Legislative preview: Minimum wage, tenant protection, energy bills on NH lawmakers’ agenda

Highlights of the week ahead in the NH House and Senate

Minimum wage hikes, labor and tenant protections and a host of energy-related bills are on the agenda for the NH legislature this week.

Monday, Feb, 6

Just as it did last week, the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee starts the week with hearings on House Bill 381, which would not allow the state Public Utilities Commission to increase the system benefits charge without legislative permission; HB 251, which would require that the cost of compliance with renewable energy standards be put on customers’ bills; and HB 263, which would require notification to customers that generate renewable energy their renewable energy credits go to the utility if they don’t transfer or sell them.

The panel is also scheduled to vote on HB 139, which would expand the definition of “municipal host” under the Limited Electrical Energy Producers Act to include quasi-public entities like the NH Housing Finance Authority and the Pease Development Authority, and HB 633, which would limit electric rate increases to the Consumer Price Index and essentially break up Eversource.

Tuesday, Feb. 7

The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee will also hold hearings Tuesday on HB 558, which would regulate microgrids, and HB 605, which would increase solar generation under renewable portfolio standards from 0.7 percent to 3 percent in 2025. And it will vote on the HB 381, the system benefits charge measure.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings on Senate Bill 143, which will establish a $1 million scholarship fund for minority small businesses: SB 193, which would require those negotiating in good faith, to at least meet the other side 10 days following a written request; and SB 144, which would raise the minimum wage – currently at the federal rate of $7.25 an hour – to $13 an hour by September and $15 in July 2024. It would also tie the wage paid to tipped workers back to 45 percent of the minimum. It is currently untethered at $3.27 an hour, which is under that percentage under the current minimum, but will be above it should it go up.

The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitation Services Committee will be voting on a similar bill (HB 57) that afternoon. It would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2025, and the tipped wage would be 50 percent. Another bill (HB 58) would do away with the tipped wage. All workers would receive a minimum wage.

The House Labor Committee plans to vote on HB 48, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees from wearing face masks or getting vaccinated against Covid, and HB 74, which would require an employer to pay an employee in good standing any promised unused earned time if they were laid off or because of a change in business ownership.

Also, the Senate Education Committee will be holding a key child care hearing on SB 214, which would establish a state Department of Early Childhood Education and design a pilot high-quality childcare program using federal dollars.

Wednesday, Feb. 8

The next day, the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will be voting on. HB 566, which would establish a childcare workforce fund to provide grants to eligible childcare employers for workforce recruitment and retention bonuses and benefits.

But Wednesday is mainly a housing day. The House Judiciary Committee will vote on a number of landlord-tenant bills, including HB 112, which would require landlords with more than four units to provide tenants with notice of sale of the property and an opportunity to make an offer to purchase it; HB 283, which would forbid landlords to charge application fees of more than $35; HB 401, which would restrict evictions caused by and owner renovating the property; HB 469, which would prohibit discrimination against tenants holding rent vouchers for purposes of renting a dwelling; and HB 379, which would provide tenants who can’t afford one an attorney in landlord-tenant court.

The panel will also be voting on HB 117, which would allow a landlord to end a lease without good cause and HB 261, which would allow a tenant to end their lease in instances of domestic violence or following diagnosis of a debilitating medical condition. It will also vote on HB 567, which would allow tenants whose rent goes up more than 15 percent to end a lease.

Meanwhile, the House Municipal and County Government Committee will be holding hearings on HB 477, which would prohibit municipal inspections of owner-occupied units of multi-unit housing, and HB 423 which would expand accessory dwelling unit law, allowing for two units, instead of one and increase maximum square-footage of a unit from 750 to 1,000 feet.

Thursday, Feb. 9

On Thursday, he House Municipal and County Government Committee will hold a hearing on HB 44, which would allow local legislative bodies to permit by right single-family lots in residential districts served by municipal water and sewer to be used for up to four residential units.

The full Senate also meets on Thursday, and will be voting on mostly non-controversial bills. One bill of note is SB 191, which would place a $100 surcharge on the annual registration fee of electric vehicles to make up for the fact that they don’t pay a gas tax.

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