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Dave Solomon’s State House Dome: Finance flexes its muscle….on SB 193, the voucher bill

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The Union Leader’s statehouse correspondent Dave Solomon is watching SB 913 closely and had this to say today:

The Finance Committee’s power was on full display recently, as two important pieces of legislation already approved by the House went through the committee’s Cusinart and came out as something entirely different -the school choice bill (SB 193) and the family medical leave bill (HB 628).

The House Education Committee worked on the Senate-passed school choice bill, SB 193, for the better part of a year and handed it over to the full House in January, where is passed 184-162. The bill calls for state-funded scholarships for certain children to attend private schools, including religious schools, or to pay for home schooling.

Called the “school voucher bill” by critics and “freedom scholarships” by supporters, the bill would be substantially changed by a proposed amendment being guided through the Finance Committee by Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare.

The changes include substantial reductions in subsidies to cities and towns that lose public school students; tighter qualifications for those seeking scholarships; more accountability for the private schools that get the money; and further delays in implementation.

A committee vote on the Kurk amendment was expected Wednesday but was recessed until April 4 to allow even more tinkering and a lot of political maneuvering behind the scenes.

According to multiple sources close to that maneuvering, Kurk is opposed to the concept of the bill and is trying to kill it, but is under intense pressure from Gov. Chris Sununu’s office and Republican leadership in the House.

The negotiations have been intense. Sununu apparently wants first-graders to be eligible for the scholarships, while some on the Finance Committee feel kids should at least have some experience with public school before they decide it doesn’t suit them. First-graders were excluded, then included, then excluded again in an attempt to retain key votes.

It’s now possible that Kurk will vote for interim study when the bill, in whatever form, comes to the full Finance Committee in April, and at least half a dozen other Republicans could follow his lead.

When asked about his alleged opposition to the bill on Thursday, Kurk would only say, “When I see the bill I’ll tell you how I plan to vote on it, but I haven’t seen the bill.”

Read the whole piece here: Dave Solomon’s State House Dome: Finance flexes its muscle | New Hampshire

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