With Last Minute Maneuver, Controversial School Choice Gets One More Shot

May 4, 2018

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A late-night parliamentary maneuver has given a controversial school choice bill another shot at becoming law.

Senate Bill 193, which would allow some parents to use state money to educate their children outside of public schools, was rejected by the New Hampshire House on Wednesday.

But late Thursday, Republican Senators tacked an earlier version of the bill on to a separate piece of legislation which then passed along party lines.

It sets up what will be the third opportunity for the bill, which is a major priority of Gov. Chris Sununu, to be passed this session.

The late effort will look to flip Republican House members who voted against the bill. On Wednesday, 17 House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to send the bill to interim study.

Representative Dan Wolf, a member of the House Education Committee, was one of them. Wolf backed an earlier version of the legislation but says he is no fan of the way the bill is coming back.

"You know -- you pony up to the bar, you race your horse once,” said Wolf. “If he doesn't do well you don't put him back on the track right away and run him again."

Supporters of the bill are willing to give it a try.

Republican Senator John Reagan, the bill’s prime sponsor, laid much of the blame for bill’s failure in the House at the feet of fellow Republican and Chairman of the House Finance Committee, Neal Kurk.

“The whole behavior of the chairman of House Finance was just – it hadn’t been seen before," Reagan said. "We hadn’t seen people abuse a chairmanship like this to inject their own personal opinion into a piece of legislation.”

Reagan says, with the extra time to pitch colleagues on the bill, the outcome could be reversed.

Another strategy supporters of the bill may take: boost GOP attendance the next time the bill goes before the House. The bill failed by just 11 votes on Wednesday, with 44 Republican lawmakers absent or not voting.