Education mandate bill dies in the Senate

  • Forrest Beaudoin-Friede

Monitor staff
Thursday, June 22, 2017

A bill disability rights advocates warned would imperil protections for special education students in New Hampshire died by a unanimous vote in the Senate on Thursday.

House Bill 620, a measure intended to limit unfunded mandates, would have prohibited the State Board of Education from writing rules that “exceed the minimum requirements of federal law” if they triggered unreimbursed expenditures or imposed administrative burdens on local school districts. The bill was an effort to limit the power of state agencies, which write rules that carry the force of law, to fill in details after legislatures pass new statutes.

Disability rights advocates had argued that the language was overly broad, and that existing protections written into rules would go away when either the rules or the underlying laws came up for reauthorization.

But ultimately, lawmakers said technical mistakes prevented them from supporting the House bill on Thursday.

“A new term I learned this week was ‘void for vagueness,’ and this certainly fits the description of void for vagueness. But in the end, we are presenting to the Governor a bill that he would have to veto because it amends the wrong statute. So for that reason, by itself, we should oppose this committee of conference report,” Sen. John Reagan, a Deerfield Republican, told his colleagues from the Senate floor on Thursday.

Without further discussion, the bill was killed by a unanimous voice vote.

We are “thrilled that the New Hampshire Rules for Education of Children with Disabilities are safe for the time being,” said Lisa Beaudoin, of ABLE-NH. “Unfortunately, we believe the language or the intent of this amendment will probably come back.”

Disability rights advocates twice battled lawmakers over the bill during the session. Facing pushback, House lawmakers in March amended the bill to significantly soften the proposed legislation’s language. A conference committee last week strengthened the language of the proposal, prompting a new round of lobbying from parents and activists.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)