Legislative preview: What’s coming up this week for New Hampshire lawmakers
Energy, environment and housing bills are up for hearings
Bills that might increase your electricity rate but lower your bills, make it tougher to dispose of solid waste, restrict an employer’s options when it comes to wages and hours and ease the way for workforce housing will all be the subject of public hearings before members of the New Hampshire Legislature this week. And you can either travel to Concord or check the House and Senate’sYouTube channels to stream the hearings live.
Tuesday, Jan. 18
Tuesday might as well be called Energy and Environment Day. It kicks off with two Senate hearings to respond to the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to gut utilities’ NHSaves energy-efficiency programs funded by the System Benefits Charge (SBC). The move has resulted in an interruption in the programs and layoffs of hundreds of workers.
The House has passed House Bill 549, which would have left the program intact but leave it up to lawmakers to set the SBC in the future. Senate Bill 270 – originally a bill to make it simpler for low-income people to sign up for community solar programs – was amended to also keep the SBC. But the Senate would not leave future decisions in the hands of the PUC. Both bills have hearings in the morning in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
That same morning and into the afternoon expect at least seven hearings on solid waste-related bills in front of the House Environment and Agricultural Committee, including HB 1420, which would prohibit new landfill permits until the state’s solid waste plan is updated, and HB 1454 which would prohibit new landfills near groundwater sources.
Mid-afternoon, the committee will hold a hearing on the perennial bottle deposit bill, which retailers have strongly opposed in the past. Also that day, the Senate Finance Committee will be considering adding $3 million to the lead remediation fund, which has helped landlords address the presence of lead in their apartment buildings.
Wednesday, Jan. 19
On Wednesday, the energy and environmental theme continues. In the morning, the House Public Works and Highways Committee ponders how electric vehicles can contribute to the highway fund, since their owners don’t pay a gas tax. HB 1675 would simply tack on an EV surcharge, whereas HB 1656 would increase registration fees for all car owners to fill in that revenue and base the fees on both weight and miles traveled.
Also that afternoon, the House Resource, Recreation and Development Committee will focus on several bills dealing with perfluorinated chemicals in water. Some business groups are concerned restrictions will be going too far. In addition, the House Judiciary Committee will hear a bill that would prevent construction and demolition debris from going into landfills.
Expect a lot of tenant and landlord input into House Judiciary Committee hearing after lunch on HB 1291, which would require landlords to rent to people receiving a federal Section 8 subsidy.
Thursday, Jan. 20
On Thursday morning, House Judiciary will hear a bill requiring landlords to return rental application fees, but the big housing bill – Senate Bill 400 – will be in front of the House Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee.
It is very similar to a workforce housing bill that narrowly failed last year. Among other things, it enhances zoning and planning board training, expands tax increment financing to construct workforce housing, extends community revitalization tax relief for such housing and establishes a voluntary housing champion certificate program, which would give communities preferential access to state infrastructure funds.
The House Labor Committee will be holding hearings on bills that would require employers to give more notice before changing employees’ work schedules and prohibit them from making use of credit history in hiring as well as paying a “sub-minimum” wage. Also, the House Ways and Means Committee will hear a bill that would require large employers to either pay a $15-an-hour minimum wage or face higher business taxes.