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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

November 30, 2009

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee, and member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee;  Finance Committee; Citizens Trade Policy Commission; State Park System Advisory Council; and Comprehensive Cancer Plan Oversight Board.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

 


The Senator on the phone said, “Bob, did you introduce the bill for the expansion of the unique student identification number?” I said, “No, I thought you were going to do it.” 

That conversation is similar to many contacts between Senators as we finish up introducing bills, seeking co-sponsors and editing legislative language to try to get ready for the upcoming legislative session. It is over the period from late October through this week that Senators lay out their legislative goals through the bills they introduce. The period for such maneuvering closed several weeks ago for House members who introduced more than 700 new bills for consideration next year.

With two centuries of experience in democracy, New Hampshire has a legislative process that depends upon rules and deadlines. Every bill introduced must have a public hearing and a vote, up or down, or possibly with an amendment, to insure that no bill is killed or changed behind closed doors or by a political leader. That is why the preparatory work over the last few weeks helps insure an orderly and transparent process as each bill gets its due consideration.

The work to get ready for the 2010 session which begins in January takes a lot of time and effort. Meetings with other legislators, lobbyists and parties impacted by the bills you introduced must be brought up to date on the sponsor’s plans.

When the Senate President gavels the Senate back into session next month, you can have confidence the Senators will be pretty much ready to go. Bills carried over from the session earlier this year will mostly be ready for floor votes. And new bills will be assigned to committees in anticipation of floor action later.

And what about the legislation that did not get introduced dealing with the unique student ID number? Clearly there was a miscommunication with both of us thinking the other was introducing the bill containing language agreed to by a study committee that met last summer and fall. At the end of our conversation, Senator Kelly (Keene) and I agreed that she would be the prime sponsor and I would be a co-sponsor. Given that the deadline for the introduction of new bills closed on November 6, we will have to go before the Rules and Enrolled Bills Committee to seek an exemption and be given the opportunity to have the bill drafted. In my years in the Senate, no Senator has been denied such a request.

The proposed legislation would provide that student ID numbers would continue to be used as the students go into the state’s community college and university systems. Originally, the goal was to use a unique number so that we could track students as they moved between school districts as a tool to help reduce the number of high school drop outs. But, in addition to helping track potential school drop outs, the data generated by the ID number has been invaluable in measuring outcomes from various curricula in our schools.

* * *

Comments by economic pundits that the recession has hit bottom and growth is underway is small consolation to families with a breadwinner out of work. The unemployment numbers each month remind us of the impact the economic downturn is having on our working families. Those same statistics are also used to measure the effectiveness of government at the federal and state level to deal with the high and persistent number of people out of work.

All of us know the importance of getting people back to work. Recently I stopped by the new Southwestern Community Services’ office on Charlestown Road in Claremont where the agency’s Workforce Development Program is helping people every day.

Getting a job today usually requires some basic skills. And if you lack them, the chances of getting a job are limited. The Southwestern Community Service programs are directed at helping unemployed and low income individuals get the skills and experience to be successful on the job.

There is Workplace Success, a four week classroom experience, where up to 19 individuals develop basic skills needed in the workplace. Participants receive individual and group job search assistance, expand their computer abilities, polish up on customer service skills and create a portfolio of accomplishments attractive to a prospective employer.

The Work Experience Program is for individuals who are receiving financial assistance from the state. They are given the opportunity to work at not-for-profit organizations, community agencies or businesses. They receive no pay because they are already receiving state support but they develop hands on experience they can, hopefully, parlay into a long term, secure job. And, they get off the state assistance rolls.

We all know it: if you have never had a job, you have likely missed out on gaining the skills needed to be an effective employee. In 2008, 66 people went through the Work Experience Program in Claremont. Since, July 49 individuals have been enrolled.

There are other employment related programs Southwestern Community Services. Most importantly, there are places for unemployed people to turn. Betsy Chatman, the director of the overall employment program for Southwestern Community Services, and Leslie Jones, who oversees the activities at the new Claremont site, are very positive about the impact their programs have on people who want to work. And the benefits also accrue to taxpayers as successful workers move from welfare and unemployment to jobs.

 

Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733
Email:  rpojr@aol.com

 

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