Wetlands fees cut in House vote



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The New Hampshire House has voted to cut the Aquatic Resource Mitigation administration fee in half, following a fourfold increase approved last year.The program -- known as ARM -- allows developers whose projects have an impact on wetlands to pay a fee rather than actually create new wetlands. The fee consists of three parts: the cost of what it would have cost to create the wetlands; the number of acres affected times the cost of the land where the impact is occurring; and the administration fee, a percentage of the sum of the first two parts. The figure used to be 5 percent, and the federal government matched it. When the feds pulled out, the state increased it to 20 percent.Supporters of House Bill 468 wanted to cut that down to 10 percent, arguing that the state didn't need that much to keep the program going. Opponents said it did. The House sided, 261-90, with the former. The bill still has to make a stop at the Ways and Means Committee before it goes on to the Senate.The House also passed a bill to the Senate to establish a state aeronautical fund to help improve local airports that don't receive federal funds. It can accept donations, but no appropriation was attached to the bill.In other legislation approved in the Senate on Wednesday: • Under Senate Bill 49, restaurants and hotels would more easily be able to set up tip-pooling arrangements. The current law makes it clear that such arrangements are strictly voluntary and workers cannot be forced to participate. The proposed law says that employers can't mess with tips that would count toward a worker's minimum wage, and that they can't force workers on the front end who normally get the tips (waiters bellhops, busboys, etc.) to share tips with the back end (dishwashers, cooks and janitors), nor can they "be required to contribute a greater percentage of their tips than is customary and reasonable."The bill doesn't give a worker the right to opt out of the arrangement, and it does give the business the right to set up and control the arrangement, not just do the accounting and bookkeeping. • Under SB 28, anyone would be able to issue seller mortgages on three properties a year, under an exception to the new federal SAFE Act, which would regulate such mortgages for the first time. Sen. Sylvia Larson, D-Concord, said that there should be "some sort of regulation" to track the transactions, but Sen. Russsell Prescott, R-Kingston, said that there was no regulation before, so exempting three a year is not such a big deal. • Under SB 38 and SB 144, developers whose projects are stalled will have a bit more time. SB 38 would extend wetlands permits for five years, and SB 144 would extend "permits and approvals for subdivision of land, fill and dredge of wetlands, and activities under the Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Act," until July 2012.All four bills will next go to the House. -- BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

 

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