Lawmakers studying bills for their next session

Committees, other panels taking second look at range of issues

The New Hampshire legislative session ended in June, so most of the work on bills is done for this year. However, the New Hampshire House and Senate kept 230 bills in committee to work on over the summer. Gov. Chris Sununu has also signed several bills to establish study commissions, which are tasked with recommending future legislation. Here’s a snapshot of big issues getting studied for action in 2020.

Gas tax and road use fees

The House Public Works and Highways Committee is holding two bills over the summer related to road funding: House Bill 478 and HB 538.

HB 478 would establish a road usage fee — a surcharge on a car’s annual registration. The fee would go up to $111, based on a vehicle’s miles per gallon.

HB 538 would increase the gas tax from $0.222 per gallon to $0.282.

So far, the committee has not scheduled any work sessions on these bills. They must make a recommendation on the bills for a full House vote in 2020.

Mandatory car insurance

New Hampshire does not require that motorists have insurance in order to register their cars. HB 613 would change that. The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee is working on that bill over the summer. Their most recent work session was June 25.

Carbon tax

HB 735 would establish a fee on any carbon-based fuel imported, sold or used in New Hampshire. The revenue from that fee would be split between greenhouse gas reduction programs, customer rebates and administration costs.

The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee kept HB 735 for work over the summer. Their next work session is Sept. 5.

Renewable energy

New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires electricity providers to obtain a certain percentage of electricity from renewable energy sources each year, peaking at 25% in 2025. Now, legislators are considering what should happen after 2025.

This summer, the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee is working on Senate Bill 124, which would extend the Renewable Portfolio Standard goals to 60% renewable energy by 2040.

Plastic bans

This year, the Senate shot down statewide bans on single-use carryout bags and plastic straws. The issue isn’t dead yet, though.

The House Municipal and County Government Committee is holding onto two related bills over the summer: HB 102 and HB 559. Both bills would give cities and towns the power to limit single-use plastics, such as bags and straws.

On a related note, Sununu signed HB 617 to form a committee to study recycling streams and solid waste management in New Hampshire. Recycling is becoming more and more costly for towns and cities. The committee of legislators has until Nov. 1 to recommend any new laws on that subject.

Affordable housing

The topic of affordable housing is getting a look from many angles this summer.

Sununu signed SB 154, which creates a committee to study tax incentives for development of dense workforce housing in community centers. That committee must recommend any future legislation by Nov. 1, 2019.

Sununu also signed HB 312, which creates a committee to study tiny houses. That committee must also make a report by Nov. 1, 2019.

SB 43, also signed by Sununu, would establish a commission to study barriers to increased density of land development in New Hampshire. That commission must make an interim report by Nov. 1, 2019 and a final report by Nov. 1, 2020.

Marijuana legalization

This year, the New Hampshire House approved marijuana legalization through HB 481. In May, the Senate voted to send that bill to the Judiciary Committee for more work. And HB 481 will come up for another Senate vote in 2020.

Education funding

When legislators sent their budget to Sununu, they included a revised school funding formula as well as a new commission to study school funding. Since Sununu vetoed the budget, that commission never formed. However, school funding is still a big unresolved issue for the state, so any budget compromise will probably form a study commission on the issue.

Anna Brown is director of research and analysis at Citizens Count, a nonpartisan civic engagement nonprofit serving New Hampshire. If you’re interested in any of these issues, reach out to officials or visit citizenscount.org to learn more.

Categories: Government

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