The committee did not act on the Flagger bill today.

A few ideas presented by Senators Sanborn and Little.

Senator Sanborn wants to bring an amendment that states no law enforcement officer, regardless of vested or not, can use detail pay from utility detail work towards their retirement calculation. This is obviously a BIG problem, to say, he is all over the place

Little wants the bill to state that a community cannot discriminate when there is a need for traffic control. He has a problem with the local highway department being able to do similar jobs as a utility company with having to only use their employees as flaggers when the utility company has to use law enforcement. He believes that safety is safety regardless if you work for the utility company or the town highway department.

Senator Bradley stated he wants to accomplish something that will reduce electric rates.

There are 12 Senators supporting killing the bill. All 10 democrats and Senators Stiles and Boutin.
Senator Bradley tried push the bill out today. He is doing this because there is a chance Senator Fuller Clark might not be here next week due to a recent surgery she had. If that is the case the bill would pass next week on the floor with a 12-11 vote.

At this point YOU ALL need to start contacting ALL senators on this requesting their support to kill the bill.

Here is the link to the Senate Roster

3 basic talking points which all were entered into testimony at the committee hearing. .

1. Safety, qualifications, and cost.
Many workers have expressed their opinions on having an officer on a detail rather than a flagger. They believe their safety is in better hands with law enforcement for many obvious reasons. Thousands of hours of training vs the flagger’s training requirement of 4 hours. You know with a police officer you have a highly trained individual performing a function of public safety. They know ahead of time when a fire truck needs to get through the work zone and can react accordingly. They can perform CPR if needed. They can shut down a job at anytime if safety is an issue. They can enforce the law. They serve as a greater deterrent from breaking the law in the traffic zone they are working in. The list goes on and on. With a flagger you really don’t know what you are getting. When you compare credentials of a law enforcement officer vs. a flagger the added cost is a no brainer.

Let me try and humanize this a little bit. Your son is working in a hole, his back is to traffic, he is working on a gas line. He is performing work that at times, if not done correctly, could result in a major explosion with possible casualties and deaths. Do you really think he needs to be concerned about what’s going on traffic wise? Ask yourself if you were in that hole if you would rather have a police officer in charge or a flagger. We have heard flaggers receive 4 hours of training. We know of some flaggers who received no training what so ever. Who would you want protecting your son or yourself? A flagger with 4 hours of training or a police officer with thousands of hours of training?

Nobody has yet to explain the math on how much our rates will be reduced. It is important to understand what the actual number / savings is before making a decision on adopting a policy which greatly favors hiring less qualified individuals to perform a function of public safety. We need this number because we need to ask ourselves is the savings really worth diminishing safety for our, pedestrians, drivers, workers on the poles and in the holes. I think you’ll find we are talking about pennies per ratepayer.

Lets pretend for a minute that our rates will be reduced. Lets say this bill saves the companies / ratepayers $500,000. Rough math tells us this: $500,000 divided by 607,000 ratepayers = $0.82. That’s $0.06 a month savings. I believe NH citizens are getting a bargain for the enhanced professionalism and safety that a police officer provides on a detail.

2. Local Control
This issue has jumped around quite a bit from year to year. It has been in the House Public Works and High Ways Committee, the House Transportation Committee, The Senate Transportation Committee, and now we are seeing it in the Senate Energy Committee. The concept of the bill has been introduced many times in the past and the legislature has continually reached the same conclusion. This is a cut and paste from the blurb on HB 1406 from the 2010 session. It states, “While the committee sympathized with the intent of the bill, to lower the pass through cost to rate payers, it unanimously agreed that should the bill pass, it would be a major intrusion into local decision making. Many communities have chosen to use police details in all situations and that is their right.” This blurb is from the consent calendar with an 18-0 vote on the recommendation of inexpedient to legislate.

As we have heard from legislatures of the past, this concept flies in the face of local control. It is absolutely clear in RSA 41:11 that the town or city may regulate all public highways unless otherwise regulated by DOT as stated in RSA 236:1. RSA 236:1 only includes class I, II, & III highways leaving classes IV & V to the towns and cities. This bill removes the local control of class IV & V highways. The bill is essentially saying towns and cities “may” use the DOT guidelines for classes I, II, and III on their class IV & V highways, but if you don’t (line 23 section (e)) then the DOT guidelines for class I, II, & III shall apply. This bill is written so that at the end of the day your local control will be taken away regardless and the state’s one size fits all DOT regulations shall apply.

3. Legislative process and intent would now be in the hands of 1 person.
The DOT internal policy on the use of flaggers and law enforcement officers is referenced in the bill. Currently the DOT Chief Engineer is charged with having the responsibility for the development, oversight and updating of the NHDOT Flagger and Uniformed Officer Use in Work Zones Guidelines. The problem with the process is anytime the Chief Engineer updates the internal policy they are effectively changing the intent of the law without notice or a hearing. The legislative process is completely ignored in this case. The intent of any law should never be changed without the legislative process being involved let alone giving that power to one individual. And the individual there now is NO FRIEND to Law Enforcement, that’s why you have paddles!

Questions, comments, concerns drop me a line

Chuck Flahive
New England Police Benevolent Association
Legislative Assistant