New Hampshire

New Hampshire seniors receive diploma on mountain top

It’s all downhill from here for New Hampshire high school seniors who got their diplomas atop a mountain before riding a chairlift back to the ski area’s base.
With high school graduation ceremonies in jeopardy because of the coronavirus pandemic, Kennett High School in North Conway principal Kevin Carpenter says he wanted to use the community’s resources to make the best of a horrible situation. Cranmore Mountain ski resort offered its services at no cost for Saturday’s ceremony.
The 174 seniors each were allowed to have four guests join them for a 10-minute ride on the chairlift to the mountain summit, where they got their diploma and were photographed.
RHODE ISLAND Rhode Island is offering landlords a financial incentive to rent property to those without homes during the pandemic.
A new state program gives landlords a $2,000 bonus for the first rental unit they make available for someone experiencing homelessness, and they can receive $500 for each additional unit.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said the state provides housing vouchers to those in need, but many struggle to find landlords willing to rent to them. She’s calling on landlords to pledge at least 100 rental units by July 1.
“Right now, there are many housing-insecure Rhode Islanders that need a safe place to stay,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Homelessness is always devastating, but all the more so during a global pandemic.”
The program is being coordinated by United Way, which will help match renters and landlords.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is resuming road tests for new drivers whose exams were canceled because of the pandemic, and it’s offering a new online test for those seeking a learner’s permit.
The agency says it’s contacting customers to reschedule appointments that had previously been arranged for March, April or May. Under new safety protocols, the tests will be provided only in state or driving school vehicles, which will be cleaned after each test.
New applicants won’t be allowed to take tests until all canceled appointments have been rescheduled.
The agency is also allowing teenagers to take a home version of the state’s learner’s permit test. Customers must make an appointment at a registry service center and then take the online test at home within 60 days.
New cases of COVID-19 in Maine increased by 36, but no new deaths have been reported, state health officials said Saturday.
Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 2,757 total cases statewide, with 29 patients in hospitals.
The number of deaths from the virus remained at 100, officials said. WMTW-TV reports it marks the fourth consecutive day with no new COVID-19 deaths in Maine.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.
The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles is restarting its motorcycle permit and endorsement testing in a phased approach next week. Commissioner Wanda Minoli said starting Monday the public may start scheduling to take the written test for a motorcycle permit and the skills test for a motorcycle endorsement to be added to their license.
“Vermonters now have the opportunity to obtain their motorcycle permit or endorsement and enjoy Vermont’s motorcycle riding season safely,” she said Friday in a written statement.
Written learner’s permit testing will be available at Agency of Transportation training center in Berlin Monday and Friday. Motorcycle skills testing for the motorcycle endorsement will take place in the agency’s training center parking lot on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. All transactions and appointments take place in an open space facility and offices will remain closed to the public, she said.

New Hampshire

Senate Transportation Committee passes omnibus bill 

CONCORD – Today, the Senate Transportation Committee passed Amendment #1366s to HB 1182, an omnibus transportation bill, co-sponsored by Senate Transportation Chair David Watters (D-Dover) and Senator Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead).  

After the committee vote, Senate Transportation Chair David Watters (D-Dover) issued the following statement:  

“A 21st century, multimodal transportation system is essential to economic growth. Particularly as we begin our economic recovery, there are actions we are able to take both at the state and federal level that allow transportation to drive our economy as we put people to work, and create a more resilient and energy efficiency system that begins to develop a new economy. The 10-Year Highway Plan encompassed in this amendment both improves existing infrastructure and gets people to work. Our transportation system is an economic driver and job creator, as we look ahead it is critical that we continue to improve and advance.” 

New Hampshire

Shaheen calls on DeVos to reverse unlawful directive

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter this week to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demanding that the Trump administration immediately revise a directive distributed in April that defies the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act with regard to federal funds provided for services for private school students.

According to the law under the CARES Act, school districts receiving these federal dollars are to provide funding for private school student services based on the private school enrollment of low income students. DeVos’ April directive flouts this stipulation, and instead, directs schools to provide funds for services for private school students based on total private school enrollment in that district. In her letter, Shaheen underscores that this violation of the CARES Act is an effort to redirect resources to wealthier private school families instead of to provide support for low-income students.

Shaheen highlighted how the administration’s flawed implementation of the law has resulted in significant delays in getting funds out the door to schools and continues to create confusion for schools. Shaheen wrote, “My state of New Hampshire was allocated more than $37 million of these funds. However, our schools have had their access to this funding delayed for more than two months after this critical law was enacted, and confusion still persists over the total amount of funding that will be available to support our public school students.”

The Senator continued, “This unfounded direction from your agency is a blatant attempt to redirect resources and services to wealthier private school students, in the midst of a global pandemic and in clear contradiction to the law. Additionally, the April 30 document has caused serious confusion for states and school districts as they struggle to comply with the law despite this conflicting direction from your department.”

Senator Shaheen closed her letter requesting that DeVos immediately revise this confusing guidance and implement the CARES Act as Congress intended. Shaheen’s letter can be read in full here.

In May, Senator Shaheen hosted a conference call with New Hampshire school officials and administrators to discuss ongoing COVID response efforts and additional help needed to assist teachers, schools and families with remote learning. Delays in CARES Act funding and confusing implementation guidance from the Trump administration on the private school student services funding issue was one of the top concerns.

Supporting New Hampshire students, teachers and schools amid the COVID-19 crisis has been a top priority for Senator Shaheen. She’s participated in virtual classes while students were engaged in remote learning, speaking with educators and students virtually from Holderness Central School’s 4th grade social studies classNorthwood Elementary School’s 8th grade social studies class and Nashua High School South’s “Woman as Hero” course. Shaheen is a cosponsor of legislation that would help ensure all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. Shaheen also sent a letter urging increased federal funding for schools and school employees, such as cafeteria staff, bus drivers and custodians, who are working overtime to support their communities during the pandemic. In addition, Shaheen wrote to the U.S. Department of Education expressing concern for children with disabilities amid the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just last week, Shaheen and a group of Senators sent a letter to DeVos, slamming her final Title IX rule, which will weaken protections for student survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and requires schools implement this new rule within 100 days amid the COVID-19 crisis.

New Hampshire

Remarks about George Floyd delivered on floor of New Hampshire House

At the conclusion of the New Hampshire House session on Thursday, June 11, Representatives Charlotte DiLorenzo (D-Newmarket) and Linda Harriott-Gathright (D-Nashua) took Unanimous Consent to speak about George Floyd.  The text of the speech given by Representatives DiLorenzo and Harriott-Gathright is provided in its entirety below:

“Who was George Floyd?

George Perry Floyd was a 46-year-old Minnesota man who was a son, brother, father, uncle, nephew, and a friend to his neighbors and church family. George, sometimes referred to as Perry, is lovingly remembered by his family as Georgie Podgy or Big Floyd.

Born in North Carolina, George’s family moved to Houston, Texas where he was a star player for the Yates High School football and basketball teams. George, at 6-feet 4-inches tall, was recalled by his friends and family as a gentle giant with an easy smile and a deep, bass voice. In school, he loved to joke with his classmates, and despite his size was known to be a pretty mellow person.  Awarded a sports scholarship, George was the first person in his family to attend college. After 2 years at South Florida Community College, George transferred to Texas A&M. After dropping out of college, George returned to Houston and worked as an automobile customizer and was a hip-hop music artist. Mr. Floyd fell on hard times and spent time in prison.  One time he spent 10 months in jail after being found guilty of a $10 drug offense.

After fulfilling his sentence, and debt to society, George moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota to start a new life.  He found work as a truck driver and a restaurant/nightclub bouncer and he became a church member and volunteer.  George went on to work as a security guard at a Salvation Army Homeless Shelter and Transitional Housing facility.  In his new life, Mr. Floyd made an anti-violence video and served as a mentor for the young men of his church.  When the COVID-19 shutdown closed many businesses, George was laid off from his job. In April, 2020 George contracted and survived the virus. The COVID-19 virus shutdown changed the financial circumstances and impacted the lives of many Americans including Mr. Floyd’s. On a scale deeper than that of the great recession, Americans were locked out of their livelihoods, locked in their homes, by a stealth pandemic that claimed more than 100,000 American lives.

Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, a day Americans pay honor to our military veterans was strangely somber. There were no parades or public ceremonies honoring our military heroes.  On that fateful Memorial Day George, under suspicion for allegedly trying to pass a $20 counterfeit bill at a neighborhood store, lost his life during an arrest when a uniformed Minneapolis police officer pinned him down and knelt on his neck. Handcuffed, and physically suffering, Mr. Floyd called out for mercy. “I can’t breathe.”

Those Minneapolis policemen did not hear George, they did not let him breathe.  George called out for his mother and he still could not breathe.  Were it not for a brave, young woman who recorded the incident with her cell phone, we might not have known the true story of how George Floyd lost his life. Now the entire world knows that George Floyd’s life was snuffed out by the weight of a man whose duty it was to serve and protect, a man who decided he was judge and executioner, while 3 other policemen, George Floyd’s de-facto jury, looked on. Those 4 men broke their pledge of allegiance to liberty and justice for all.

The whole world is watching America: the land of the free, a land where the lives of black men, women and children have suffered and been killed by racist violence for over 400 years. Today we say “enough is enough.”   It’s time America, for you to fulfill your promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for not just some of the people but for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, sexual identity, age, disability or income level.   This is America’s promise.

George Perry Floyd did not die in vain.  His last gasp for precious breath sent a shock wave around the globe. People rose up and protested, colleges have launched scholarship funds in Mr. Floyd’s name and local, state, and federal governments are crafting much needed reforms in our criminal justice system.  People all over this country are crying out:   Black Lives Matter. We will not rest; we will not retreat until justice is served for George Perry Floyd and the many other George Floyds of our country.”

New Hampshire

Work begins on cooperative middle school renewal project

EXETER — Superintendent David Ryan and Principal Patricia Wons are pleased to share that work on the Cooperative Middle School is officially underway.
The $17.8 million project, approved by voters in March 2019, will result in an expansion of the existing middle school building at 100 Academic Way. The new space includes 10 new classrooms, a new kitchen, a new cafeteria and a new multipurpose room, and alleviates concerns of overcrowding while offering modernized areas to meet education needs today. The added space will also allow the current spaces to be repurposed and updated, creating additional office and learning spaces for staff and students. The new cafeteria will allow for three lunches instead of six, creating more flexibility in the school day schedule going forward.
“We’re really excited about what this project will look like when it’s completed and our students are thrilled as well,Principal Wons said. “We put a lot of thought into the design of the new spaces and repurposing the current areas of the school to create an environment that best suits the needs of our students, teachers and staff. I’m grateful for all who have helped us with the project, especially Assistant Principal Bill Perkins, who has been a vital resource and driver throughout all of this.”
The benefit of the new spaces will be shared with the at-large community as well. Many local groups and organizations use the facilities on the weekends already, when facilities are not closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new spaces will be available for them to utilize during outside of school hours and during summer breaks as well.
When the school building closed to the public in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction workers were able to come in to begin the work slightly ahead of schedule. Already, foundations have been laid and temporary walls erected for the additions.
“This project will add the diversified space we require for our exceptional learners at CMS, especially our students with unique and personalized learning needs, and we’re grateful for the support from the community that’s helped make this possible,” said Superintendent Ryan. “We’re extremely pleased with the work that’s been done so far and look forward to being able to show the completed space to the community when conditions permit us to do.”
While it’s unknown at this time if or how many students will be returning to the building in the fall, plans have already been put in place to place students and teachers elsewhere in the building. For example, while the current multipurpose room is unavailable due to construction, students will be using the chorus room for those activities and chorus classes will be held in the auditorium.
Work is continuing as scheduled and expected to wrap up sometime in the fall of 2021. Harvey Construction in Bedford, N.H. was hired to build the addition and the space itself was designed by Harriman, an architecture and engineering firm based in Maine.
New Hampshire

Hassan speaks with N.H. educators

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan spoke with New Hampshire educators over video conference today about the challenges that both teachers and students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including broadband access, meeting special education needs, and reopening in the fall.

“Thank you for the work you’ve done as educators, I can only begin to imagine what the last several months have been like as educators – and as people who have your own personal lives and family obligations to balance through this difficult time,” Senator Hassan said.

During the discussion, educators across the state shared challenges with the lack of reliable broadband access for remote learning.

“One of the major issues we’ve had has been with remote learning is Wi-Fi access,” said Tracy Locke, a social studies teacher at Lisbon Regional School. “I have students in my classes that go and sit for an hour in a vehicle at the local library or someplace like that because internet access is so random here, and it’s actually quite poor in some spots.”

Senator Hassan, who recently joined in introducing legislation to help get Wi-Fi hotspots and other internet connectivity devices to students, shared, “The pandemic has laid bare the digital divide in very stark ways – as it has laid bare a whole lot of other kinds of disparities, including the fact that the impacts of remote learning are disproportionally impacting students of color and [students who are] low-income.”

The participants also discussed the challenges in meeting the needs of some students, including students with disabilities.

“I am so hoping that districts and towns and parents and everybody sees the important work that our [Education Support Professionals] do in our schools, because when budget cuts come those are the first to go,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-New Hampshire. “And unfortunately they work the closest with a lot of our kids…I’m really afraid those jobs are going to go away because they’re easy to just let go.”

Deb Howes, a teacher at Amherst Street Elementary School in Nashua, echoed a similar sentiment, “I can’t tell you how many [special education teachers] I’ve talked to on the phone who were in tears because they weren’t able to meet their students’ needs remotely.”

This week, Senator Hassan participated in a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing where she discussed the importance of ensuring that students who experience disabilities have the same educational opportunities as their peers. During the hearing, the Senator highlighted the need for Congress to provide additional funds to schools through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Carrie Feyler, a technology teacher for the Rochester School District, also talked about the challenges to reopening schools in the fall, especially for younger students: “I worry about the reality of the guidelines…there isn’t six feet of space in a classroom to put all the desks. Kids don’t sit in their own desk all day long anymore, that’s not elementary school in 2020. They’re moving, they’re going, they’re all over the place.”

The participants also discussed the importance of providing mental and behavioral health support to students, an issue that has become increasingly important as the pandemic has upended children’s routines and daily lives. Senator Hassan recently joined her colleagues in calling for robust funding for children’s behavioral health care in upcoming COVID-19 response legislation.


New Hampshire

Morse, French oppose anti-business legislation

CONCORD – On Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate Commerce Committee voted to pass HB 1166 with amendment 2020-1349s, an omnibus related to unemployment compensation. An amendment was offered to repeal the business tax increase triggers to support small businesses. This amendment was rejected by Senate Democrats. Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Senator Harold French (R-Franklin) issued the following statements:

“The Department of Unemployment Security could not have been more clear that this bill would be a disaster for New Hampshire small businesses,” said Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse (R-Salem). “It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars when small businesses are already facing unprecedented difficulties, jeopardize federal funding and creates a disincentive for people to get back to work. It is disappointing that my democratic colleagues rejected my amendment and instead doubled down on their support to increase business taxes when small businesses are struggling to get by.”

“Our businesses are doing everything they can to reopen while protecting the health and safety of their customers and employees,” said Senator Harold French (R-Franklin). “This legislation will put added financial pressure on businesses that are already near their breaking point. If this legislation were to become law, businesses will close and more people will be put out of work. This is unacceptable and I hope Governor Sununu vetoes this immediately.”

New Hampshire

House Republicans block consideration of all issues – except business growlers

Today, the New Hampshire House convened with the intention of continuing the business of the 2020 legislative session.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, House deadlines must be reset for most legislation to move forward.  Republican members voted against resetting House deadlines, and all motions to allow consideration of specific legislation, except for a bill on beer growlers.  House Majority Leader Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey) released the following statement:

“The display of political opportunism exhibited by House Republicans today shows that they did not come to the session interested in doing their job for the people of New Hampshire, but instead came only to obstruct the very detailed and safe process that both House staff and UNH staff have devoted months to planning and executing.

Democrats brought forward a number of proposals to benefit the people of New Hampshire today – increased protections for children, assistance for renters impacted by COVID-19, an examination of racial profiling and unconscious bias in policing, and a highway plan update critical to our state’s long-term planning.  Republicans rejected every one of these proposals and criticized Democrats for even trying to pass them. The only issue they allowed to move forward was legislation on beer growlers.  While beer is important, Democrats believe that children, renters, police accountability and our state’s highway infrastructure are higher priorities for the state of New Hampshire.”

New Hampshire

Senate President Soucy reacts to business tax triggers

CONCORD – On Thursday, Senate Republicans voted against pandemic protections for workers, trying to gut a bill dedicated to COVID relief and recovery to eviscerate a bipartisan budget agreement.   

Senate President Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) issued the following statement in response:   

“Senate Democrats are working hard to provide relief and recovery to thousands of Granite Staters impacted by COVID-19. It is disappointing that my Republican colleagues are more interested in helping big businesses than working families.  

In our 2019 budget negotiations, the Legislature and Governor Sununu agreed to business tax triggers that would help to ensure the stability of our state government, and prevent downshifting of costs to property taxpayers. Any discussion about breaking that agreement is premature since we really don’t know the full impact on revenues. Businesses have rightly been granted an extension on their tax payments due to the state of emergency, and thus, the data needed to have an informed conversation and make a decision in the best interest of New Hampshire will not be available for months.   

An amendment brought forward by Senator Morse and Senator Bradley is not about small business protections–it is about protecting large corporations. At the present time, the Legislature is focused on the issues we are currently facing as a state, including protections for workers and homeowners. We agree that no tax payer, including our small businesses, should be responsible for bearing the cost of this crisis and when the time comes, we will have that conversation with accurate, and timely data.”

New Hampshire

Birdsell, Gray disagree with committee on authority to spend CARES Act dollars

CONCORD – On Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee adopted an amendment to HB 1129, directing certain CARES Act funding to Broadband support, a Housing Recovery Fund and Homeless support. Senator Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) and Senator James Gray (R-Rochester) issued the following statements:

“There are some parts of this bill that could have had bipartisan support, but the legislature is not responsible for spending CARES Act funds,” said Senator Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead). “At the same time we were voting on this legislation Governor Sununu was announcing new CARES Act funding for these same programs. The reality is Governor Sununu and the GOFERR Committee have the ability to react quicker than the legislature and I commend the Governor for his leadership during these unprecedented circumstances.”

“I cannot support a piece of legislation that spends funds the legislature has no authority to spend,” said Senator James Gray (R-Rochester). “Unfortunately, the amendment I offered to fix that discrepancy was not adopted leaving us without a bipartisan compromise. Governor Sununu is doing an admirable job and the legislature should be working with him for the benefit of all Granite Staters.”