Lots of public input as committee members decide whether to support voucher bill

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The House Education Committee is scheduled to vote on a bill that would establish a universal voucher program through Education Freedom Savings Accounts on November 8. The four undecided members have been getting a lot of attention, reported the Concord Monitor:

An email circulated by Monadnock United – a Cheshire County-based advocacy organization that opposes the bill – identified four Republican representatives it said were undecided: Terry Wolf of Bedford; Robert Elliott of Salem; Michael Moffett of Loudon; and Dan Wolf of Newbury.

The email called on opponents to contact the legislators directly. Committee members, contacted by the Monitor, confirmed the pressure is on.

“If you want to answer my phone for me, be my guest,” quipped Dan Wolf.

The pressure has been persistent, Wolf added – conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity have flooded his home with mailers and phone calls. Progressives, he said, seem to prefer email.

It’s perhaps understandable: New Hampshire’s bill would include one of the more far-reaching implementations of education savings accounts, a lightening rod issue with fierce support and opposition across the country.

Despite it all, Wolf said he’s leaning against the bill.

“My qualm is very simple: that you’re taking money out of the public school system,” he said, adding that little could be changed to the bill that would win his support.

Moffett has also been deluged, with the majority of communications opposing the bill. Firmly undecided, he said he supports the underlying aim of the bill but wants a limit imposed on the number of students that can use the funds in any one public school, to prevent a mass exodus.

“It would be easier for me to be open to this if there was a limit or cap,” he said.

Terry Wolf, for her part, indicated she’ll support the bill, after her initial concerns with spending accountability were addressed with a recent redraft. Elliott couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lobbying efforts aside, some say the Republican-supported bill has a bright future. Even with two potential defections, the 11-8 Republican majority could still eke out an “ought-to-pass” vote; meanwhile, the bill already passed the Senate 14-9 before being retained in the House.

Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison of Cornerstone, a right-leaning advocacy group that supports the bill, expressed optimism.

“I think this is going to be a done deal,” she said.

Source: Capital Beat: Waiver to decide fate for N.H. Medicaid | Concord Monitor