Sam Evans-Brown

Environment and Education Reporter

 

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for  New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. His work has won several local broadcast journalism awards, and he was a 2013 Steinbrenner Institute Environmental Media Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill sponsored by school choice advocates that would create a tax credit for businesses that donate to scholarship organizations.

Many public school educators oppose the measure saying that it would sap schools of already scarce resources, but opponents in the senate tried to block the bill by calling into question its constitutionality.

Correction: an earlier version of the story stated the tax credits would initially be capped at $3.4 million. 

The New Hampshire Senate is set to vote tomorrow on a controversial bill that would create a tax credit for businesses that donate to private school scholarship organizations. The bill’s supporters are confident that it will pass.

 

The state agency responsible for protecting forests from wildfires is warning that state forests are more at risk of burning this year.

Forest Ranger Bryan Nowell says state forests are now seeing conditions that usually are more typical of mid-April.

"That's due to the fact that pretty much since the first of the year we haven’t had a lot of snow events or rain events, so all the leaves and brush and debris that’s come down over the winter has been there drying all winter long," Nowell says.

NHPR Staff

 A study released today called the State Integrity Investigation gives New Hampshire a D grade in its political finance laws, citing a poor disclosure calendar and a bad website for displaying campaign donation documents.

But even in a state that prides itself on open government, campaign finance reform has never been an easy sell.

Photo by Karen Johnson for Creative Commons via Wordpress

Rising gas prices have again shifted the political debate between those calling for more drilling to meet America's fossil fuel dependency and those advocating for investment in alternative energy sources. Many environmentalists are convinced that we are nearing the day when fossil fuels are tapped out, or too expensive or too harmful to extract.

 

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted today to pass a bill that would allow the city of Manchester to ask for a moratorium on refugee resettlement.

The bill is a seen as a victory for Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, who has been calling for a moratorium since last July.

 

The New Hampshire House has moved to reconsider passage of a controversial bill requiring pregnant women to wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion. The bill would also require them to receive explicit information on fetal development.

 

 The New Hampshire House of Representatives has for the second time passed a so-called right to work bill. But  the margin was well short of what would be needed to override Governor Lynch’s promised veto.

Barring unions from requiring non-members to pay for representation has been a priority for House Republican leaders. Last year governor John Lynch vetoed a Right-to-Work bill, which republicans failed to override.

Republican Marshall Quandt told colleagues this year’s version will fare no better.

Brainlesssteel via Flickr CC

 

The House Finance committee is taking a hard look at a bill that would eliminate the Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire. University trustees say that as written, the bill will cost the universities more money.

Milton Republican Robbie Parson’s bill has the backing of House leadership, and has already been approved in a preliminary vote on the house floor.

Flikr / Quinet

 

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services says that homelessness has dropped by 3 percent since last year.

The numbers are from an annual one-day count on January 25th that targeted welfare offices, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other organizations. According to Maureen Ryan of the Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services, it’s the first time in a decade that homelessness has fallen in New Hampshire. 

Flikr / Cityyear

 

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas still won’t say if he has decided whether or not to run for Governor of New Hampshire. 

Flikr Creative Commons / jurvetson

You’ve heard of “Brain Drain,” but how about “Brain Waste”?

While we at StateImpact like to talk about trends and broad-brush movements in business and economics, occasionally it’s helpful to zoom-in and look at individual cases of business success.

Flikr Creative Commons / cafemama

 

 

State Representatives and Senators heard testimony today on a bill that proposes moving the Division of Weights and Measures from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Safety.

The division certifies scales and meters for measuring food and commodities like gasoline and fuel oil when sold to consumers.

The Senator Sharon Carson of Nashua, the bill’s sponsor, says she’s heard complaints from constituents who claim the division has been heavy-handed in its enforcement.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

Vice president Joe Biden made a campaign stop at the New Hampshire Art Institute today. It was his eighth visit to New Hampshire as Vice president.

Biden kicked off his speech by acknowledging that he’s beginning to become a regular face in the Granite State; his last visit was just last month.

"I’ve been up here fairly frequently and the good news for me and I’m not sure if it’s good for you is that I’m gonna be here an awful lot between now and November," Biden said.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

The New Hampshire Senate is considering a bill aimed at reducing the so-called  "skills gap". The bill would offer tax credits to businesses that partnered with the community college system to create workforce training programs.

 

 The New Hampshire House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make it easier for the smallest farmers to break even. If it becomes law it would allow residents to sell some home-made baked-goods, preserves, and cheese at home or at farmers’ markets.  

When the homemade foods bill came out of a House committee, it had unanimous support.

Sam Evans-Brown

The House is again considering a bill that would repeal the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a carbon cap and trade program.

Opponents and supporters of RGGI wearily filed into the Statehouse, ready to go over the well-rehearsed talking points that they used the last time the program was on the chopping block.

Flikr Creative Commons / Renator Ganoza

The New Hampshire Department of Education says it will not yet ask the federal government  for flexibility with the requirements of No Child Left Behind, the federal education law. The DOE is gearing up to request a waiver this spring.

According to state education officials New Hampshire is not ready to ask for a waiver from the toughest testing standards required under No Child Left Behind. Paul Leather from the Department of Education says  in order to get a waiver, the state must first build a system that will evaluate teacher and principal effectiveness.

Sam Evans-Brown

The New Hampshire Attorney General announced the details of a settlement between the nation’s five biggest banks and forty-nine states. The deal means that borrowers who are struggling could start seeing relief within a few months.

A new report released by the New Hampshire Housing and Finance Authority shows home foreclosures spiked in December 2011–up 35 percent from that November.

Jane Law of the Housing Authority says foreclosures have been declining since their peak in 2010, and December's jump might be an anomaly,

"The biggest factor is just mortgage companies are just kind of clearing out some inventory before the end of the year, which is the end of their tax year usually."

Flikr Creative Commons / Sean Dreilinger

A report shows that home foreclosures spiked at the end of last year, up 35% from November.

Jane Law of New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority says foreclosures have been declining since their peak in 2010, and December’s jump might be an anomaly.

Law says, "The biggest factor is just mortgage companies are kind of clearing out some inventory before the end of the year, which is the end of their tax year usually" 

Flikr Creative Commons/ evmaiden

The New Hampshire House voted to put off making a final decision on a pair of bills that would withdraw the state from No Child Left Behind, and forego $61.6 million dollars in federal funding.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt from Salem cited the lost money as he urged collegues to table the bills.

"There are significant and justifiable concerns about withdrawing from this program," Bettencourt said, "concerns regarding the potential loss of significant federal funds currently being received by our local school districts."

Flikr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire House of Representatives is currently awash in education bills, many of which will never see the light of day. However, some of these bills are setting the stage for big discussions about public schools, the role of the state, and the rights of parents.

To help sort through the confusion, the following is a roundup of bills coming before the House between now and Crossover day.

Flikr Creative Commons / BohemianTraveler

A bill that would allow small farmers to sell some home-made food without a license has cleared a major hurdle in the House of Representatives.

The bill lets farmers sell up to 20 gallons a day of unpasteurized milk or cheese, and less than $10,000 dollars worth of homemade food from their home or at a farmers market.

NHPR Staff Photo

The Department of Health and Human Services says that changes in the foods offered through the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program or WIC have resulted in improved diets. 

WIC is a national program that gives nutrition education and nutritious foods to pregnant women and new mothers with income up to 185% of the federal poverty line.

Flikr Creative Commons / evmaiden

Many proposals encouraging educational choice are pending in Concord this year. One with strong backing would use tax credits to encourage businesses to pay for school scholarships.

Critics say this would starve public schools of much needed funding, but supporters say this is a way to give students more options while avoiding constitutional concerns that have doomed past proposals for school vouchers.

Flikr Creative Commons / Dvortygirl

A governor’s commission has released a report detailing surprising levels of prescription drug abuse in New Hampshire. The commission’s findings give weight to a push to create a prescription drug monitoring program in the state.

According to the report, almost 17 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds in New Hampshire say they have abused prescription drugs in the past year. That’s the second highest rate in the country.

American Red Cross

 

The New Hampshire house voted today to repeal the Emergency Powers Act, which allows the government to take private property during a declared state of emergency.

The bill’s supporters call the Emergency Powers Act a government overreach.

Flikr Creative Commons / avlxyz

 

The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban the use of GPS devices to secretly track people. The bill would make such tracking illegal someone without a court order.

This was a bill that seemed destined to disappear: in committee it was voted 14 – 0 to refer it for more study. With an election coming up, that would almost certainly mean that the bill would never be seen again.

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