Key Education Bills Receive Initial House Approval

The NH House of Representatives, today, approved HB 564, relative to possession of firearms in safe school zones, which would incorporate the Federal Gun Free Schools Act into New Hampshire law.  The final roll call vote to pass the bill with an amendment was 194 – 154 in favor of the legislation.  This is position that I supported during my campaign for State Representative, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to cast my vote in favor of this legislation.

HB 551, establishing an independent school funding commission, was approved 207 – 148.  Supporters of the bill argued that the legislature has not adequately addressed the directives of the original Claremont court ruling on how to fund public schools and that an independent commission could provide a more comprehensive review.  HB 184, to include full-day kindergarten students in the adequacy formula, passed on a roll call vote, 203 – 148.  Funds currently provided to support kindergarten are conditional on Keno revenues, and those revenues are falling behind initial projections and have been insufficient to fund full-day kindergarten.  HB 177, which would stop the continued reduction of stabilization grants was approved on a 268 – 90 roll call vote.  In 2017, a change to state law would wipe out the stabilization grants over 25 years by reducing payments to school districts by 4% each year.  Many school districts across the state rely on the stabilization grant to make up for some of the inadequacies in the education funding model.

There were a number of very important bills approved by the House today.  Tomorrow is the last day to act on bills that need to be referred to a second house committee.  Over the next few days, I will provide highlights of other bills that were — or will be — acted upon by the House this week.

House Election Law Committee Backs Independent Redistricting Commission

The House Election Law committee has voted 20 – 0 to recommend passage of HB 706, which creates a 15-member, independent redistricting commission.  The Chair of the Committee appointed a subcommittee to review the proposed legislation and to recommend amendments, if the subcommittee deemed them appropriate.  The subcommittee was chaired by Committee Vice Chairman Wayne Moynihan (D).  Additional members included Representatives Paul R. Bergeron (D), Gerald Ward (D),  Timothy Lang (R), and Kathleen Hoelzel (R).  The subcommittee recommended a number of minor amendments to the bill which included allowing for more open-ended participation on the redistricting commission by municipal officials, reducing the initial pool of applicants scheduled for interviews from 60 to 45 candidates, and strengthening the criteria that should be considered during the redistricting process.  No one who has, during the preceding four years, been a candidate for, or elected to, federal, state, or county elective office would be eligible to serve on the commission, nor would anyone who has worked for a major political party during that time, been a registered lobbyist, or has made significant contributions to any one federal candidate be allowed to participate.  Members of the commission will include five Republicans, five Democrats, and five members who are of neither party.  HB 706 — with unanimous, bipartisan committee support — will now go to the full House for consideration.  The bill will appear on the February 27th House Calendar. (Update: HB 706 was subsequently approved by the House on a roll call vote, 218 – 123.)

Governor’s Budget Address and House Calendar: February 14

The House will meet in Joint Session on Thursday, February 14, 2019, at 10:00 am to hear Governor Sununu’s budget address.  Following the budget address, the House will meet in regular session. 77 proposed bills appear on the Consent Calendar; 36 proposed bills appear on the regular calendar.  Bills on the Consent Calendar generally have a unanimous recommendation as Ought to Pass or found to be Inexpedient to Legislate, though a small number of those bills may have one or two dissenters.  Any House member may request that a bill be pulled from the Consent Calendar and debated during the Session.  Committee recommendations for bills that are not pulled from the Calendar will be approved en masse with a single vote.

Bills that may be of particular interest to Nashua Ward 2 residents include the following:

HB176-FN-A, relative to grants for school building aid and making an appropriation therefor.  This bill amends the current maximum expenditures for school building aid grants from a maximum of $50 m  million per year to a minimum expenditure of no less than $50 million per year. Committee recommendation: Ought to Pass.

HB222, relative to criteria for teachers in charter schools.  Present law requires 50% of chartered public school teachers be certified or have at least three years teaching experience.  This bill increases this to 75%.  Committee recommendation: Inexpedient to Legislate.

HB 497-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to payment by the state of a portion of retirement system contributions of political subdivision employers.  This bill upholds the promise made by the state to pay a portion of the employer’s contribution to the NH Retirement System (NHRS).  The state’s payment to NHRS was reduced from 35% in 2008 to 0% as of 2012.  This bill would require the state to pay 15% of the cost to the NHRS, thus reducing the cost for local communities.  Committee recommendation: Ought to Pass.

HB 185-FN-A-LOCAL, relative to contingently reducing the rate of the interest and dividends tax and repealing the tax in 5 years.  The Committee report stated that it could not determine the total cost of the bill as applicability dates in the bill were not specified.  Committee recommendation: Inexpedient to Legislate.