Ep. 45: The Monthly Debrief – March Looking to April 2018

April 17, 2018

In this episode of The Monthly Debrief, EdChoice’s Senior Director of State Relations Michael Chartier talks with Policy Director Jason Bedrick about what’s going on in their states. Then they introduce a surprise new guest.

Michael: Well hello, I’m Michael Chartier and welcome to another addition of our EdChoice Chats. We’re going to be on the phone with Jason Bedrick and we’re going to have surprise special guest at the end of this podcast. So I hope everyone stays tuned for a little special surprise. But in this podcast we’re going to kind of do our normal thing. We are going to look back at what happened in March in terms of the legislative landscape, and then also look forward about what we can expect in April.

So I think we’ll get started, again Jason Bedrick is on the phone, our director of policy. Jason I know you want to started off with one of your favorite states, New Hampshire. You were a state legislator there. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about what’s going on out there in the Granite State.

Jason: Well thanks Michael. Good to be on again. As most of our listeners know, New Hampshire is currently considering SB193, which would create an education savings account. We’re not going to talk about that this month though, and that’s still progressing through the legislature, albeit slowly. But, we are going to talk a little bit about SB1686, which is a bill that expands New Hampshire’s existing tax-credit scholarship program.

So under current law businesses can receive tax credits worth 85 percent of their contributions to non-profit scholarship organizations that help low and middle income families in New Hampshire. What this bill does is allows individuals to also take tax credits against their dividends tax. There’s no statewide income tax in New Hampshire.  So, this would be just another avenue for donors to provide donations to these scholarship organizations and receive tax credits so that they can help families attend the schools of their choice.

Michael: Well thank you Jason for that good update on New Hampshire. We look forward to continuing to hear about the ESA bill, as you mentioned. See how that shakes out. I’m going to spend a couple minutes here now talking about one of my states, Iowa.

Iowa’s had a house bill that met a certain demise last session, but thankfully for families in the state of Iowa, the Iowa Senate Appropriations Subcommittee introduced a Senate Study Bill, and it was Senate Study Bill 3206. That would create an education savings grant for families to use for tuition at non-public schools. Then on top of that they could spend money on a wide variety of other educational expenses. So the Senate Study Bill passed out of the appropriations subcommittee by a vote of three to two, and it currently sits in the full appropriations committee waiting for a hearing.

And what’s interesting about the Senate Study Bill, to kind of give our listeners a little background on that, the Iowa House and Senate education committees conducted some summer study sessions to learn about education savings accounts and educational choice. They gathered a wide variety of information from a wide variety of sources, and determined that the committee itself wanted to introduce the legislation, of course on behalf of the Chairman. That’s what’s known as a Study Bill, and that’s exactly what they did in Iowa, they created a Study Bill. So it’s not under the name of any particular legislator, it’s on behalf of the whole appropriations committee. Like I said, that’s currently awaiting a hearing in the full appropriations committee.

Also, I think what was interesting, is that Puerto Rico has a large education package bill that passed this past month, and part of that was the creation of a voucher program. I think it’s an interesting note, and we’ll be following that very closely.

We’ll have a separate podcast, so our listeners can come back and learn a little bit more about Puerto Rico with one of our other colleagues here at EdChoice, Mike Shaw. We’ll be talking a little bit more about Puerto Rico, so we’ll tease that now, but wanted to put that as a bright note on everyone’s radar.

But then we do want to go back to maybe one of the brightest notes out there, is the state of Georgia. I’m going to had it back off to Jason, and we’ll talk a little bit about what happened in Georgia.

Jason: Yeah thanks, Michael. Georgia is one of the stars for this year. They currently have a tax-credit scholarship program, and the bill that they passed in the House this year, actually both the House and the Senate passed it, is HB217, which pretty much doubles the available tax credits for donors so that they can receive. In Georgia, it’s a dollar for dollar tax credit, so there’s a really strong incentive for individuals to contribute to scholarship organizations there. For a number of years, Georgia had been not expanding their program, even though there was a lot of support for doing so, because there was disagreement among a number of the scholarship organizations, so these groups that were working in the state, over which direction to go. Fortunately this year everybody came together. They were able to collaborate and come up with one package that they were all behind, with one unified voice, and that was highly effective. That bill right now is sitting on Governor Deal’s desk awaiting his signature.

Michael: It’s always nice to have a big bright spot like that when we see that thousands more families will have access to educational choice in the Peach State. So, thank you very much for that. I think that will close out our quick session on what was happening across the legislative landscape here in the country.

But, I did tease a bit that we had a special surprise guest for everyone. I want to introduce her now. We just hired the newest member of the state team Lauren Hodge. Lauren Hodge came from my hometown, South Bend, Indiana. So it’s a bright spot there. Always good to have good South Bender’s down on the EdChoice team. She comes to us from the city of Indianapolis. So, I want to hand it over and let Lauren talk maybe a little bit about herself. Let our listeners know what they should know about you, and what things they can look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Lauren: Thanks so much, Michael. It’s a pleasure to be here today, and I’m excited to have joined the EdChoice team. A little bit about me, so I am a graduate of the IU Maurer’s School of Law. I’ve had an opportunity to work on all sides of the bench, including clerking for a federal judge to being a prosecutor, to being a defense attorney. It is with great excitement that I have joined the Ed Choice team. Became inspired to join the movement when I was an undergrad and had an opportunity to work with students who were on vouchers in a local Catholic school. I was able to see personally how these students were able to make tremendous strides in a very short period of time. I’ve always kept my eye on the movement, and then when an opportunity came up, knowing Michael from South Bend, I was happy to join on to the team. So, I look forward to being a part of this and hopefully you’ll be hearing from me. I’ll be taking over a couple of different states, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Mississippi. So, stay tuned for updates from me on those. Thanks so much.

Michael: Awesome. Thanks for joining us Lauren, and like you said listeners will get to learn more about you and your states in the months and years to come. So with that I’ll conclude. This is our March and April EdChoice Chat. We look forward to inviting our listeners to come back and listen to us next month as we talk about what happened in April. And look forward to what we might learn across the legislative landscape in May. If you have any questions or want to visit us more, please join us at www.edchoice.org. Again, that’s www.edchoice.org. With that I’ll close it out and everyone out there, you have a good rest of the week.