Bait and Switch

I’ve learned that SAU 60 has planned to use Charlestown’s money for updates to the school entrances and other projects. The rumor, admittedly unconfirmed, was that they stated that “the state” wanted it used for projects. The first thing that you should know as I enter my 10th year representing Charlestown is that Fall Mountain School District has never, not once, asked me about the legislative intent of a new law or funding method. Not once in almost ten years. The second thing that you should know is that I authored and sponsored multiple bills which would have stopped the stabilization grant reductions which are one of our largest problems. Those bills have been systematically killed. What we ended up with was a supplemental grant that ended up being called an “infrastructure” grant because of the fund that the money was coming from. We didn’t quibble about the title because the dollar amount was right. I can say that because I met with Finance Committee members and the Governor’s staff. All said the same thing.

There is zero doubt that the intent was that this be used for tax relief. The Governor’s exact words were “they can use it for anything they want, but we hope that it is used for tax relief”. The money was supposed to get towns like Charlestown back to where they were before the grant reductions began. Multiple demonstrations, protests and hearings about the grant reductions were held. Multiple people spoke out about it, some local. This money is what we got out of it all and literally the only reason that I voted for the budget.

Districts without a significant tax disparity issue may choose to use some of their money for projects. It is after all your money and local control matters. There are two districts in the state which certainly do not fall into this category. Fall Mountain is one of them. Claremont and Charlestown have the highest education tax rates in the state. There is no nuance here. The intent was that 100% of the money go to tax relief. The original intent was also that this money be sent directly to the towns. After the bill got through the rules process and other after-processes, it was determined that the money needed to be disbursed to the districts on the towns’ behalf.

I feel cheated. I have been fighting this battle for years. We reached a good faith agreement on a solution. Then,the rug was yanked out from under us. We should not be back in the position of having to fight the school board, administration, and other towns to get our money back. That is where we are though.

Steve

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Thank You Veterans

Today is Veterans Day. There is no apostrophe because it is not a day that belongs to Veterans. It is a day for all of us to honor Veterans. The Korean War memorial is engraved with the message “Freedom Is Not Free”. Take a moment today to thank a veteran for volunteering to don a uniform and risk all to protect what so many take take for granted.

Read some history about the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month here – https://www.npr.org/2019/11/11/777635075/remembering-the-1st-veterans-memorialized-by-veterans-day

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Shocking abuse of power

JLCAR is an extremely powerful committee. The Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules accepts, rejects, or amends rules needed to implement changes in law. Let’s say we passed a law requiring yellow stripes on the backs of cars driven by new drivers. The change to law (RSA, or Revised Statutes Annotated) may be very simple. As an example, the rookie stripe could just be added to the required equipment statute. The bill would also contain a provision allowing the Dept. of Safety to adopt rules to actually make this happen.

What would JLCAR object to validly? If DOS wrote into their rules that they could pull people over if they looked young and did not have a rookie stripe, that should be rejected. It is a violation of due process. If they wrote a rule to create rookie stripe installation stations owned by the state, they should object. The idea is that JLCAR is a check on over-reach, and also a check to ensure that adopted rules work and will implement the new law efficiently and fairly.

What they may not do is use their power to subvert the will of the Legislature, or rewrite laws. They have actually done that. See this NPR article about the new Learn Everywhere program – https://www.nhpr.org/post/rare-move-nh-lawmakers-delay-learn-everywhere-educational-program

You can read about JLCAR and their duties here – https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rules/jlcar/description_members.htm

If they don’t like a law, they can submit a repeal like any other Legislator. JLCAR was never intended to be a mechanism where 7 Legislators can overthrow the will of 424 Legislators and the Governor. That is too much power in too few hands. I have never heard of them trying something like this, until now. This should be a warning to everyone that the Democrat’s leadership is not operating fairly and in good faith. They have a majority in both chambers. If they want to repeal a law they should do it and not resort to tricks like this that undermine the democratic process.

Rep. Steven Smith

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