Self-insurance, environment on lawmakers’ agenda

State employees’ health insurance plans might be up for grabs again, thanks to a bill expected to pass the House this week.

The state used to send its health-insurance business out to bid, but then passed a bill requiring the government insure its own workers in hopes of saving money. However, self-insurance has not proven to be the answer to skyrocketing health-care costs. House Bill 1735 would repeal the law, allowing the state to get out of the insurance business.

In other business before lawmakers this week, lobbyists and lawyers have more than a professional issue on a couple bills that are up for debate

One would require lobbyists to report all gifts and campaign contributions to the secretary of state. Opponents say the state has already passed an ethics bill. Proponents say that the bill doesn’t contain strong enough disclosure provisions for lobbyists, who often write actual language of bills for the lawmakers.

The other – which does not have much chance of passage – would repeal the New Hampshire Bar Association’s charter. Supporters of the measure say that the bar is a state-sponsored monopoly, since attorneys must belong to it to practice their profession. But there are too many attorneys in the State House, both with orange and black badges, to expect this bill to go anywhere.

On the environmental front, look for debates on three bills. One would give the state greater scrutiny to a longstanding property tax break for solid waste facilities that reduce pollution. There is some concern that companies have been getting the break without continuing to document their pollution reduction, but others say that additional scrutiny and/or tax burden would either discourage companies from installing pollution control devices or encourage them to locate in another state.

Expect some discussion on a bill that would raise state Environmental Services lab fees. Opponents to the measure are worried that it would result in too much money being spent at the discretion of the department.

Look also for a hot debate on a bill regulating sludge-spreading around riverbeds. The House Environment and Agriculture Committee was so divided on the bill that it couldn’t make a recommendation to the full House.

Finally, look for the following bills to bite the dust:

• Establishing a study committee to replace the current trade licensing system with a general business profession.
• Allowing dental hygienists to set up their own practices.
• Requiring that construction companies “deconstruct” materials in order to reclaim and recycling them (rather than “recycle” them by burning the debris for energy).
• Eliminating the business enterprise tax and reducing the business profits tax by 2 percent. – BOB SANDERS

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