Legislative Preview: The week ahead for New Hampshire lawmakers
BPT cut, housing, commuter rail among items on the agenda
Business tax cuts, paving the way for a new cannabis industry, some key bills focused on affordable housing and renewable energy and the future of commuter rail – all are on the agenda in what promises to be another busy week in the NH Legislature.
Monday, April 18
The week starts out Monday with the House Municipal and County Government Committee voting on two bills related to housing. Senate Bill 239 would prohibit municipal bans against short-term rentals. Supporters say that the bill is more of a compromise, allowing municipalities to regulate them but not ban them, while municipalities argue that they interfere with local control. The committee will vote on SB 400 – perhaps the year’s most significant workforce housing bill – which provides incentives for municipalities that are affordable housing “champions” as well stricter timelines to speed up approval for developments.
Meanwhile in the Senate, the Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 1307, which would somewhat restrict the Housing Appeals Board’s jurisdiction, which concerns housing advocates like the NH Homebuilders Association.
Tuesday, April 19
On Tuesday, the House Science and Energy Technology Committee will be voting on SB 271, which would all but require that the state Public Utilities Commission rule that ratepayers should subsidize the Burgess BioPower facility in Berlin, in order to provide reliable renewable energy to the grid, as well as buy up low-grade wood for the local forest industry.
The committee will also be voting on SB 262, which would allow businesses with larger renewable energy systems (from one to five megawatts) to take advantage of net metering. Currently, only municipalities can be eligible. The bill will also increase the net metering rate to some businesses with systems under a megawatt. The committee will also vote on SB 321, which would allow large businesses not participating in net metering to get credits when they transmit energy to the grid when it is most needed. Both bills are strongly supported by Clean Energy NH.
Finally, the committee will vote on SB 395, which would allow the state to use federal broadband funding to help alleviate “cellular desserts” in more rural areas.
Later on in the day, the Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1432, which would prohibit the use of state funds for new passenger rail projects, thereby jeopardizing millions of dollars of federal funding. The bill is strongly opposed by business groups, especially in Nashua, Manchester and Concord.
Wednesday, April 20
Wednesday starts out with two controversial bills. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing HB 1598, a bill that would not just legalize cannabis in the state, but only allow the state (via the Liquor Commission) to sell it. This would open up the state to a whole new industry. But some argue that the commission should license private retailers instead, while others primarily oppose legalizing marijuana.
Later that morning, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1210, one of the few anti-vaccination bills still standing. It applies to nearly all businesses and would require them to grant an employee exemption to their vaccination policies on grounds of conscience, though it does allow for both sides to reach a “reasonable accommodation.” The Business & Industry Association strongly opposes the bill as well as most of the healthcare industry, which could lose hundreds of millions of dollars of Medicare and Medicaid funding should they buck federal law, which does not allow for such exemptions.
Also that morning, the House Labor Committee plans to vote on SB 209, which would give companies the right to pay workers electronically even if they want to be paid with a paper check, and SB 345, which would allow teenagers to work more hours during school weeks.
In the afternoon, the House Commerce Committee intends to vote on SB 121, which would allow the Insurance Department to establish a state-based health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives rejected forming an exchange because they opposed the ACA, so tens of thousands of Granite Staters now use the federal exchange to buy health insurance. But some now think that a state exchange will provide the state with more control over the process.
The Commerce Committee is also scheduled to vote on SB 210, which would make it easier for tenants to participate in decisions to buy their manufactured housing parks. The original bill, which would have required a 50 percent of all tenants – not just those choosing to vote — but it was amended after heavy criticism.
The committee also plans to vote SB 319, which would allow insurance companies to provide incentives for those who get vaccinated, similar to how they reward those for smoking cessation and weight loss.
Finally, the committee will vote on SB 355, which would require online marketers like Amazon 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 21
On Thursday, both chambers will meet for final votes on bills.
Among them is SB 438, which
The House has scheduled a vote on SB 438, which would require large state contractors to use American-made steel. Opponents decry the measure as protectionist.
The Senate will be voting on HB 1221, which would lower the business profits tax rate by a point, to 7.5 percent. The original bill was expected to pass easily, but the Senate Ways and Means Committee tacked on an amendment that would provide a one-time state 7.5% contribution to the retirement system costs that are now solely borne by municipalities.