State House News Service
Senate Session - Thursday, June 22, 2000


CONVENES: The Senate convened at 1:28 pm, President Thomas Birmingham presiding.

SPENCER: The Senate ordered to a third reading, then engrossed H 5229 filling a vacancy on the Spencer Board of Selectmen.

SUPP BUDGET: Question came on the fiscal 2000 supplemental budget. Sen. Montigny said this is a supplemental budget for the current year. These are true deficiencies. Without action, we would expect layoffs. About $188 million is for the Division of Medical Assistance.

The Senate ordered to a third reading, then engrossed H 5268 $202 million supplemental budget.

BONDS AND NOTES: The Senate ordered to a third reading, then engrossed H 5202 terms of certain bonds and notes.


TEACHER RETIREMENT: Question came on overriding the governor's veto of H 5116 teacher recruitment, retention and retirement.

Sen. Rauschenbach said I have previously voted in favor of this bill, but I will be voting in favor of sustaining the governor's veto. I ask that decision not based on the question of whether the teachers of the state are deserving. They are. But there are concerns about the cost and the implications that this has for other groups. I raise the concern as what the impact will be going forward. On June 20, the House Ways and Means Committee released a bill affecting public safety employees. It provides them with alternative retirement. We all know that the vote we take today will create a rising up of pressure. There will be pressure from other groups. From where I sit, it just seems to make sense that we take a step back and take a comprehensive look at this. Are we going to set up a different standard for our police officers? We should pause on this matter. What we do today will come back at us next year, and how to we say no in the end?

Sen. Havern said this should be considered as it stands on its own. The truth is that of all the ed reform we've done, this will have the most dramatic effect. Having traveled the state discussing this, I think it's of tremendous importance to understand that teachers have to teach for about 35 years for their pension. That's a long time. If we want to change the face of education, this literally does it. This will also offer an incentive for young people to get into teaching. It's the best thing we can do.

Sen. Lees said it is tough for me to rise on this because the governor has indicated that this piece of legislation goes to far. I don't think there is anyone who thinks there isn't a possibility of a problem. If this is implemented, we may have to come back and look at this again. But I respectfully must disagree with the governor. I hope we can all be adults about this, so if there are problems, we can address them next year.

Sen. Joyce said I view this as a tie-in to our whole push to improve education. In 1992, we were ranked 45 of 50 states in terms of our education commitment. Since that time we have invested billions of dollars into our schools. At the same time we are making these changes, and insisting on high standards, we are trying to elevate the profession of teaching. We are demanding that teachers show their proficiency. We should also pay them a fair and decent wage, and provide them with an equitable retirement. I am struck by the fact that teachers who were veteran teachers in 1970 and who are still teaching. Many of them are tired and hanging on for their pension. It seems to me this bill -- there is no question. It is the third part of education reform.

Sen. Tisei said I will vote to override. I understand the concerns raised. I understand the questions the governor has raised. I think we should go further, and let people retire after 10 years. The Department of Education has not been aggressive in alternative education settings. The average person today has three or four careers. We need to make the profession easier to enter, not just leave, particularly in the areas of math and science. We should be doing everything we can to encourage those professionals to enter the profession.




Sen. Walsh moved that the clerk be directed to print a second summary of the Taxation Committee's position on Gov. Paul Cellucci's income tax rollback ballot initiative.

Sen. Lees said I know what you are intending to do here, but I think voters will be confused. You are asking that we put forward a Senate opinion on the ballot question, since we apparently don't agree with the House on this. I don't agree with you. I think you are all out of touch, but we will let the voters decide. But I am afraid that voters will get confused because there will be a minority and a majority summary.

Sen. Walsh said this order is relative to the income tax ballot question. We had many petitions before our committee. We had a hearing. This is a complicated measure and the committee had varying opinions relative to what we should do. The majority of the membership was opposed to lowering the rate. That Republicans offered a minority report, saying they support the initiative. We are trying to inform the voters. We will also have another minority opinion, that of the Senate, because they are different reasons than the House. This has happened before. We want to provide the public with the knowledge of our reasoning. A similar situation occurred in 1994, when only one member offered a minority report. The two minority reports and the majority reports will be provided to the voters.

Sen. Lees said this is a procedure that's been used before, but I have a couple of concerns. We are talking about information being sent to the voters. That information will contain a majority report saying this should fail. We will have a minority report saying it should pass. And we will have a second minority report saying that this should not pass. The chairman of Taxation is a good person and I don't question her, but I am concerned that by sending this information, it could be confusing. Why can't you include all the information in the majority report? I believe the majority of the Senate is totally out of touch. There are people who are trying to make extra points. I do have a problem with doing this. It's a way of getting your opinion out twice and maybe confuse people. Sen. Lees said I apologize if I did not explain it very well. I believe this could be misconstrued. That's my point.

Sen. Walsh said I appreciate the vigor of the discussion. We aren't trying to confuse the voter. It's the detail that will allow us to get our job done. This is a copy (holding up an information booklet) I will admit of the official information booklet on the 1994 ballot questions. Sometimes members of a committee come to different reasons for their recommendations. In 1994, the Taxation Committee had a majority report. Later on in the same booklet there was a minority report, also in bold print and signed by various members of the committee. On page 24, there is an additional minority report. It's preferable to keep things simpler. Unfortunately, sometimes it's unavoidable. One Republican in this case could not sign onto the majority report or the minority report so under the Constitution a second minority report is allowed. We want to deal with the public in a straightforward manner. A lot is learned from this discussion.

Sen. Lees said point of parliamentary inquiry. In this order offered, there is no indication of what action has been taken in the House. Has it passed there?

Sen. Birmingham said the House has adopted a report, a traditional majority and minority report. This is an order only of the Senate.

Sen. Lees said if the House doesn't do anything what happens, because something has to be printed?

Sen. Birmingham said the effect of the order is in the nature of a request to the Secretary of State to print the Senate position as part of the materials that are going to be accompanying the ballot.

Sen. Lees said if this is really up to the Secretary of State, this order will not go to the governor but to the Secretary of State?

Sen. Birmingham said that would be correct.

Sen. Lees said Sen. Walsh said this happened before. It is my understanding the majority and minority reports were still yes and no. In this case, one minority report is a no and the second one is a yes. If you really look at it you will have a majority report saying no and a minority report saying no. I think Rep. Gauch's opinion was the same as the minority but in a different vein and I still think this is trying to confuse the voters and I don't think playing tricks with this is right.



Sen. Travaglini moved that the Senate non-concur with the House version (H 5276) of S 2027 charter schools.

Sen. Tolman moved to table the matter and under the rules, it was placed in the orders of the day for the next session.

ELECTRICITY: The Senate suspended rules and concurred with the House amendment to S 2116 provision of electricity and other services.

NEW BILLS: The Senate admitted new House bills, which were referred to committees.

ADJOURNS: The Senate adjourned at 3:27 pm to meet next Monday at 11 am without a calendar.

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