State reps try – but fail – to stop bill on toplessness

CONCORD — Rep. Brian Gallagher, a Republican from Sanbornton, expected his bill to prohibit women from baring their breasts in public to spark controversy, but he was surprised yesterday when the Republican leadership of the New Hampshire House of Representatives sought to ensure that it, like the nipples he seeks to veil, would not see the light of day.
By longstanding tradition, every bill filed by the 400 members of the House and 24 members of the Senate in New Hampshire is granted a hearing before a committee and brought to a vote on the floor. But, yesterday, as the House readied to vote to accept more than 700 bills filed by its members the majority leader Dick Hinch, a Republican from Merrimack, moved to cull Gallagher’s bill from the herd and forestall its introduction.
Hinch told the House the bill was “too controversial” and noted that the question of public toplessness is before the court, a reference to the case of Heidi Lilley, who was issued a citation by the Gilford Police after baring her breasts on the town beach last summer, which is pending in the Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division.
A roll call vote to scuttle the bill failed, 186 to 160. Ten of Gallagher’s fellow Republican members of the Belknap County delegation — Russ Dumais of Gilford; Dennis Fields of Sanbornton; Don Flanders, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton of Laconia; Valerie Fraser of New Hampton; Shari LeBreche of Belmont; Dave Russell of Gilmanton; Herb Vadney of Meredith; and Peter Varney of Alton — voted to quash his bill. Two, Glen Aldrich of Gilford and Ray Howard of Alton, joined George Hurt of Gilford and Peter Spanos, both co-sponsors of the bill, and Gallagher in voting to spare it.
Gallagher described the ploy by the leadership as “suppression of free speech. I was elected to represent the people,” he said. “People expressed a concern. I filed a bill and went through the process. My concern is that the bill could be taken away without the opportunity to have a debate on its merits.”
The leadership reacted to a squabble about the bill between representatives that erupted on social media last week which quickly drew attention from the national media. On her Facebook page, Rep. Amanda Bouldin, a Manchester Democrat, chided the sponsors of the bill, all men and all Republicans, for their hypocrisy in championing small government and personal freedom with one hand and policing women’s bodies with the other.
Bouldin’s remarks prompted Rep. Josh Moore, a Republican from Merrimack and co-sponsor of the bill, to reply.
“If it’s a woman’s natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that,” he wrote, “then you should have no problem with a man’s inclination to stare at it and grab it.”
Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, joined the fray, telling Bouldin “No disrespect, but your nipple would be the last one I would want to see.”
Following the vote to introduce Gallagher’s bill, Shawn Jasper, the Republican Speaker of the House, called for civility without referring specifically to the controversy over the bill. He reminded members that with the presidential primary in full swing, New Hampshire and its Legislature are in the national spotlight and untoward remarks cast both in a poor light.
Meanwhile, Gallagher’s bill, House Bill 1525, has been referred to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which has yet to schedule a public hearing.

Huot Tech Center finds its programming popular

LACONIA – It was “another good year” at the Huot Technical Center, said program director David Warrander at last night’s School Board meeting.
Warrander spoke at the School Board meeting and told which programs its members could look forward to in the future.
Of the six he identified, he said welding, small engine repair and marine repair, ROTC and computer science were the programs that had the most interest from about 200 sophomores polled throughout Laconia and the sending schools. He said of those three, computer programming and coding was a distant third to the other two.
Evaluating each program, Warrander said he used the enrollment capacity of the catchment area, whether or not each program was duplicated at one of the sending schools, student interest, state and local career prospects, and the resources required.
Warrander said of those three, he would choose computer programming because the Huot Technical Center doesn’t have the space for an expanded small engine repair program while there is space for a computer lab. He said working with the military on bringing ROTC to the center would involve working an additional government agency with its own demands but he would contact the heads of the programs that are available in New Hampshire.
He recommended computer programming and coding for a new program because there is a hole in Laconia High School that should be filled. Some of the drawbacks are that the Gilford School District already has an extensive program and the Shaker Regional School District has a very good program. He said those two school districts, other than Laconia, which makes up 70 percent of the Huot student body, are the two largest sending schools so regional interest could be low.
He said he has been working with the Computer Science department head at the Lakes Region Community College and would hope over time the program would offer four classes – introduction to computers, introduction to programming, Website development, and Web applications. He noted that these classes dovetail nicely with those at LRCC. The downside is paying for the textbooks that can cost up to $200 each and must be those recommended by the college.
Warrander said the start up costs could be covered by a Perkins grant, which is used by schools specifically for starting new programs. He said the district would have to purchase some additional laptops but most of the software is open-sourced rather than proprietary.
He said a September 2016 launch would be impossible but, if the resources and the will on the part of the school board exists, a new program could be ready and approved by the state Department of Education by January of 2017.
Board members suggested he work with local businesses to see if there is interest among them for a cooperative deal and report back to them.

City school district projects $480K shortfall

LACONIA — With the school district facing a projected $480,000 shortfall, the administrators told the Budget and Personnel Committee last night that it is likely they will have to tap into the Special Education Trust Fund.
Committee members didn’t discuss specific programs that may be cut or reduced but all agreed there would be no “sacred cows.”
School board member Mike Persson suggested having students pay a fee for athletic programs, having the district seek more public-private partnerships and engage in more aggressive grant seeking.
After scouring the budget, administrators moved $162,000 from some accounts to others mostly buffing up the salary lines for special education needs in the elementary and middle schools. They also transferred $118,000 from some maintenance lines into others.
Of the 183 students that have moved into the district since August, Superintendent Phil McCormack said nearly 30 percent of them have special education needs. On the other hand, of the 184 students who have left the school district, about 20 percent had special education needs he said.
He said in one school alone about 50 percent of the new students were somehow classified as needing special assistance. When asked, McCormack said the new students are coming from all over the state and the country.
“We’ve been here before,” said member Chris Guilmett. “You can have one child need $300,000 of [assistance.]”
While preparing for this year’s budget, the school district operates on a fiscal year rather than a calender year, no money was deleted from the special eduction trust.
McCormack said administrators have imposed a “soft” spending freeze, meaning that only the necessities are being purchased. Of concern to the committee members is some reduction of teacher training because the district has tried to cut down the need for substitute teachers.
Committee members suggesting looking at overtime in building maintenance, teacher supplies, new equipment, adult education and computer accounts.
As the district continues to move forward with the 2016-2017 budget, Business Administrator Ed Emond said that if the same budget services are to be performed next year as this, the district is looking at a $1 million shortfall.
“The storm clouds are gathering,” said McCormack, who noted that the amount of money the school district has for next fiscal year under the city tax cap is limited to about $250,000 to $300,000. He said the Consumer Price Index Urban is flat, meaning there was no significant inflation in the country this year and there was about $9 million in building permits issued in the city in the past fiscal year.
The city tax cap limits the new amount of money to be raised by inflation rates, measured by the CPIU, and the amount of increased property values for “captured” value.