… or, “It’s 5 p.m.; do you know where your representatives are?”
After an hour of debate at the end of a long day, the New Hampshire House today voted 188-151 to pass HB 370. This bill to repeal the new education tax credit now goes to the Senate. Most Democrats favored repeal, and most Republicans opposed it – hardly a surprise. I’ve addressed the bill at length in earlier posts. The debate broke no new ground. In fact, many seats were empty during the floor speeches, as though a number of reps took a break while knowing exactly what was going to be said.
A few names ought to be named, so that praise and blame go where they belong.
Rep. David Hess (R-Hooksett) led the defenders of the tax credit in floor debate. He was joined by Kris Roberts (D-Keene), Pam Tucker (R-Greenland), Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill), and Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford) in calling for defeat of the bill so that the tax credit and associated scholarship program could continue. Roberts, a Democrat, gets extra credit in my book for standing up for school choice. That’s not a popular view with House leadership this year.
Arguments on the other side began with Mary Gile (D-Concord), who was followed by Lorrie Carey (D-Boscawen), Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro), Susan Almy (D-Lebanon), and Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester). “Elections have consequences,” thundered Rep. Vaillancourt. I’m not sure if he was gloating or just being loud. In either case, he had a point. All of these speakers beginning with Rep. Gile conflated “voucher” with “tax credit.” That’s inaccurate, of course, but they all know that “voucher” is a dog-whistle term that’s useful for calling together people who are skeptical of nontraditional education.
Seven Republicans bucked their caucus and supported repeal: Vaillancourt, Carolyn Gargasz of Hollis, Priscilla Lockwood of Canterbury, Jeff Oligny of Plaistow, Timothy Copeland of Stratham, John Sytek of Salem, and James Grenier of Goshen.
There were five Democrats who voted to kill the bill and keep the education tax credit going: Roberts, Michael Garcia of Nashua, Jean Jeudy of Manchester, Tim O’Flaherty of Manchester, and Joel Winters of Nashua. Good for them.
Kate Baker of NEO was smiling after the vote. “Did you see those numbers?” More reps opposed repeal than she expected. She appears ready for the Senate hearing, whenever it may be.
More than 40 representatives are listed on today’s roll call as “not voting.” That’s different from an excused absence. Some may have just ducked the vote, although the lateness of the hour may have forced some early departures for family or work obligations. (These reps get $100 a year, remember.)
No date has been set for the Senate hearing on the bill.