Every year Governor Lynch has been in office there’s talk that this is the year an education funding constitutional amendment finally passes.
But amendment supporters say this time – for real - the stars are almost in perfect alignment....almost...in perfect alignment.
The GOP-dominated state Senate is poised to overwhelmingly pass the education funding amendment.
Senate President Peter Bragdon expects some 15 Republicans to support the Senate version.
“I think this amendment gives the state back the ability to target aid to the districts that need it most. All other states have the ability to target aid to where its needed most. This allows New Hampshire to do that as well.”
Right now, this amendment has momentum.
Lots of GOP Senators like it.
Democratic Governor John Lynch likes it.
All along, political leaders have agreed a plan can only be successful if it’s got broad support.
Bragdon says this momentum is critical.
“When you are trying to get 66% of the people to vote for something youi are trying to get the middle, so it needs to have support of Democrats and Republicans and our version has that.”
See, here’s the problem for people who want to see an amendment get through.
A lot of conservative House Republicans just can’t support the Senate plan.
“If the Senate would let the House have one and just realize the House isn’t moving and if they want to have an amendment passed onto the people, this is it. There’s not going to be other language that makes it past the House.”
No one is saying how many lawmakers are in camp with Manuse on this.
But an amendment needs 60% of all House members to pass.
And by the looks of it, there are enough hardcore conservatives to determine the plan’s fate.
That’s why some of the most senior House Republicans are going around trying to lobby people like Manuse.
Their message sounds a lot like this.
“I ask you not to hold forth to the absoluteness of your principles. I ask you to be a little bit pragmatic today and vote for the possible. An improvement over the current situation.”
That’s Representative Neal Kurk, speaking on the House floor last fall, who unsuccessfully called on the House to support Governor Lynch’s education amendment.
This stiff resistance from the Liberty-wing of the party surprises some Republicans.
After all they argue this amendment accomplishes the exact same goals as the House-passed plan.
It gives the state even more flexibility than it currently has to determine how much aid each community receives.
And it limits court oversight.
The difference comes down to who sets academic standards.
Representative Manuse says the Senate version gives the Legislature the authority to determine who sets academic standards and education policy.
“I think the original intent of the Constitution was for the Legislature to delegate that authority to the cities and towns, and more importantly parents. I think parents should define reasonable standards for primary and secondary education.”
Manuse says the House plan allows the Legislature to delegate policy-making authority to the local level.
A number of the most respected conservative legal minds have been hard at work on the Senate-passed plan in recent months.
People like former State Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas, attorney Eugene Van Loan and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne, who is also a lawyer.
Lamontagne says he’s been talking with lawmakers who don’t like the Senate plan – making his pitch.
“It’s not easy. There’s no silver bullet. It’s about relationship with people and hoping they will see the rationale that it’s far better to mover forward then let this opportunity pass us by.”
Lamontagne has his work cut out for him.
Some believe some of the conservatives who backed the House plan last year, have decided they won’t back it again.
Representative Manuse says he’d love to get something through now.
But if it’s the wrong deal, he’s willing to wait till next year.
“I am elected for my judgment and in my judgment this is the best thing for the state of New Hampshire. The people elected me for my judgment. Which I am in fact executing every day I am here. If the people don’t like my judgment they can elect somebody else.”