Legislative Preview: The week ahead for New Hampshire lawmakers
Paid family leave program repeal goes before Senate committee
Should paid family leave be repealed? Do you have to do business a neo-Nazis? Should you be allowed to pay your employers electronically, even though they want to receive a paper check? These are just some of the issues coming up for discussion by New Hampshire lawmakers this week.
Tuesday, April 12
The Senate Commerce Committee will kick off the week with a hearing on House Bill 1165, which would repeal the governor’s Granite State Paid Family Leave plan – the day after bidders submit questions on a request for proposals to run the program.. The voluntary program, which Senate negotiators slipped into the budget last year, would provide six weeks of paid leave at 60 percent of income for participants who need to take care of family members or themselves. Tax breaks would encourage businesses to participate, and a subsidy would keep rates low for individuals.
But House Republicans bucked the governor by overwhelmingly voting to repeal the program, primarily because they said the cost was unknown. The administration also didn’t show up at public hearings to answer questions. The state Insurance Commissioner appeared at the Labor Committee’s executive session just before it voted, but wasn’t able to answer many of those questions.
The committee will also hold a hearing on HB 1469, which would prohibit banks and other business to discriminate on the basis of ideology. Business groups are worried that it would force businesses to print tracts or lease space to extremists, be it white nationalists or Middle East terrorists.
On the House side, the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will hold hearings on Senate Bill 407, which would expand Medicaid to include postpartum health services, an attempt to sure up hospitals’ maternity programs in rural areas, and SB 403, a bill that would again allow farmer markers to participate in federal WIC programs.
The House Environment and Agriculture Committee will be considering SB 679, which would treat advanced recycling facilities as manufacturers and therefore not need solid waste permits. And the Science, Technology and Energy Committee will look at SB321, strongly supported by Clean Energy NH, which would apply to larger business that can’t participate in net metering. Such facilities with the capacity to generate 1 to 5 megawatts of renewable energy, would get credits when they transmit that energy to the grid when it is most needed. It’s a pilot program that “has the potential to align markets and incentives better than net metering,” said Sam Evans-Brown, Clean Energy NH’s executive director.
The House Energy Committee will also consider SB271, which would all but require that the state Public Utilities Commission reverse and allow ratepayers to continue to subsidize the Burgess bioenergy plant in Berlin, because of the jobs that would be salvaged at the plant but at loggers that sell the plants wood chips from low-grade wood.
Wednesday, April 13
The House Finance Committee will hold a hearing on SB 445, which would appropriate $122 million of federal broadband funds for a matching grant program for municipalities that put up 25 percent towards a project. Even if no state money is involved, a program that large is bound to get some close scrutiny. The panel will also look at HB 412, which would allocate $5 million to increase nursing home reimbursement rates.
The House Commerce Committee will hold hearings on SB 355, which would require that large online marketplaces that handles transactions itself, such as Amazon and eBay, but not Craigslist, have to disclose sales of high volumes of certain merchandise. The bill, strongly supported by the NH Retail Association, would help law enforcement track down criminal operations that buy up stolen merchandise from brick-and-mortar stores and dispose of it online.
Thursday, April 14
The House Labor Committee will hold hearings on SB 345, which would allow young workers to work more hours, and SB 209, which would allow companies to pay workers electronically, even if they still would prefer receiving a paper check.
The Senate will be meeting in full session, but right afterwards the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee will take up three bills related to perfluorochemicals, or PFAS.
One, HB 478, is similar to SB 341, which the Business & Industry Association opposed and the Senate tabled. It specifically calls out Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to pay all costs associated with the continued operation, monitoring and maintenance of its water treatment system, even though the company already has reached a settlement with the town.