THERE ARE some bad bills pending in the New Hampshire legislature.
Two examples are HB220, the “Medical Freedom In Immunization” act and HB20, a bill that would siphon money from public schools to establish “freedom scholarships.”
When Granite State Republicans use the word “freedom” in a bill, it usually threatens either the physical or financial well-being of our citizens and taxpayers.
HB220 falls into the threat to physical wellbeing category. As introduced, it would insert the following language into the state’s laws: “No person may be discriminated against for refusal to accept an unwanted medical intervention, including vaccines.”
It is clever wording. The language is so simple, and who wants to favor discrimination? But if this language is adopted, schools will not be able to require vaccinations for entry, as it would be discriminatory to refuse entry to kids whose parents have fallen prey to the insidious anti-vaccination movement.
Hospitals, nursing homes and other medical providers would face significant legal ramifications if they required employee immunization from measles, chicken pox or COVID-19.
These diseases are not the common cold. Measles and chicken pox can both cause pneumonia, encephalitis, permanent brain damage or death.
Why would anyone want to put their child, or someone else’s child, or someone with a compromised immune system, at risk of illness or death?
I do not doubt that parents who resist immunization love their kids, but they have fallen prey to charlatans, fools, and the internet. The New Hampshire Legislature should educate them, not encourage them.
The sponsors probably would say parents who want to vaccinate their kids still can. That is like saying we do not need laws against child abuse, since it only puts kids of abusers at risk.
Yes, I am comparing anti-vaccination laws to child abuse. Any statute that risks harm to a child is abusive.
At its first committee hearing, it was apparent that HB220 had significant issues, but it is not dead yet. The sponsor is working on an amendment, but no amendment can fix this bill.
HB20 is a fiscal disaster, and surprisingly ran into roadblocks at committee. However, the bill is only retained, not dead, and a nearly identical version is pending in the senate as SB130.
Both versions create taxpayer funded “scholarships” to be awarded to any parent with a child eligible for a public education. Depending on eligibility and fees, the amount per child would range from about $4,000 to $8,000. The money could be used for private schools, including heavily endowed prep schools, religious schools and home schooling.
The funds would not be awarded by the state; instead, private “scholarship organizations” would control the money, while receiving administrative fees that could run as high as 10%.
There will be little to no accountability for anything. The reports required from the scholarship organizations are scanty. The scholarship organizations are required to conduct random audits of the scholarship accounts, but the legislation does not lay out the standards for audits. I like to think most parents would use the money for its intended purpose. But the state has little to no ability to conduct its own random inspections of the use of the money or the education being provided.
In short, the Republican sponsors would turn over the keys to a significant portion of the state treasury, ceding its responsibility for providing an adequate education to loosely regulated organizations with a shrug of the shoulders.
There are no financial eligibility requirements for these scholarships. Wealthy families who send their children to exclusive, heavily-endowed prep schools will have the cost underwritten by families struggling to make their rent or mortgage payments. Wealthy owners of second homes in New Hampshire could declare their million-dollar homes on Winnipesaukee or their ski houses at Waterville as their primary residences so they can send their kids to private schools, with New Hampshire taxpayers picking up part of the tab.
Meanwhile, local public schools, which already are being hammered by decreases in state support and costs of COVID-19, will lose funding, forcing them to raise property taxes or cut services, or both.
It is a bad idea, and a bad bill.