New Hampshire legislators to take up a slew of leftover bills

Carbon tax, changes to BPT thresholds among measures to be considered this week

Carbon would be taxed, business profits tax thresholds would be raised and municipalities would be able to ban plastic bags if bills left over from the last legislative session become law.

But don’t bet on their passage. The bills – among several measures to be voted on starting Wednesday – will either be killed or sent to study if the House and Senate heed the recommendations of their various committees.

And many other bills that are recommended for passage are mainly a rehash of bills passed last session abut vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu, including legislation that would hike the minimum wage, mandate paid family leave and expand net metering. All are likely to be vetoed again.

But some new business-related legislation is expected to pass this week, and their fate is less certain.

Here is a summary of the bills recommended for passage.

Energy

The carbon tax was retained last year, and many thought it would quietly pass away. But “our draws dropped” – according to the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire newsletter after the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee recommended that the House pass House Bill 735.

Carbon pricing, as proponents call it, is an unusual sort of tax, in that none of its revenue would fund government programs. Instead, the idea is not to raise money to change behavior by discouraging people to buy carbon-based fuels and reduce the state’s contribution to climate change.

But the BIA says it would still result in the collection of $800 million a year in new taxes, and that will have an impact on any business that uses carbon-based fuels to run their business. Republicans also argue that towns will have to pay the tax and pass it on to property tax payers. That why Rep. Bob Backus, D-Manchester, the committee’s chair – who supports the bill – is unsure of passage. But as of this writing, the bill still has some fuel in the tank.

Another bill, Senate Bill 715, would tell the Public Utilities Commission to investigate how to incorporate energy storage in ratemaking. The idea is that batteries lower peak demand and save ratepayers money. The question is how to reimburse those savings so they won’t turn into a subsidy.

SB 159 would increase the net metering cap from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. The increase would allow large businesses and some municipalities produce energy and get paid for the sale of excess power to the utility. The debate has been mostly over the repayment rate set by PUC, which is still fine-tuning it. Opponents say it is so generous that it amounts to a subsidy. Proponents say that the rate is more than fair to other ratepayers, who all benefit from the reduction in peak demand. A similar bill was vetoed by the governor last time, but this time a provision has been added to require that producers can’t sell back more than half the energy they produce; currently they can sell up to 80% of it. Perhaps that may be enough to get the bill over the finish line this time.

Those bills are being considered in the House. In the Senate, there also is a net metering expansion bill, SB 13, which received a unanimous recommendation from the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee. The Senate also will vote on HB 466, which would increase from 100 to 125 kilowatts the size of power plants smaller generators can have to earn a more favorable rate net metering rate than larger generators.

In addition, SB 122 would alter how to spend the proceeds generated by the state’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. While other states involved in RGGI spend almost all of the revenue generated on energy efficiency, New Hampshire rebates most of it back to customers. SB 122 would end the rebate for residential customers and rebate the entire amount to commercial and industrial customers. That latter provision was added to mute business opposition, but it still is not expected to escape the governor’s veto pen.

SB 124 would expand renewable portfolio standards, the percentage of renewable energy that utilities must have in their energy portfolio to avoid paying a penalty. The current goal is 25% renewable by 2025. SB 124 would not change that, but increase certain classes of energy, like solar, by 0.9% a year, until the renewable requirement reaches more than 56% by 2040.

Labor

HB 532, which was retained last year, would treat vacation time as earned wages, to be paid on termination. Some employers already do this, but the bill would make it mandatory. The House Labor Committee recommended the bill, 14-2.

HB 731 would raise the hourly minimum wage to $10 an hour next January and $13 in 2024, with a youth minimum of $1 less per hour. While this is expected to pass, after an 11-6 committee vote, the governor vetoed a $12 minimum wage bill last year. The BIA, and small business groups strongly oppose the measure.

HB 712 is very similar to the Family and Medical Leave bill passed last year and also vetoed by the governor. It would impose a payroll deduction of 0.5% to fund a state plan that would provide 12 weeks of compensation at 60% of wages. Most business groups oppose this, though a few think it would help attract more young people into the state and alleviate the labor shortage. The governor called it an income tax when he vetoed it.

Real estate and construction

SB 113 would require that the State Building Code Review Board review any municipal changes to the code before such changes are enforced. Builders strongly back the measure, but expect some push backs from municipalities.

HB 667 would require that builders test wells before municipalities issues a certificate of occupancy. Builders back the measure, saying that independent third-party testing, as is currently required, is inexpensive and often results in a costly dispute.

SB 152 would allow builders – with the approval of a municipality – to provide certification that the building was built to code rather than require a third-party inspection. It also requires that planning boards work with contractors to develop the scope of such inspections. It has the support of the construction industry.

HB 655 would allow municipalities to regulate “disorderly houses,” a bill aimed at those who use services like Airbnb to rent out their homes to people who disturb neighbors.

HB 274 would require that the online facilitators of short-term rentals services, whether for houses or cars, pay the rooms and meals tax. Airbnb already does this, but this would put it into statute and require that others do the same.

HB 478 is yet another attempt to impose a road usage registration fee on owners of low-mileage vehicles that pay little or no gas tax. Road contractors back the bill, but environmentalists oppose it. The House Public Works and Highways Committee voted 12-7 to recommend passage

Healthcare

SB 63 would require that drug manufacturers either pass on rebates at the point of sale, lowering costs at the pharmacy, or demonstrate to the Insurance Department how the received rebates will be used to lower premiums or cost-sharing. It comes with a 16-3 committee recommendation.

HB 690 would end the work requirement for expanded Medicaid. While Governor Sununu suspended the requirement while it is being challenged in the courts, it is unclear whether he will let this go without a veto.

Environment

HB 661 would allow those exposed to toxins to sue for medical monitoring. While it is expected to pass after a 16-3 committee recommendation, businesses have generally opposed such legislation in the past.

HB 102 and HB 559 would give municipalities the right to ban or regulate plastics. The House passed legislation banning plastic bags and straws last session, but the Senate would not pass it last time.

Taxes

HB 223 would increase the minimum income required for filing business profit tax returns from $50,000 to $75,000. This is one bill lawmakers that has bipartisan support.

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