Contact: Senate President Ted Gatsas

(603) 271 – 2111

September 25, 2006

MY TURN: Proven Leadership on Education Funding

Since the original Claremont ruling, Republicans have continually provided leadership. So, I ask you -what has changed? The pundits and political know-it-alls are calling for a Constitutional Amendment (CACR). I think a brief lesson in current Senate legislative history is needed so that everyone is clear on exactly where I stand. Go back to March 22, 2006; I proposed a Constitutional Amendment (CACR 43) shortly after Judge Groff ruled the current school funding plan unconstitutional. At the time as the Senate President I felt it incumbent upon myself to offer a solution. History has taught us that the New Hampshire Supreme Court has no problem using their robes to legislate from the bench; on September 8th rather than returning the original ruling back to the lower court for a trial the Supremes handed down an edict essentially supporting a broad-based tax. I must have been clairvoyant because I predicted this was on the horizon and unfortunately I was right.

So there it was CACR 43;  it proposed, “the legislature shall have the authority to make reasonable determinations of the content, extent, funding, and delivery of public education.” In one sentence problem solved! Once and for all, the legislature told the courts stay out of our business. Unfortunately, only 14 of the required15 Senators felt the same way. On March 22, 2006 I led the charge to end this fight. The following are excerpts from my floor speech from that day, and without a doubt, I was very clear on where I stood.

“. . . We’ve talked about being bipartisan. There isn’t a piece of legislation that’s going to come before this body that’s more important than this. . . . this is about the kids . . ..let’s stop playing the game . . . it’s very clear . . . .This is a separation of powers . . .we [the legislature] have that ability to talk about content . . . We had a debate on this floor last year about civics and whether that should be in legislation that a child learns it. We decided that, not the court. This amendment is not to usurp judicial oversight. This [the Constitutional Amendment] is there so that we can make decisions. . . . If we talk about true bipartisanship this is it. .. . I merely believe that we make the decisions, and we should make them here. Allow the people that send us here, and that’s the question, allow those people, once and for all, to either say yes or no because we’re only going down a very slippery slope. And it’s truly about a broad-based tax. Because the only way you’re going to define adequacy, the only way you can define that is with an awful big bucket of money. And if that’s the question, if it’s truly about money as I asked one of the members of New Hampshire Café, instead of 11million if you’ve got 15 would you be leading the charge for this? After a fifteen second delay, the answer was, “I don’t know.” It’s about money. Let’s not kid ourselves. . . . You need to create two hundred and thirty-four different education funding plans to make every community in this state happy. So let’s think about where we’re going. Let’s think about what we’re doing. Because we all have an opportunity today and that opportunity is much bigger than we’ll ever see again. Let’s not fool ourselves. It’s about a broad-based tax. . . . So when we leave these halls,and we talk about bipartisanship, let’s just remember today, because today’s an important day. This Senate has the opportunity . . ..let’s give the people of New Hampshire a chance. They won’t let us down. . . . We should not take that vote away from them. They are smarter, brighter, more clever than we ever thought of. Give them the opportunity. They won’t fail us. So remember, when we talk about bipartisanship, maybe we need to find an amendment and look for a judicial review on any other bill we’re looking to do. And maybe that might come sooner than we think. Thank you, Mr. President.”

In closing, I ask where were you in March? So today, when you ask for leadership, ask for it from those who have yet to provide it