On the NH Legislature’s agenda this week

A roundup of key business-related legislation up for hearings
Statehouse With Seal

(Dave Cummings/New Hampshire Bulletin)

Reducing taxes, promoting the use of renewable energy, Covid vaccination mandates, tenant rights and worker rights are some issues coming up in the first week of hearings in the state Legislature this year.

Lawmakers will be holding the hearing in person this year, but in a last-minute bow to the pandemic surge, the public will be able to monitor the proceedings on YouTube.

The week will kick off with several bills designed to expand clean energy use. Lawmakers passed a net metering bill last session that would allow municipalities – but not businesses – from building projects as large as 5 megawatts, five times the previous limit to take advantage of the program, which allows customers to sell excess energy to the grid. On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee will hold hearings on two bills that would also allow the state, housing authorities, and state colleges and community colleges to do so.

Also on Tuesday, the House, Science, Technology and Energy Committee will consider a revolving clean energy fund at the new Department of Energy to finance various projects. While the bill doesn’t include state funding, presumably it would be able to take advantage of recent federal infrastructure funds.

The committee also will hold hearings on bills aimed at putting more money from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) into the energy-efficiency fund, which recently suffered a huge setback after the Public Utilities Commission severely rolled back the fund’s major source of dollars, the Systems Benefit Charge.

Currently New Hampshire only spends the first dollar raised by RGGI – which is funded through power producers auctions for the right to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – on energy efficiency. The rest is rebated to ratepayers.

One bill would end the rebate. Another would replace it with change the amount to be rebated to 15 percent funding if it exceeds $1, which it should, since auction proceeds are expected to double next year.

Tax cut proposals

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will look at two bills intended to protect tenants.

One would prohibit terminating a lease when selling a property. Currently, tenants can be evicted after 30 days of a sale. House Bill 1133 would allow them to stay until the end of their lease. Another bill would require 45 days’ notice before a rent increase.

The committee will also hold a hearing on a bill to repeal the Housing Appeals Board. Expect strong opposition from the construction industry, housing advocates and businesses groups concerned about the lack of workforce housing.

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee will look at several bills that would cut taxes.

One would further reduce the current rates of the business profits tax from 7.6 to 7.5 percent and the Business Enterprise tax from 055 to .5 percent. In January, BPT had just gone down to 7.6 percent.

The committee will also hold hearing on bills that would eventually repeal the communications services tax, reduce the rooms and meals tax to 7.9 percent from 8.5 percent (and return 40 percent of the total revenue rather than the current 30 percent to towns and cities).

Other bills before the committee include one that would repeal a recently imposed tax on car rentals under the rooms and meals tax and another for all those Granite Staters who have been working from home for Massachusetts companies over the past few years: “that income earned and received by residents of New Hampshire for services physically performed within New Hampshire shall not be subject to taxation as earned income in any other state.”

Also on Thursday, the House Commerce Committee will look at a two bills unions won’t fancy. One would allow younger workers to work more hours in more dangerous occupations and the other would allow employers to pay workers electronically even if they want to get a check.

On the other hand, the House Labor Committee will hold hearings on four other bills. One would require to give a worker paid time off to vote and the other would ban productivity quotas that don’t give a worker enough time for bathroom breaks and the like. Two other bills focus on noncompete agreements – one banning them when there is a shortage of workers, the other making them unenforceable if a worker is terminated because of a Covid vaccine mandate.

Speaking of the Covid vaccine, on Thursday the House Health and Human Services Committee will look at two bills concerning it. One would prohibit schools or child care centers from requiring vaccines. The other would require that insurers provide a wellness incentive for those who do get vaccinated. House leaders expect a big turnout, since the hearings will be held in Representatives Hall, which has seats for 400 lawmakers.

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