New laws affecting N.H. business begin taking effect

The New Hampshire Legislature’s business might be have ended in June, but much of the business legislation approved last session is just beginning to take effect.

Architects will soon have to start taking continuing education courses. Title insurance agents can no longer get a fee for referring business. And builders and developers must now identify upstream dam owners in their applications.

The dam identification bill was actually an indirect result of an attempt to ease the governmental burden on owners of non-hazardous dams. These owners no longer have to pay an annual fee, but a dam might suddenly be classified as hazardous if a new development could be flooded if the dam broke.

Senate Bill 28 requires that the developer identify such a dam and its owner to the town planning board. The planning board, in turn, must notify the dam owner as well as state environmental officials.

House Bill 144 would make sure that title insurance agents don’t pay off Realtors and brokers for referrals of business. The bill had the full support of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of New Hampshire, which wanted to prevent any conflict of interest.

HB 77, which also has gone into effect, won’t make much difference to most architects — and it won’t immediately affect the rest.

The bill requires completion of 12 units of continuing education each year — eight in health, safety and welfare and four units in “sustainable design.” But most other states already require continuing education, and most architects are licensed in other states besides New Hampshire. For those only licensed here, the law won’t go into effect until the rules get written, which usually takes a half a year. After that, the draft ruling gives them until their current two-year license is up to complete their training in.

Also, a law that authorizes the state rail authority to be administratively attached to the Department of Transportation has immediately taken effect.

Among the other measures taking effect in July:

• Fees for off-highway recreational vehicles, snowmobiles and the agents that sell and rent them have increased. OHRV dealer registrations have gone up from $35 to $45.50, and rental agency registrations went up from $58 to $75.40 for each set of decals.

Snowmobile registrations have increased from $75 to $90 for in-state residents and $90 to $110 for out-of-staters. (Members of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association will still receive a $30 discount.) Snowmobile dealers’ registration fees have increased as well as rental agency registrations. Agents now must collect $3, rather than $2, for each OHRV and snowmobile registration issued.

• The tax on home heating oil will rise a quarter-penny to 1.25 cents to help clean up the mess left by leaking tanks. The increase sunsets next summer, or if there is enough money ($2.5 million) in the fuel oil discharge cleanup fund.

• Companies can now contribute to premiums to cover employees’ life insurance policies, or perhaps we could say that companies can now offer partial plans where employees chip in. Before it was one or the other.

• Dealers can now deliver manufactured housing and modular buildings to customers using utility plates.

• The Public Utilities Commission can start some energy conversation programs based on future proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Imitative. Also, the systems benefits charge on your utility bill can now be used for customer-based energy efficiency and conservation measures on a pilot basis.

• Physician assistants can now be disciplined through the Board of Medicine, and there are other changes as well, such as the mandatory destruction of all documents within three years of a unfounded complaint and a program to help doctors overcome various addictions has now been extended to encompass “disruptive behavior,” which includes sexual harassment.

• Credit union board members can now receive a “reasonable fee” for attending meetings, but the fee must still be submitted to the banking commissioner for approval.

• Municipalities can now give developers tax incentives for tearing down old buildings, not just renovating them, as long as the building about to be destroyed doesn’t have historical, cultural or architectural value.

• Municipalities can now pass zoning restrictions similar to flood plain restrictions relating to hazards of river erosion.

• The state fire marshal has the right to require that homes meet state building codes for towns that don’t have their own building inspector, and can now set a fee for the “service.”

• The commission studying expansion of electric transmission capacity in the North Country can now hire a consultant with federal stimulus money.

• A study committee to look at various tax credits can get under way. Under discussion will be the Community Development Finance Authority investment tax credit, the economic revitalization zone tax credit, the research and development tax credit, the Coos County job credit, the business tax credit for insurance taxes, the business enterprise credit against the business profits tax and the net loss carry-forward provisions under both of those business taxes. The first meeting of the panel is supposed to be held by Sept. 1 and a report is due on Dec. 1.

Bob Sanders can be reached at