Legislative Preview: the week ahead for New Hampshire lawmakers

Full House, Senate to vote on raft of bills
Statehouse With Seal

(Dave Cummings/New Hampshire Bulletin)

The full House and Senate will be in session this week to vote on a variety of bills, including increasing the number of hours youths are allowed to work, jump-starting the offshore wind industry, banning local bans on short-term rentals and requiring prevailing wages on public works projects.

Tuesday, Feb 15

On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee will consider Senate Bill 424, which would allow utilities to spend ratepayer money to develop “renewable natural gas,” which includes fuel produced by biomass gasification plants. It will then hear then SB 269, which to expand the weatherization program to commercial buildings, such as mill and apartment buildings. The House Municipal and County Government Committee will continue its hearing on House Bill 1238, which would prohibit local proscriptions on workforce housing, and start a new hearing on HB 1119, which would allow towns to regulate the use of paper and plastic bags. In the afternoon, it plans to hold a hearing on HB 1365, which would allow municipalities to set different rates for commercial and resident property taxes.

Wednesday, Feb. 15

In the Senate, SB 345, which would change the number of hours teen workers can be on the job won’t be debated at all, even though it might have noticeable impact on the retail and hospitality industry in the midst of a labor shortage. That’s because it is on the Consent Calendar, and is expected to be approved passed, along with many noncontroversial bills, in a quick voice vote.

SB 345, as amended, does two things: It increases the number of hours youths (16-and 17-year-olds) can work during the school week. And it allows them to work later hours during the week, though it now outlaws graveyard shifts.

Currently, youths can’t work more than 30 hours during a school week. This allows them to work 35 hours. It also deletes any limitation during a week when there are holidays and other reasons schools aren’t open during an entire week. Currently, they were limited to 40 hours when there are four school days in a week, and 48 hours when there are fewer than that.

Night work restrictions are currently a little complicated. Youths can’t work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. more than twice in a week. If they do, they can’t work an eight-hour shift that week. Under SB 345, they can’t work later than 10 p.m. on a school night (Sunday through Thursday) and later than midnight on weekends.

Also on the Consent Calendar are two bills designed to aid the offshore wind industry.

One, SB 261 would essentially give the state a seat at the table when there are discussions about the maritime, environmental and costal economic effect of offshore wind projects, even when they would be located in federal waters. SB 440 would direct the Offshore Wind and Port Development Commission to advise how New Hampshire utilities could best purchase wind energy.

Another bill, SB 447, would set up an electric vehicle infrastructure fund with federal infrastructure dollars.

There will probably be debate over SB 209, which makes the choice of how an employee gets paid (check, direct deposit or debit card) the employer’s and no longer the worker’s. But the bill does give some protection to workers when the electronic means fail.

There seems to be bipartisan agreement on SB 249, a bill that would prohibit municipal short-term rental bans. It would require that rentals be registered and allow them to be inspected, but it forbids municipalities from revoking a registration unless a rental has two or more violations.

The full Senate also is scheduled to vote on two business assistance bills that the Commerce Committee recommended killing by a 3-2 margin.

SB 428 would establish a scholarship funds to help disadvantaged business apply for NH Business Finance Authority loans, and SB 451 would fund research and development for small companies.

There also might be some controversy over SB 319, a bill that would allow insurers to provide financial incentives to those who get vaccinated, despite a 7-0 Senate Finance Committee recommendation to pass the bill.

Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 17

On the Consent Calendar of the House, which will be meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel Downtown Manchester, is HB 1420, which would prohibit the permitting of new landfills until the state’s solid waste plan is updated, though it does not apply to existing applications. The Environment and Agriculture Committee also unanimously recommended passage of HB 1547, which would set maximum contaminant levels for perfluorochemicals in the soil.

However, the Ways and Means committee, unanimously recommended only studying bills that would reduce the rooms and meals tax (HB 1204), repealing the communications tax (HB 1500) and killing HB 1541, which would defer business taxes and filing fees for limited liability startups.

Turning to the regular calendar, expect fierce debate over HB 1469, which would prohibit banks and business from using “social credit scores.” The bill’s supporters argue that businesses can use various ethical but nonfinancial criteria – gun ownership is specifically mentioned – to discriminate against businesses and individuals. Opponents say the bill is vague and hard to enforce, and both the banking and business community oppose it. The Commerce Committee recommended passage, but on a 10-9 vote.

A similar close vote, 11-10 in the Labor Committee, backed killing HB 1538, portending a vigorous debate. The bill would require prevailing wages on state-funded public works projects.

Also, expect some debate on the Science, Technology and Energy Committee’s recommendation to kill HB 1506, which would set up a so-called green bank and HB 1601 and HB 1621, both of which would put more money raised through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative into energy-efficiency programs. New Hampshire rebates most of the money to the ratepayers.

On Thursday morning, Gov. Chris Sununu will deliver his State of the State address to both chambers at the hotel, to give his take on legislative priorities.

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