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Capital Beat

State House Live: N.H. House overwhelmingly defeats marijuana legalization bill

The House stood strongly against legalizing marijuana this afternoon, 192-140. The 52 vote margin represents a major change since the House narrowly passed the bill in January and sent it to the Ways and Means Committee.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, had promised to veto any bill legalizing marijuana.

Supporters of the bill tried to convince their colleagues that many assumptions about marijuana are untrue. Rep. Romeo Danais, a Nottingham Republican, said studies show marijuana is not addictive, does not kill brain cells and is not a gateway drug.

Supporters also pointed to legalizing and taxing marijuana as a new source of revenue. Colorado is expected to bring in $100 million in tax revenue from marijuana this year, Danais said. Furthermore, recent polls from the UNH Survey Center show the majority of New Hampshire residents support legalizing marijuana. Legalizing it would bring sales off the black market and might limit teenagers from smoking it, supporters said.

“This is the only way to break the back of the black market,” said Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican and the bills prime sponsor.

But after nearly two hours of debate, opponents of legalization won out with their arguments that New Hampshire should take small steps regarding marijuana and wait to see what happens in Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is now legal. The House voted to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana earlier this year and Hassan signed a medical marijuana bill into law last year.

“Good public policy means taking one step at a time,” Rep. Donna Schlachman, an Exeter Democrat, said.

Rep. David Hess, a Hooksett Republican, also warned that legalizing marijuana would create a large cash industry, because banks would be unlikely to accept money from the marijuana market.

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1:15 p.m.: Common Core is here to stay in New Hampshire, as House members defeated a motion to stop state involvement in the new standards 201-138.

Lawmakers debated state participation in the standards for two hours yesterday, with opponents saying the standards dumb down the quality of education, create an unfunded mandated and rip away local control.

“I though we wanted excellence in education, not the mediocrity that these standards will produce,” Rep. Laura Jones, a Rochester Republican, said.

The State Board of Education voted to accept the standards in 2010, and many school districts have been implementing them since. Common Core is a set of standards in English language arts and math. Opponents said yesterday they imposed a one-size-fits-all curriculum on schools that will dumb down expectations in math and remove classic literature from classrooms.

But supporters of the standards pointed out that the standards were developed by states and said fears of lower curriculum were unfounded. New Hampshire communities can choose not to align curriculum to Common Core, but all school districts must take the new tests aligned to the standards, starting in 2015.

The aim of Common Core is to raise standards nationwide and better allow U.S. students to compete with their peers on an international level, supporters said. Moving to higher standards will bring difficulties, but students will ultimately benefit, supporters said.

“The Common Core will challenge students, no question about that,” said Rep. Mel Myler, a Contoocook Democrat. “It will challenge parents. Change is not easy, but in the end the Common Core will ready New Hampshire students to be competitive in the 21st century.”

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11:38 a.m.: A move to delay use of new tests aligned to Common Core also failed in the House, 183-150. Instead, the bill will go to interim study.

Starting in spring 2015, schools will start using the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a computer-based test aligned to the new standards. Students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take the test, which measures proficiency in English language arts and math.

Supporters of delaying the test say it has glitches and is not ready for prime time. They also pointed to teachers here and in other states that are asking for a delay in the tests. The bill would’ve delayed the tests and required a committee to study both the test’s content and methodology before giving it to students.

Rep. Rick Ladd, a Haverhill Republican and member of the House Education Committee, pointed out that the tests won’t ask questions about history, civics, science or other subjects besides English and math. This runs the risk of leading teachers down a path of “teaching to the test,” he said.

“I support higher standards, I believe the bar needs to be raised,” Rep. Rick Ladd, a Haverill Republican, said. “But if we have a test that is poorly developed, not validated properly, the standard will be what we have to teach to and we won’t change, we’ll continue going down the same path.”

But opponents of delaying the test said fears of “high stakes” testing shouldn’t exist in New Hampshire. The tests won’t be used in teacher evaluations for the first two years and will then become just one measure of student performance use to evaluate teachers. Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, 20 percent of teacher evaluations will be based on student performance, which can include more than just the Smarter Balanced results.

States are also required to have a statewide assessment, or risk losing federal money. New Hampshire students took the New England Common Assessment Program for the last time this year.

Delaying the test “would be a disaster to the state,” Rep. Mel Myler, a Contoocook Democrat, said. “Like it or not, we need to test students.”

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10:27 a.m.: The House just killed the first in a number of Common Core-related bills it will hear this morning, 182-124.

This bill, by Rep. Glenn Cordelli, a Tuftonburo Republican, would have required a fiscal analysis by the State Board of Education on the cost of the new education standards on local school districts. It also would have stopped the state from adopting any new standards without first completing a fiscal analysis and holding public hearings in each Executive Council District.

The cost analysis would have focused on money spent on professional development, textbook purchases, technology infrastructure and implementing the new tests.

Rep. Mary Stuart Gile, a Concord Democrat and chairwoman of the House Education Committee, said this bill would put a burden on local school districts to gather the information. In testimony, superintendents said the standards weren’t costing them any more money than they usually spend on teaching training and new textbooks.

“Testimony in committee indicated that should this bill pass the responsibility for conducting the fiscal analysis would rest with the local school district and would add an enormous burden, not to mention costs, to local budgets,” Gile said.

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House members are working through a final set of bills today that must be sent to the Senate by the end of tomorrow. Issues they’ll debate include the Common Core education standards, student privacy, legalizing marijuana and more.

Legacy Comments1

It is not NEWS that democrats voted against FISCAL matters - thats democrats tradition

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