This week, the state legislature that convened on December 2 will look very different from the last 2 years – which means the legislative landscape changes dramatically. Republicans now hold a 14-10 majority in the state senate, a 213-187 majority in the state house and will hold a 4-1 majority when the new Executive Council is installed in January along with Governor Sununu.
With the change in party control, we expect to see a very different policy agenda pushed by the new majority for the upcoming year, but some of the same challenges we all knew would be before us will remain the same.
What does not change:
COVID-19 Relief Funding and Leave
Regardless of party control, the pandemic challenges continue. While there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel with promising vaccines on the horizon, we still have several months before those arrive.
NEA-NH will be continuing to push for more aid for schools at the federal and state levels. We are also urging members to reach out to the offices of Senators Shaheen and Hassan to ask that they continue to advocate for an extension of the paid sick leave and family leave from the Families First Act. Congress also needs to pass a package that will help school districts with funding needs they still have amid the pandemic.
State School Funding
Funding at the state level will also be a critical area going into a budget year. One-time funding boosts are currently not set to continue in the upcoming biennium. In addition, we have concerns that enrollment drops due to the pandemic may result in a hit to adequacy payments to school districts. We will need to fight hard this year to maintain funding levels for school districts. It’s never a good idea to reduce school funding, but now is not the time to be sending less education dollars to our communities when the need is so high.
The school funding commission has also issued their long-awaited report. Legislation will be submitted to attempt to implement some or all the recommended changes. We plan to do a presentation on all of the recommendations of this funding report.
What will change this session is a larger set of priorities that in the past NEA-NH has opposed.
The newly-elected Speaker of the NH House has filed a request for a bill “relative to education freedom savings accounts.” Many of you remember the battle over SB 193, the last school voucher bill that Gov. Sununu and Commissioner Edelblut advocated to pass but failed. We anticipate there will be a full-court press to attempt this again as multiple voucher-type bills have been filed by members of the new House and Senate Republican majorities.
There are also bills filed to divert public money to private and religious schools as well as considering the outcome of the recent Espinoza case decided earlier this year at the Supreme Court.
As usual we anticipate bills that will be an attack on your rights to collectively bargain. The perennial right to work bill has already been filed, but we are on the lookout for any other attempts to curb your rights at work.
NEA-NH will provide a preview of all the individual bills we are watching once we see bill numbers and language.