New Legislature Landscape
On December 7th, the new legislature was sworn in and organized themselves. The Senate with a 14 – 10 Republican majority elected Sen. Jeb Bradley as the new Senate President and also named Sharon Carson the Republican leader and Sen. Donna Soucy will once again be the Democratic leader. The Senate has also announced their committee assignments as well which you can find here.
The House will be historically close. While Sherm Packard (R) was once again elected speaker, the partisan divide is now down to 201 (R) – 198 (D) and 1 race which ended in a tie in Rochester and was sent to a special election. Rep. Matt Wilhelm from Manchester was named the Democratic leader and Rep. Osborne is once again the Republican leader. Committee structures are still being worked out but are expected to be even splits given the proportionality of the House makeup. While we hope this means that legislation coming out of the House will need to be bipartisan, leaving out extreme proposals we saw last year, that is no guarantee. With such a close divide, passage, amendments or failure of a bill that holds a close committee vote will come down to attendance.
What this means for our advocacy work in the coming year as we seek to stop bad legislation and hopefully advance good policy, is that many of the asks we make of you will be about making sure supportive legislators are in attendance on session days. The partisan majority can fluctuate session day to session day and while this could force more consensus, we have already seen on Organization Day, an attempt to strike at a moment’s notice of advantage based on attendance numbers in the chamber at that time. So, attendance will be the name of the game.
We also will need your help in reaching out to your legislators early. There are a lot of new State Representatives and Senators. Reach out to them now. You can find your legislators online. Introduce yourself as an educator who lives in their district and share the concerns you are seeing in your work as an educator, a parent, or a voter. Let them know you will be contacting them throughout the session and your expectation that they will stand up for a strong public education for our students.
Top Priorities and Concerns
This year is a budget year and so central among our concerns will be school funding and the support that the state contributes for education, especially in those districts where raising revenue is more of a challenge. Here are some of the top priorities we have identified thus far ahead of the session for NEA-NH:
- Maintaining and increasing state aid for our local schools – funding that helps supports students and an environment where schools can raise wages to attract and retain staff
- Supporting and strengthening the pipeline that brings new educators into the workforce to address areas of critical shortage
- Supporting and improving your pension
- Defending and strengthening your rights to bargain for wages and working conditions and defeating any attempts to weaken your rights at work
- Defeating attempts to divert more public funding for the school privatization
There are so many issues that will be coming into play though this year so please reach out as you see other priorities you want to alert members and your organization to. The more we advocate together, the stronger we are and the more effective we will be.
New Tracking & Advocacy Tool for You!
With hundreds of bills and a constantly changing landscape, we know it is hard to follow it all. I will continue to do a weekly update, but we’ve added a new tool for you to keep track of what is important to you and your local members. On our website’s legislative advocacy page, look out for our Fast Democracy tool which will allow you to more easily follow the bills we are in Concord, get regular updates and contact your legislators about them. The hope is that in your busy lives as educators, this tool will make it easier to follow and engage in the advocacy work that’s so crucial for the work we do, so look out for this and sign-up as soon as it is live!
Sign-up for a Lobby Day at the State House!
Time and time again it’s been proven that there is no better advocate for public education than you, the educators in the classroom, the people who are living these issues each day. If you have personal or union negotiated time you can take, why not come up and lobby on some of these issues with NEA-NH and your GR Director? If you are interested in signing up, please e-mail email@example.com so we can setup a day that will work with your schedule as well as being in Concord at a timely hearing or session day where legislators are accessible.
The goal of these full or half lobby days are to help our collective efforts but also to make you a more effective advocate after your experience up in Concord. Not to mention having fun talking with people about the issues you know best! I look forward to hearing from you.