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Parents, taxpayers seek new hearing after high court upholds education tax credit

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CONCORD, New Hampshire — Lawyers for a group trying to overturn a law allowing a business tax credit to fund private school scholarships filed a motion Monday saying the state's high court made a mistake when it left the law intact.

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling or rehear a key pillar of the arguments.

The court two weeks ago ruled that the parents, taxpayers and a business had no right to sue because they hadn't proved they were hurt by the law. The judges said a 2012 law allowing such suits was unconstitutional.

In its motion, the NHCLU said the high court defied 150 years of precedent, including its own decisions, the intent of the state constitution that gives the legislature the authority to define what the courts can do, and the state's "long tradition" of providing broad access to the courts.

Opponents of the law argued it violates the separation of church and state provision of New Hampshire's constitution and will ultimately hurt public schools. They also said the court's ruling will reduce government accountability. Supporters of the business tax credit program said it promotes educational freedom and choice for low-income families.

The program was passed in 2012 by Republican lawmakers who overrode a veto by then-Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat. Gov. Maggie Hassan, also a Democrat, made repeal of the law a priority, but Republicans blocked repeal efforts.

In January 2013, nine New Hampshire parents, taxpayers and a business challenged the program in court.

Under the program, businesses donate to an independent scholarship organization. In return, they get a credit on their business profits and enterprise taxes amounting to 85 percent of their donations.

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