The legislative session is nearly done. Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate must finalize any remaining bills, and reconcile those that were amended by the second chamber. Two school-choice bills that passed the Senate were amended in the House, so the Senate must decide if they will agree to those changes, not agree (kill the bill), or work with Representatives from the NH House to reconcile the differences. If the Senate votes to concur, the bills will advance to Governor Sununu. Read specifics below. Legislators’ contact information is at the end.
Although we successfully neutralized eminent threats to the Education Tax Credit (ETC) scholarship program, HB 632 and SB 318, these final few weeks are when these bills, or something like them, may be tacked on to other legislation. We must remain vigilant to protect the ETC program and #SaveOurScholarships. We compiled extensive information about the ETC scholarships regarding the background of NH’s program, how they work, constitutional issues, and media coverage – one-stop reading!
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.
Legislators’ contact information is at the end of this article.
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 2019: NH SENATE, Senate Chamber
The following bills passed the NH Senate and House with amendments. The originating chamber, the Senate, must vote to concur, non-concur, or conduct a committee of conference to reconcile the differences.
Recommendation – Non-concur
This bill as passed by the Senate 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 majority of the NH House voted for 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. 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.
Recommendation – Non-concur
The majority of the NH House of Representatives voted to support amendment #1718h that releases student names, birth dates, and Unique Pupil Identifiers (UPIs) to the testing organizations, and allows these testing entities to maintain the results, scores, and other evaluative materials on every student. 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 10 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 passed by the House 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.
CONTACT INFO for LEGISLATORS
Brief and polite phone calls are most effective, as are personalized emails. Mention you are a constituent.
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?”