prohibiting certain moneys from being taken out of public paychecks.
- 2015-H-0820-R: Establishing the Frank Partin right-to-work act.
- 2015-H-0206-R: Relative to school district policies regarding objectionable course material.
- 2015-S-0835-R: Requiring the state police to disclose results of a criminal records check on school employees and volunteers to school officials.
- 2015-H-0109-R: Establishing a committee to study alternative public employee retirement plans.
- 2015-H-0035-R: Relative to the eligibility of certain students to receive an education tax credit scholarship.
- HB142: Relative to the implementation of new college and career readiness standards.
- 2015-H-0110-R: Requiring vocational education centers to prioritize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curricula as a condition for funding.
- 2015-H-0376-R: Relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education.
- 2015-H-0655-R: Establishing an early learning incentive fund in the department of education.
- 2015-S-0945-R: Relative to the cost of an adequate education.
NEA New Hampshire is committed to providing as much information about pending legislation as possible. Our website, mobile app and email system will be fully activated this session to provide our members and supporters the most up-to-date information and ability to participate fully in the process.