House OKs unemployment tax hike

The New Hampshire House passed without debate a bill that would raise the unemployment tax by a little more than 12 percent.

Under the measure, would affect the first $9,000 of a worker’s wages – the threshold is currently $8,000. It also would double the amount the state Department of Employment Security receives for administration of the unemployment trust fund, increase the maximum benefits a worker could receive and spend more money on worker training programs.

Employment Security proposed the bill, arguing that without it the unemployment trust fund would be so low that the state would have to increase the tax even more on most employers, and without the administrative increase, it might have to close several unemployment offices.

The House also voted for several other Employment Security-initiated reforms that primarily would affect the construction industry.

One bill was passed that would look raising unemployment taxes for companies with a negative unemployment trust balance — seasonal employers, primarily construction and school bus companies.

Another bill was sent to the House Ways and Means committee that would impose a $25-a-day per-worker fine on companies that illegally hire independent contractors in order to escape paying their payroll taxes, Currently there are no penalties. The bill also contains a three-month amnesty period to allow companies that are violating the law to pay back taxes without the fine.

In other business-related act the House passed a bill to the Ways and Means that would increase the fine from $1,000 to $2,500 per day for knowingly hiring illegal aliens, as well as violating various strike-breaking laws.

It passed bills doubling late fees to $50 for various late filings with the secretary of state’s office, another doubling lobbyist fees from $50 to $100 per employer (as well as doubling the registration fee of political committees) to help fund electronic filing of both lobbyists, candidates and committees.

Other bills approved would license landscape architects for the first time (without specifying the licensing fee), would increase the state licensing fee for junkyards from $25 to $250 and allow municipalities to require that those obtaining pinball machines and other coin-operated electronic games obtain issue permits (and presumably collect a fee based on those permits).

The House also passed House Bill 1570 – an amended version of Michelle’s Law, named after a student with a fatal illness who was forced to go to school full time in order to keep her health insurance. Under the amendment, all children under 24 who are financially dependent and living with their parents can be kept on a parent’s policy. But once the student withdraws from that coverage, it won’t be renewed.

The House also passed a bill that would require businesses to notify consumers within three days if it released credit card or other information that could lead to credit card theft and fraud. The bill originally gave companies 15 business days to notify consumers, but Rep. Neil Kurk argued that someone could clean out a bank account in “15 seconds,” and this gave consumers a better chance of protecting their money.

Some question whether the standard – one of the most stringent in the nation – would put New Hampshire at a competitive disadvantage. Kurk replied he hoped that it would result in New Hampshire setting an example. The bill, however, won’t go to the Senate. Instead, it has been referred to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. – BOB SANDERS

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