Education: SB 193
This bill would have provided taxpayer funded vouchers to parents who choose to enroll their children in private or religious schools or opted to home school their children.
Schools & home school families receiving taxpayer funded vouchers would not be bound by the same rules applied to public schools with regard to accepting students into their schools, providing special education needs nor would they have any academic oversight by the NH Dept of Education. This bill provides a scholarship for each eligible student equal to the base cost of an adequate education (about $3,600) plus differentiated aid ($1,800) if the child is entitled to such aid. There is no requirement nor expectation that the services covered by differentiated aid will be delivered outside of the public schools. To compensate a school district for the loss of adequacy funds when a pupil participates in the education savings account program, the state will continue to provide adequacy aid for the first year plus a $1,500 per child stipend for the second year to help meet the school’s fixed costs. However, those fixed costs are far higher than these amounts and last far longer than two years, imposing a significant financial burden that increases over time. Ultimately, this burden will be borne by local property taxpayers. The taxpayer funded "education freedom savings accounts" will be managed by a private, non-governmental entity that will receive up to 5% of the total funds transferred from school districts. The cost of these vouchers would downshift over $99 million to local school districts during the program’s 11 year-ramp up period, most likely resulting in an increase in local property taxes. It is estimated that about 500 children will participate in the program’s first year, increasing to about 2,000 per year in the ninth year and beyond. While the average downshift is about $9 million per year, it begins at about $2 million per year for the first year, reaches $10 million in the sixth year and nearly $12 million in the tenth year and beyond.
This bill was “referred for interim study” which is a polite way to kill a piece of legislation. The roll call vote was 170-159
Altschiller: YES to send to study
Lovejoy: YES to send to study
Abrami: NO to send to study
Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program
This bill (20 years in the making) passed the House on February 8th and then was sent to a second hearing before the House Finance Committee. Currently, Family Medical Leave is an UNPAID leave of absence from employment to tend to emergencies at home. The NH Family Medical Leave Insurance program would have required employees to contribute 0.67% of their wages to the NH run program and after a qualifying time frame be able to collect 60% of their wages (with a minimum benefit of $125 p/week) for six weeks. Qualifying events to access this insurance benefit would include birth, adoption or fostering of a child; serious illness of a spouse, child, parent, grandparent or in-law and also treatment for addiction recovery. The program is an automatic enroll for all. If anyone does not want to participate they can opt out.
This passed in a 186-164 roll call vote.
While the bill was in the House Finance Committee an opponent Family & Medical Leave Insurance idea (Rep. Lynn Ober of Hudson) crafted an amendment to HB 628 that gutted what the House passed (two times aready) to create a poison pill and ultimately crush this legislation. Rep Lovejoy, a member of the House Finance Committee, spoke from the Well in favor of defeating the Ober amendment and returning the bill back to its original form.
The Ober Amendment FAILED in a 175-176 roll call vote.
Altschiller: AGAINST AMENDMENT
Lovejoy: AGAINST AMENDMENT
Abrami: FOR AMENDMENT
After more lengthy debate on the floor of the House, the Family Medical Leave Insurance program PASSED (again) in a 171-162 roll call vote and now moves onto the Senate.
Establishing a committee to identify the requirements needed to commit NH to a goal of 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2040. This was an attempt to set up a road map for us to have more energy independence & a greener more sustainable energy future. The NH 10 Year Energy Strategy provides little details and this committee would have been able to offer researched options in energy efficiencies, micro-grid development & use, battery storage, wind & solar energy production. This attempt at forming a study committee FAILED in a 175-150 roll call vote.
The most common complaint made to the NH Dept of Labor is when an employee is denied their earned vacation time benefit. This bill was an effort to end this type of wage theft by providing statutory language to codify employees rights to earned benefits.
This FAILED in a 169-161 roll call vote.
This bill was an effort to include union craft-apprenticeship programs to the many other programs supported by the state. It FAILED in a 172-162 roll call vote.
Currently funding for maintenance for roads & bridges comes mostly from the gas (& diesel) tax. This bill would create a special fee by singling out NH owners of electric & hybrid vehicles. They would begin to pay this fee each time they renewed their car registration (the first year would be waived). The majority of the House felt that this set up a disincentive to the purchase of these vehicles and worked against what should be a goal of reducing the use of petroleum products & reducing emissions of pollutants. Recognizing we all need to share in the costs of maintaining our roads & bridges but not by penalizing hybrid & electric vehicle owners.
This bill FAILED in roll call vote of 178-158.