NH Senate OKs ‘new economy’ regulations

Bills affecting companies like Airbnb, Uber win approval

The NH Senate on Thursday barely passed two bills related to the “new economy” companies like Airbnb and Uber, but the measures must still be approved by the House.

House Bill 1590, which would require operators of short-term rental businesses to put their rooms and meals tax identification on their advertisements, squeaked by on a 13-11 roll call vote. The vote came after an impassioned speech by Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, who charged that the bill singled out such businesses with a “scarlet letter” and suggested that lawmakers might try to tax Girl Scout cookies next.

But Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, emphasized that this was a tax that short-term rentals already must pay, “and this is to make sure that it is being paid, that everybody pays it and that there is a level playing field out there.”

The bill – which started in the House as a requirement that those who offer short-term rentals register as a business, quickly morphed in the House into a bill that simply required that the rooms and meals ID be included in advertisements.

An objection by a lobbyist for the online short-term rental company HomeAway tried to derail the bill to interim study, but the Senate voted to send it to the Finance Committee to give supporters a chance to allay concerns that, in helping the Department of Revenue Administration attempt to catch those out of compliance with state tax law, the measure wouldn’t also alert municipalities to people out of compliance with local zoning ordinances.

To make sure of that, Finance Committee inserted a sentence saying simply, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to change or alter the nature of the use of a property for the purpose of determining compliance with a local zoning ordinance.”

It also limited the DRA to a warning for a first offense, before the agency could revoke or deny a license to operate.

But Sanborn said it wasn’t fair to require the tax ID just for short-term rentals,

Uber bill

Meanwhile HB 1697 would set up statewide regulations of transportation networking companies that would overrule municipal ordinances, based on a model bill supported by Uber that has become law in 29 other states.

The bill imposes minimal fees and fines, and gives Uber the flexible commercial insurance requirements it wants but not special language that would have been applied to describe its drivers as independent contractors.

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