Slew of new laws could benefit businesses

New laws that took effect this past weekend may spell some good news for New Hampshire employers, builders, wine manufacturers, manufactured housing park owners, and, yes, even businesses that pay taxes, as several laws passed last session went into effect Aug. 13.Under Senate Bill 86, employers now get a warning before the Department of Labor issues a fine, at least for minor offenses. The law – backed by conservative Republicans without any serious opposition – was in response to one Nashua business that faced a whopping fine after its owner mixed up unemployment compensation insurance with workers’ compensation insurance requirements. But don’t think you don’t have to pay attention to labor laws. The bill lists seven exceptions when the Labor Department can skip the warming:Failure to pay workers full and on time • Paychecks on a bank not convenient to the job site • Failure to pay the last paycheck in full • Failure to withhold wages for child support • Deducting wages for insurance benefits when the policy has been canceled • Holding wages to make up for worker’s actions that caused loss or damage • Not complying with illegal immigrant laws • Threatening to fire workers, unless they break the lawOh yes, the Labor Department can also skip the warning if the employer “intends to cause harm” or if the violation “poses a threat to public safety.”Under SB 21, contractors now have a little bit more clarity and leeway when it comes to excavation and dredging permits.The law previous exempted man-made ditches. That law has been spelled out to specifically include roadside and railway ditches, detention basins and wetlands (as opposed to just ponds) that have been used to treat stormwater, as well as legally constructed ponds on active farms, aggregate wash ponds and sluiceways. Legally constructed culverts can also be cleaned without a permit.Under House Bill 276, wine manufacture can now hold wine festivals to compete with beer fests for the same fee, and tasters can even bring samples home. The state wants its cut, but no more than it does for a beer fest, so this is NOT (lawmakers emphasize) a new fee: $250 for a one-day festival, $300 for two and $350 for three. As with beer fests, local authorities can quash the whole idea.And you can’t chase your fine Chablis with a cold Bud: “No alcohol other than wine shall be served under this license.”While manufactured housing parks already could charge $10 a head for those exceeding the occupancy limit of the park — ostensibly to help offset the extra use on the septic system — but under HB 322, that charge has been was changed to 10 percent of gross monthly rent. Unless that rent is less than $100 a month, chalk it up as a net gain for the park owners.Those who pay state taxes might be able to do so by credit and debit card, thanks to SB 56, though they might have to pay a convenience fee.The state Department of Revenue Administration has the final word on that, but if it goes ahead, businesses will be able to avoid handing over that chunk of change for another month or so without interest. But if they wait longer, they’ll have to add the steep credit card rates to their tax bill. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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