BIA announces opposition to ‘divisive concepts’ bill

If passed, measure would be ‘a black eye for New Hampshire’

Sunrise Over The Nh State House

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to better reflect the size of the Business and Industry Association’s membership.

The Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire has joined the growing list of businesses and organizations opposing a House-passed measure now in the Senate that would prevent public schools, organizations and state contractors from teaching about systemic racism.

The BIA’s executive board voted Thursday to oppose language included in House Bill 2, the House-passed “trailer” bill of the state budget, which relates to the “propagation of divisive concepts.”

The statewide organization has over 400 member businesses, among them many of the state’s largest employers, and its Capital Connect program has a membership that includes chambers of commerce across the state and over 2,000 small businesses.

The trailer bill provision prohibits discussing ideas that New Hampshire or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, that individuals are inherently oppressive due to their race or sex, that individuals should feel discomfort or guilt on account of their race or sex, that meritocracy and “hard work ethic” is inherently oppressive, and or any other form of race or sex “stereotyping” or “scapegoating.”

This language was originally the subject of HB 544, which the House tabled last week following a vote to add the language to HB 2.

The prohibitions would extend to private enterprises that contract with government for the provision of goods or services. Currently, an estimated 1,000 enterprises provide services to the state, including many of the state’s leading employers, according to the BIA.

Essentially, the bill contains language that pouts forth on “unnecessary restrictions” on those private sector organizations.

“We cannot support language where the state is in a position to dictate to private enterprises what they can and cannot discuss with their employees,” Roche said.

“Putting this language into statute would be a black eye for New Hampshire,” he added. “It would put the national spotlight on the Granite State, and not in a good way.”

“The issues of gender and race are important to most employers around the state, and many of our members have already implemented diversity training that reflects their corporate culture,” said BIA President Jim Roche. “This controversial language sends the wrong message to employers who recognize the importance of open, honest and yes, sometimes difficult and uncomfortable conversations with their employees about the issue of race and gender discrimination. To prohibit some employers from engaging in these discussions, as the language from HB 544 does, will leave them vulnerable to race and/or gender discrimination litigation,” Roche added.

Earlier this month, New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility issued an open letter to Gov. Chris Sununu and he leaders of the New Hampshire House and Senate. The letter charges that the measure is “antithetical” to ongoing efforts to create diverse and inclusive work environments that “support innovative thinking and problem-solving” and would “have a chilling impact on our workplaces and on the business climate in New Hampshire.” Through Thursday evening, 135 organizations have signed the letter.

The Senate Finance committee has begun its work on HB 1 and HB 2, the biennial state budget. A public hearing has yet to be scheduled for the legislation.

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