R&M tax bond rule checks out of hospitality industry

Remember last year the Legislature passed a bill requiring that all hotels and restaurants owners post a bond in case they didn’t pay up on the rooms and meals taxes they collected? Well, they can forget about it. The Senate repealed it by passing HB 1291, sending it to the Gov. John Lynch, along with the campground tax that was repealed last week. It turns out those in the hospitality business have enough on their mind right now without coming up with cash for a bond.“It’s punishing those who have done nothing wrong,” said Sen. Michael Downing, R-Salem.The Revenue Department said it would find another way to collect the tax from those few deadbeat inn keepers.“They were painting restaurant owners and innkeepers as a little dishonest by that previous bill,” said Jack Barns, R-Raymond. “Thanks for changing the tone.”Just to make sure it is changed, the Senate passed the bill with a unanimous roll call vote.Here are a few other things the Senate passed, while the House spent hours voting down gambling:• The state can now issue civil penalties of up to $10,000 for forestry violations unless the governor vetoes HB 1544. Previously it could only seek criminal penalties, which are much more difficult to make stick. The level of proof required for civil penalties is not as high. The bill also enables New Hampshire to exclude loggers guilty of violation in other states. Senators said that this is just for a few “bad actors” and most loggers obey the law.• You won’t be able to sell e-cigarettes to children, thanks to HB 1541. While promoters of the electronic devices say they don’t produce smoke, just vapor, that vapor contains nicotine and shouldn’t be sold to kids, much less market in the mall right outside stores that appeal to them.• If Health First plans are too expensive, how does a “basic wellness plan” grab you? Carriers are going to start having to offer it — barring a gubernatorial veto — to all small groups (employers with 1-50 workers) in the near future.The regulations to the new plan haven’t been written yet, but the idea is that it will be a preventative plan, like Health First. Only Health First hasn’t been as cheap as expected. The hope is that Basic Wellness will be.• If you fire someone just for being dishonest, they can still collect unemployment benefits (increasing the premiums for the company that fires him or her), if HB 1168 becomes law. The employee has to actually steal from you to be fired for “gross misconduct” and be denied benefits. The Senate version is a little tougher. Under the House version, only the theft of more than $500 qualified as gross misconduct (along with things like arson, sabotage and assault which causes bodily injury). In the Senate, repeated thefts – even for amounts under $500 – is gross misconduct.• Merchandise with radio frequency ID devices will not have to be labeled if the Senate gets its way. The Senate stripped out the requirement of on HB 478, so that the amended bill will just protect people, not products. Nobody could install such a device on someone’s “body, skin, teeth, hair or nails” without written consent.• Insurers now have to cover hearing aids, but there is a limit on what they will spend. The Senate version of HB 561 would limit the new requirement to $1,500 per hearing aid every six months. The amended bill, if agreed to by the House and governor, would take affect next January.• Insurers cover bone marrow transplants already, so there is no need to mandate it, lawmakers discovered. HB 1586 – on its way to the governor – would repeal that mandate and look into others.• The life settlement industry will be a bit more regulated in the state if HB 660 becomes law. And what is a life settlement? It’s a financial transaction in which the owner of a life insurance policy sells an unneeded policy to a third party for more than its cash value and less than its face value. The Senate amendment puts in additional disclosures that these policies could be resold on the market for good money.• Lawmakers are repealing a state law that made industries pay for emitting too much nitrogen oxide, which can cause asthma and other respiratory problems. That’s because the federal government passed a more stringent law, which will probably require industries pay more. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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