This past week was crossover week, where a lot of legislation had to pass from the Senate to the House or at least be passed and tabled for future consideration, particularly bills that have some funding impact. In summary, there were some gains and more setbacks that deserve your continued attention.
Full-day kindergarten (SB 192 amended) passed over to the House, which hasn’t yet made room for it in their FY18-FY19 budget proposal. The amended version sets up a funding formula at the Governor’s recommended lower level than for other grades.
The Senate passed SB 247 preventing childhood lead poisoning from pre-1977 paint and in water supplies through lead paint examinations. The bill provided that all children get physical exams by age 2 years to test for lead in their blood, and and that all children are required to be examined prior to entering first grade. There is also funding for water and dwelling remediation.
I’m a co-sponsor of both bills.
Republicans were determined to cut federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility, disqualifying 17,000 NH low-income families. This program costs NH nothing. I called this our race to the bottom. NH already has one of the lowest rates of returns of federal funds. The bill’s sponsor acknowledged that the bill was written by an out-of-state organization.
I challenged my Senate colleagues to observe the irony of cutting federally funded food subsidies for the most needy in our communities, while in the same day giving tax cuts to those who have enough invested that they earn taxable dividends and interest of up to $20,000 per couple per year. This tax break will cost the state around $15 million a year.
While the Senate passed full day kindergarten (SB 192) funding without designating a funding source, it also passed SB 2 cutting future business profits and business enterprise (payroll) tax reductions. I asked my colleagues if they really felt this was more important than property tax relief. Past legislatures set in motion annual public school funding cuts through phased reduction in public school stabilization funding, and SB 193 passed, creating a private school voucher program that is estimated will cost the state up to $76 million, much of which will go to religious schools. Yes, this is likely unconstitutional, see NH Constitution, Article 6. [Jay, if it is likely that this bill, if signed, will be challenged incourts, could you say that?]
SB 3, a voter suppression bill, changing the definition of domicile passed on a partisan Republican majority vote. In my view, there are three major problems with the new requirements for documenting domicile.
• First, the three-page affidavit required of new voters without domicile evidence will, at the least, intimidate and, at worst, discourage some people from voting, and create long lines at the polls.
• Follow-up on domicile verification by town supervisors of the checklist seems unlikely to work as proposed.
• The bill should clarify the role of the Attorney General’s Office in investigating bad addresses before voiding a ballot. We’re doing all this to check-up on less than 500 people statewide for whom verification letters sent to same day registrants were undeliverable this past November. NH’s electoral process has been rated as the 3rd best nationally (Pippa Norris, Harvard faculty).
SB 128 regarding electric utility deregulation passed 17-6. I received a lot of emails on the bill as originally written, which were helpful to me, as I had an opportunity to weigh in with the bill’s sponsor to significantly alter the bill. The final bill states that electric filings before the Public Utilities Commission:
• Not include any measure that involves the purchase of natural gas supply or capacity,
• Reasonably protect ratepayers from the risk of stranded costs, and
• Harness the power of competitive markets
Keep up the fight for the good and against the bad. Contact your friends throughout the state and ask them to become active with their legislators as this legislative session heads into the second half.