Cook on Concord
Along with over a thousand other people, I attended the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Dinner in March. It was a classy event, focusing on Manchester’s recent history and culminating in the recognition of Clara Monier, longtime director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, civic contributor and graduate of Manchester High School West, as Citizen of the Year.
This well-deserved honor was received with a gracious speech. It was a classy event and a fun review of Manchester history through Channel 9 news clips focusing on various decades. Several Manchester Wolves dance team members (that is the indoor football team, for those who are not initiated in that particular sport, which is surprisingly fun to watch at the Verizon Wireless Arena) danced in costumes of the various decades as well.
Imagine my surprise and that of many others, therefore, at the recent article by New Hampshire Business Review columnist Jack Kenny, accompanied by a rather revealing cartoon, entitled “The Hooterization of Manchester.”
Obviously, I love the New Hampshire Business Review, and Jack Kenny is a friend of mine. However, for those who did not attend the Citizen of the Year dinner, the impression left was that something inappropriate was going on. It was not. Equating the Manchester Wolves dance team members’ participation and the rather questionable dress worn by women servers at the restaurant chain referenced in the article was inappropriate, and the cartoon was not only tasteless it also was unfair. Enough of that.
As the Legislature heads into its final six weeks (or so the legislators hope), the number of issues has narrowed. The issues important to business can be found in the Business and Industry Association’s Legislative Review, a weekly publication sent to members of the state’s leading business organization.
The BIA supports extension of the poles and conduit tax exemption. This is a property tax law that exempts utility facilities (poles and conduits) from being considered real estate for tax purposes. The exemption is slated to expire and the bill (Senate Bill 11) would extend the exemption. Were it to fail, towns and cities could tax these facilities, and we would all pay for it through our utility bills.
The state’s capital improvement plan is being watched by business as well. House Bill 25 makes appropriation for capital improvements for the biennium and extends certain lapse dates for previous appropriations. This has been passed by the House and is under Senate consideration.
Economic development bills being watched include HB 539, which allows loans to be made to eligible applicants for financial assistance under the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). HB 670 appropriates $4 million for fiscal year 2006 and $6 million for fiscal year 2007 to fund the LCHIP program.
On energy and utility matters, HB 174 requires the Public Utilities Commission to adopt rules regarding electricity suppliers and utilities offering renewable energy options, and HB 185 establishes a committee to study maximizing the incentives for voluntary use of renewable energy.
On environmental matters, the BIA is monitoring HB 69, concerning large groundwater withdrawal users’ obligations to disclose and report their activities. HB 315 requires best use of available technology for pollution control. SB 104 removes the tax exemption for pollution control facilities that are only partly for reducing pollution. SB 128 establishes emission reduction standards required by the Clean Power Act. SB 215 creates a committee to study banning the incineration of construction and demolition debris. All of these bills are of interest or concern in relation to certain businesses and industrial facility proposals. The BIA is concerned about bills that sound like they are of general application but really are aimed at individual companies’ specific projects.
On health insurance, the small group insurance issues associated with SB 110, passed in the last session, continue to be heard, and the BIA is taking an active role in trying to come up with a fair solution that does not create too much disruption in the insurance market. The issues in HB 611, SB 64 and SB 125 are rating small groups on account of health status of employees and by communities.
There are many other bills on a wide range of subjects of concern to business, including human resources issues, health care, unemployment insurance, education funding, high school performance, adequate education definitions, the university system and the community technical colleges governance system. nhbr
Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.