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Week in Review: Education and Bedford Ballots

Good Morning, Bedford!

It's hard to know where to begin to summarize some of the key points of information from the NH House this week. Should I start with the new LOCAL Education Freedom Accounts that would take money from our Bedford School Budget? Should I highlight the hearing on the vaccine mandate or the fact that Republican leadership removed one of their own from the House Education Committee while the committee was in session because they feared he might vote with the minority? Or maybe go back to the Election of 2020 and the fact that I still feel like there are questions begging to be answered? I will be as brief as possible...

On Tuesday, two retained bills were brought before House Education with amendments that either came in at the 11th hour (HB 607) or had nothing to do with the original bill (HB 255). This allowed the prohibition of vaccine mandates by any NH entity (business, school, club, church, etc...) to be brought forth as a "non-germane" topic, meaning that it had nothing to do with the original bill, but was allowed to replace it. The Committee heard over five hours of testimony from the public in a hearing announced on November 9. Between the hearing and the actual vote by the committee on whether or not the bill would be brought forward to the full House, Rep. Jim Allard (R) of Pittsfield was stripped of his committee assignment and sent to Fish and Game. It appears that the majority leadership had reason to believe he might not support prohibiting a vaccine mandate. I have no idea if this is true or not, because he was removed before he had the opportunity to speak, but I can tell you that anybody who doesn't think Rep. Allard represents the people of Pittsfield with integrity and grit doesn't know Jim Allard. We disagreed on most things, but collaborated on some, and his old school style of civility and respect for all is what we should be moving BACK to, not away from. This is disgraceful. The bill ultimately passed 11-8 and will now go before the full chamber.

I have attached an article on HB 607. In a nutshell, this establishes ANOTHER Education Freedom Account, only this one has NO income limit (everyone is eligible) and relies on money to come out of the local taxes collected for educational purposes. It will require 60% of the voters to approve a warrant article that authorizes its existence, and if it passes, it will provide an amount of money to be determined by the superintendent based on the school budget minus special education costs. If you read the article, you will see that each town will be required to offer a different amount (based on the proposed formula), so in one community you might get $4800 per student and in another it could be $12,000. These dollars will come out of the local taxes currently collected to fund our public schools. I don't know how this will fare on the House floor, but if it passes, you should be VERY worried about the impact on our schools (aka: your property value). Oh, did I mention that there was an amendment to the amendment in order to remove the income limits? Yup. Democrats on the committee got that amendment in Representatives Hall at approximately 4:45 pm and were expected to vote on it immediately. Does that sound like an opportunity for considerate thought and discussion to you? It was not.

On home ground, The Town Council met with Moderator Bill Klein and Assistant Moderator Brian Shaughnnesy on address the 190 absentee ballots that were not counted in the 2020 election. While I agree that this was the result of human error and that there was no nefarious intent, I think voters deserve a detailed account of what the heck happened that includes who spoke to whom, when, and how. Surely there must be a paper trail or phone records that can establish a timeline to which the Attorney General's Office, the Secretary of State's Office and our town officials can all agree? I spoke to Secretary of State Bill Gardner myself last week and I know he is pursuing all options to see if those votes can, in fact, be counted in the final tallies. I am sure the Ballot Law Commission will need to weigh in on this, so a resolution may still take a bit. At the end of the day, the most important part of making mistakes it to learn from them. Every vote counts and every voter matters. There is nothing more fundamental to our democracy than that...

Happy Thanksgiving to All! sm

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