Campaign financing revamp, new poker rules fail

Budgets, nursing homes and cigarette taxes may grab the headlines, but here are some of the other measures that lawmakers voted on in the last-minute flurry of legislative action on June 27.

The following doesn’t include all of the fee increases and other legal changes buried in the 29,000-word trailer bill. A full analysis of that will have to await another time.

If those that were approved are signed by Gov. John Lynch they will become law:

• Corporations can keep on giving directly to the candidates of their choice, but unions can’t, thanks to some last-minute confusion that ended up killing a bill designed to put both on an equal playing field.

The bill was sponsored in reaction to a 1999 ruling by the state Supreme Court that protected such giving as commercial free speech. The bill that passed both chambers would have let both contribute through political action committees. The problem was last-minute fiddling with the definition of a “person,” when both chambers were trying to work out the differences between the two versions.

The House leadership worried that it would leave a giant loophole allowing nonprofit trade organization – they named the Business and Industry Association as an example — to donate large amounts without disclosure.

While Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, said that this unfortunate language was included despite everybody’s good intentions, Sen. Peter Burling, D-Cornish, wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t know why, but good, well-thought-out intense committee work is to die over there because some poisonous material found its way into the text,” said Burling.

• Those running poker tournaments won’t have to give a piece of the action to the state, nor will they have to give charities a percentage off the top, instead of the current 35 percent of the profits after expenses. That’s because the House rejected the committee compromise with opponents fearing that charities weren’t going to get enough.

• The attorney general would be able to go after those who violate New Hampshire’s versions of anti-trust laws, but nobody else can. The Senate, bowing to the more conservative House Commerce Committee, backed off allowing private citizens to sue on anti-trust grounds.

• Mortgage service companies would have to pay a $500 registration fee, as opposed to the current $100 fee

• Insurance companies would no longer have to worry about third-party suits if they violate the state’s unfair trade practices act. The bill was ditched when the House wouldn’t go along with such suits. An effort to impose tougher administrative penalties also didn’t go through.

• Specialty brewers would be able to increase their alcohol content from 12 to 14 percent, if approved by the State Liquor Commission and clearly labeled.

• Pharmacists would be faced with new regulations on electronic prescriptions. The bill would protect patient privacy and prevents the sale for commercial purposes.

• Snowmobile dealers would be included under the “lemon law” as part of a last-minute deal that would give municipalities more flexibility in the emission testing.

• “Foreclosure consultants,” especially those who take a security interest in order to hold off foreclosure by refinancing, might be left holding the bag, thanks to a new bill regulating the “rescue scam” industry. This bill would void agreements without full disclosure.

• Contractors would have to provide OSHA-certified training for their workers if they seek state contracts of more than $100,000.

• Fuel oil dealers would have to pay a bond, or show they have a futures contract, if they offer pre-buy programs to customers. The final version does allow dealers to offer such contracts as early as January 1 of the previous winter.

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