Senate Backs Creating New School Construction Fund

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Sen. Timothy Lang, R-Sanbornton, speaks in favor of Senate Bill 342 to overhaul the state school building program and allow charter schools to participate Wednesday on the Senate floor.


CONCORD — The state’s school building aid program would be overhauled and opened to state approved charter schools under a bill passed by the Senate Wednesday.

The Senate decided to invest a shared public deposit pool in state financial institutions instead of in out-of-state or out of the country investment firms and agreed to purge voter checklists every five years instead of 10-year intervals.

School Building Aid

Senate Bill 342 would establish a new school building construction fund with both general fund and education trust fund money over a number of years until it reaches $80 million, which would then replace the current school building aid program.

The bill would allocate money to each school district in the state, which would have to develop building plans that would need to be approved by the Department of Education.

The construction fund would be established with $30 million in state general fund money, then every year, an additional $5 million of Education Trust Fund Money would go into the fund, and the $50 million annual building aid fund would be reduced by that amount of money.

Once the fund reaches $80 million, the state treasurer would allocate the same amount of money annually to the construction fund which would be available for both traditional school building and charter school building programs.

The Senate voted down party lines, 14-10, to initially approve the bill which now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for review.

Public Investment

On a unanimous 24-0 vote, the Senate approved Senate Bill 553, which would move the state’s $680 million Public Deposit Investment Pool into the state’s financial institutions once the current contract ends.

The pool was created more than 30 years ago after the state’s five largest banks failed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation became the single biggest property owner in the state.

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said when the pooled money is transferred to state institutions, it will increase commercial lending in the state by $200 million, creating 2,000 jobs, while providing municipalities $60 million in additional money over five years, doubling current returns, and about the same amount of money for the state treasury.

And she said if the bill is approved, the investment pool with be secured, which it is not now.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, told about working late in Manchester City Hall one night in 1991 and seeing cars of men in black and gray suits flood the streets as the FDIC came to take over Manchester’s biggest banks.

It is now 33 years later, and it is a different financial climate and environment, and it is time to make a change that will be extraordinary for communities all over the state, she said.

Local banks and credit unions will lend that money out to commercial operators and citizens, Soucy said. 

“Think of the impact that has the potential to make, the potential is really extraordinary,” she said. “Change is difficult for some folks, but it is going to be okay.”

The bill now goes to the House.

Voting Rolls

House Bill 490 was approved to require voting checklists be verified and updated every five years instead of the current law, which is every 10 years.

Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, said the last purge of the checklist removed a considerable number of people, as there is more mobility these days with people staying on average of five years in their home and better systems to track people who do move.

He said of those removed from the checklist in the last purge, only 3 or 4 percent had to reregister to vote. A large number of voters had not voted for a long time, Gray noted.

“We are trying to instill voter confidence,” he said, “and there are legitimate concerns that cause some to lose confidence.”

But Soucy said the problem is with how the bill wants to update and clean up the checklists by removing voters, instead of some of the other available methods to verify legitimate voters.

She noted if a person only votes in presidential election years, he or she would only need to skip one presidential election to be removed from the checklist under the bill.

“I have no disagreement that New Hampshire should strive to keep voter rolls up to date and as clean as possible,” she said, “but I question how you go about it. You’re not employing the right tool.”

She said there is a constitutional guarantee you have a right to vote if you are a resident of the state and over 18 years old.

If you make the decision not to exercise your right, and are removed from the checklist, why do you have to go back and reregister, she said.

Removing people from the checklist will add more stress for election workers who will see an increase in same-day registration when a person finds out they are no longer registered, Soucy said.

“The only thing they did was to exercise their right to decide not to exercise their right,” Soucy said.

The bill passed on a voice vote and is now headed to the House for action.

Other Action

The Senate passed Senate Bill 489, which makes election audits of counting devises permanent and requires they be done before recounts are begun. The bill is headed to the House.

Senate Bill 539 requires campaign receipt and expenditure reports from candidates or political action committees to be legible or they will not be posted by the Secretary of State’s Office until they are.

Senate Bill 387 would allow recovery centers and community mental health centers to use state parks free of charge in a three-year pilot program.

Senate Bill 393 makes $25 million from several different funds available for Derry in phase two of the Southern New Hampshire Water Project for towns impacted by PFAS contamination and service demands.

Senate Bill 473 would use money the state collects for the education trust fund through unclaimed historic horse racing tickets to go to the Governor’s Scholarship Fund.

Senate Bill 580 would use the sale of toll credits to establish a fund to build noise barriers along highways.

And Senate Bill 352 establishes an early cancer detection program for fire fighters with $5 million from the general fund.

The Senate is on vacation next week.

Garry Rayno may be reached at Garry is’s State House bureau chief.

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