The NH House and Senate are wrangling with the state budget and anything can happen in these closing days of the session. We are keeping a close eye on amendments because they could add threats to the Education Tax Credit scholarship program. Two bills are heading to Governor Sununu’s desk for his approval or veto. Specifics about the bills are below along with legislators’ contact information.
Public hearings are the best opportunity to communicate with committee members and share your opinion. The Legislative Office Building (LOB) is located immediately behind the State House at 33 N. State Street in Concord. For Senate hearings, sign the white sheet on a side table just inside the door to indicate your support or opposition for a bill, and if you intend to speak. The protocol is a little different in the House. The public may sign the blue sheet near the room entrance to indicate support or opposition to any bill; fill out a pink card if you intend to speak. If possible, provide written copies for each member plus the committee secretary. Generally, committee chairmen limit remarks to three minutes or less. Personal stories are most effective. If you are unable to attend hearings, email the committee, or better yet, call members individually. Indicate if you are a constituent.
Bills may have an executive session any time after the public hearing. This is when the committee discusses and votes on legislation, and amendments may be introduced. The committee makes one of three recommendations: Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) which is to kill the bill; Ought to Pass (OTP) which is a recommendation to support the bill; or to send it to Interim Study (IS) which is to continue work on the bill. Committee recommendations are very influential when the entire chamber votes. Consequently, prompt action on legislation is highly recommended.
Once bills are exec’d, they are usually scheduled for a vote by the entire body soon after. This is when all members of the House or Senate will vote YEA (to support the committee’s recommendation) or NAY (to oppose the recommendation). When the House and Senate have sessions, we list all the bills we are following, even if they are on the Consent Calendars, because they may be pulled and individually voted on or a floor amendment may be introduced. Contact your legislators before the session day with brief, polite messages and mention you are a constituent.
In the closing several weeks of the legislative session, any bills that were amended by the non-originating chamber must return to the first one for a vote. They may vote to concur (accept), non-concur (kill the bill), or meet in a committee of conference to reconcile the difference between the two versions. If additional changes are recommended by the Committee of Conference, both chambers must again vote on the new version of the bill. The Senate may add non-germane amendments to bills, so it is critical to monitor any changes to pending legislation. The House may make amendments, but is limited to germane issues.
If a bill passes both the House and Senate, it then has administrative reviews to become enrolled before heading to the Governor. If the legislature is not adjourned, the Governor has five days (not including weekends or holidays) to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. If the Governor vetoes a bill, the bill returns to the originating chamber for the first veto override vote, which needs two-thirds of the membership in attendance to pass. If that is achieved, the bill advances to the second chamber which also needs a two-thirds vote of membership in attendance. If that is achieved, the bill becomes law without the Governor’s signature. If it does not occur, the veto is upheld. If the legislature has adjourned, the Governor has five days to act on the bill. If it goes unsigned, the bill dies; this is referred to a “pocket veto.”
Legislators’ contact information is at the end of this article.
Common Legislative Abbreviations and Terms
THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2019: NH SENATE, Senate Chamber and NH HOUSE, Rep Hall
The following bill passed the NH Senate and House with different amendments. They held a Committee of Conference and each chamber must vote to concur (support) or non-concur (reject) the recommendation.
SB 267, relative to the release of student assessment information and data.
Recommendation – Non-concur
The Committee of Conference report requires the Department of Education to supply students’ names and Unique Pupil Identifiers (UPIs) to testing organizations to maintain the results, scores, and other evaluative materials on every student. The testing entity may give the assessment results and comparative data to the families or the schools as provided in RSA 193-C:11. It gives the testing company vast amounts of our children’s information as the UPI is the key to unlocking all the data. Current law, RSA 189:67, already allows testing entities to access students’ names or UPIs (not both), and birth dates. The UPI is supposed to anonymize student data, to protect identifiable information. Instead, when matched with the student’s name and birth date, everything is accessible. Refusing the statewide assessment, as allowed in RSA 193-C:6, is unlikely to protect students who do not participate in the exam, as the students are included in the database, just noted as non-participants. UPIs follow NH students from the time they enter the public-school system all the way through post-secondary institutions as part of NH’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), also referred to as the NH Longitudinal Data System (NHLDS), for which the state received federal grants exceeding $8M. Homeschool students who attend high-school classes through the local district are included in the database. While the amendment requires the data be destroyed after eight years, this completely undermines the purpose of Unique Pupil Identifiers and privacy protections. The intent of the bill is to allow schools and families to more readily track progress of individual students. However, we believe families are already able to do this by maintaining a file of the scores and reports from year to year. Also, the amendment by the Committee of Conference removes the penalties for inappropriate use of this data which is in the Senate’s version. Learn more about the privacy protections in the current reporting system here in the NH DOE’s FAQ. Read more about the NHLDS here. The NH DOE’s data dictionary is available here to see what information is collected in the state’s various databases. Read more about NH’s database system here.
LEGISLATION HEADING TO THE GOVERNOR
SB 140, relative to credit for alternative, extended learning, and work-based programs.
Recommendation – Veto
This repeal is a blatant political power-move against the yet-to-launch Learn Everywhere program enacted in 2018. Learn Everywhere is designed to bring more learning opportunities to public school students, beyond their classroom experiences, and have it count towards graduation credit. This innovative program adheres to the state’s philosophy and statutes, maintains the strong tradition of local control, while allowing greater flexibility for students to pursue interests and potential careers while earning high-school credit. Local school districts may have policies governing how many credits from alternative learning options may be applied towards graduation, so this does not diminish local districts’ control for granting diplomas. The state Board of Education already credentials schools and teachers; this simply allows the BOE to also credential these courses, unbundling learning from bricks and mortar, while expanding the opportunity for an adequate education. Modeled on the existing Charter School authorization program, Learn Everywhere is adapted for individual programs instead of entire schools. It builds on Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) that are available and managed at the local district level. Learn Everywhere allows for these opportunities to extend beyond zip-codes, making more options available for students and simplifying the process for organizations and businesses that wish to participate in multiple areas. Learn Everywhere will not impact school funding because these opportunities already exist. They are simply awarding credit towards graduation for participation. Many of these programs are available for free or reduced fees like those available through the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, Civil Air Patrol, other community organizations, and after-school clubs. Typically, alternative learning programs are at the family’s expense, not the district’s. For example, if a student pursues classes at Southern NH University, those programs are available at a discount, but the family is responsible for the tuition, not the local district school. Learn Everywhere is fully consistent with this practice. Increasingly education is moving to “course choice,” not just “school choice.” More and more learning occurs across platforms, with a little here and there. Even now students may take some classes at the local district school, some online, some at home, and some through the local community college. Learn Everywhere recognizes this trend and positions NH as a front-runner in this new frontier for public education. At a time when public-school districts face tight budgets, declining enrollment, and demands for more individualized instruction, New Hampshire’s Learn Everywhere program is a win-win for students, schools, organizations, businesses, and our communities. Read more in Want to Learn Everywhere in NH and Expanding Educational Opportunities.
SB 196, relative to non-academic surveys administered by a public school to its students.
Recommendation – Veto
This bill is nearly identical to SB 431 (2018) and will reverse the hard-won active consent (opt in) for non-academic surveys, SB 43, passed only two years ago. The bill requires passive consent (opt-out) instead of active consent for all non-academic surveys. Nearly all, including the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the CDC, are tied to government grants and funding based upon participation percentages. In other words, the bill sells students’ rights and private information for additional funding. Active consent as required in current law is consistent with the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and carves out an exception for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey created by the CDC, allowing passive consent. The Senate voted to concur with the NH House version, amendment #1802h, which requires districts to distribute written notice via the student and they may send notice electronically. This makes students responsible for informing their families. It also allows parents to opt-out in writing or electronically. These non-academic surveys are also used to justify the Social-Emotional Learning curriculum and extensive teacher training that is being implemented across the state. This is a school-choice issue because public school students should not be subject to increased intrusiveness or privacy violations, nor should their families forfeit their rights to direct their children’s education simply because children attend their local district schools. It is also one aspect of accountability to families.
CONTACT INFO for LEGISLATORS
Brief and polite phone calls are most effective, as are personalized emails. Mention you are a constituent.
Governor Chris Sununu can be reached at 800-852-3456, emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message through the official website.
To find your NH senator, and his or her contact information, refer to the senate’s roster page.
To find your Representatives, go to “Who’s My Legislator?”