The public’s business: On the legislative agenda this week

State budget, family medical leave, sports betting top this week’s legislative agenda

This week there will be hearings on the budget as well as a marathon three-day House session. The big issues: family and medical leave and sports betting. Other significant bills include New Hampshire’s minimum wage, the educational tax credit, plastics, putting the Affordable Care Act into state law, prescription drug prices and net metering and other energy bills.

Monday, March 18

The House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the governor’s budget, HB1, and the accompanied trailer bill, HB2, at 1 p.m. in Representative Hall. The budget would, among many other things:

  • establish the governor’ voluntary paid family and medical leave plan with Vermont, where companies can sign on to what is offered to employees of both states, paid for by the state (via general fund) and the companies, as opposed to the Democratic mandatory program, paid for by an employee payroll deduction.
  • allow Association Health Plans where small businesses, including the self-employed, can more easily band together to get better rates. This republican version is a bit looser but offers fewer protections to consumers and viability of existing plans for small business and individuals than the democratic version offers.
  • establish sports betting via local retailers (if approved by the municipality) and via the internet, run by the state Lottery Commission.
  • set up targeted school building aid reserve fund and the targeted school building aid commission.
  • turns the lead paint remediation fund loan program – for landlords who have to spend more to clean up lead paint under regulations passed last session – into a grant program.
  • expands the student loan subsidies offered to employees working with companies with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute in Manchester to those working in other industries in the state.
  • eliminate direct and indirect graduate medical education payments and catastrophic aid to hospitals.

Tuesday, March 19

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be hold hearings on three net-metering bills:

At 8 a.m., SB13, which would increase net metering from 1 to 5 megawatts for both renewable generation and storage, with peak demand taken into account.

At 8:45 a.m., SB159 would also increase net metering from 1 to 5 megawatts for renewable generation, and add clauses saying the utility should minimize costs in calculating net meeting rates.

At 9:30 a.m., SB166 would require that competitive electricity suppliers purchase electricity generation from net energy metering just like regulated electric utilities do.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearings on:

At 1:15 p.m., SB61 would permit a competitor or a union to file a civil action against an employer for violations of a worker’s rights.

The House will pass the following bills all at once, unless they are moved from the consent calendar to the regular calendar:

HB309 would require that a mortgage foreclosure must be served by the sheriff in the county where the property resides, rather than by mail. It also allows a mortgagor to stop a foreclosure via a court complaint rather than petition.

HB657 would make it easier for an individual who is on a low-cost drug to continue to have it covered even if their insurer removes it from their formulary.

HB670 would require health carriers to have access to information about their member’s prescription drug spending.

HB684 would give manufactured housing tenants with the right to challenge a rent increase in mediation that the park owner will have to pay for.

HB695 would require nonprofit organizations that advocate on behalf of patients to disclose any payments, donations, or subsidies from pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance carriers or pharmaceutical benefit  managers.

HB459 would establish an industrial hemp pilot program. It legalizes hemp, defined as cannabis sativa with a THC content of less than 0.3 percent, by 2020.

HB710 would require a building code to be published two years before adoption and have the Building Code Review Board (BCRB) recommend adoption by legislation. BCRB’ code amendments need legislative approval — vurrently they are effective immediately but expire if not approved in two years.

Tuesday through Thursday, March 19 – 21

After the consent calendar, the House plans to vote on the following committees’ recommendations on the following bills. (The committee vote margin at the end are recommendations to pass, unless otherwise stated.)

Ways and Means

HB480 would establish sports betting via local retailers (if approved by the municipality) and via the internet, run by the state Lottery Commission.  This version is a bit more detailed then the Governor. 17-2.

HB632 would end the NH Educational Tax Credit, which currently allows business and individuals to deduct 85 percent of what they donate to private school against their business taxes and interest and dividends, respectively. 10-9.

HB700 provides municipalities a standardized methodology for the assessment of utility properties utilized in the distribution of electricity, gas, and water. Unanimous.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs

HB233 will put most of the Affordable Care Act in state law, in case it is repealed by Congress or overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, including Essential Health Benefits; guaranteed issue, pre-existing condition; geographic rating premium differential protections for age and no lifetime caps. 12-8.

HB520 requires new public accommodations install and maintain at least one diaper changing station that is accessible to all genders  12-8.

HB558 prohibits food service businesses from providing a single-use plastic straw to a customer unless specifically requested. 12-8.

HB560 prohibits stores from providing single-use plastic bags after getting rid of current inventory and prevents them from charging more than a dime for reusable bags. 11-9.

HB628 requires that all newly constructed large public buildings include one universal changing station in a family restroom facility those who have a physical disability. 12-8.

HB664 requires automobile insurance companies to pay for the cost of accident repairs that follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for repair processes. 16-4.

HB703 requires information from pharmaceutical manufacturers relative to the introduction of new, high-cost drugs to the market. 12-8.

HB714 provides that the Liquor Commission promote and sell state local N.H. alcoholic products.  17-3.

HB717 prohibits prescription drug manufacturers from offering coupons or discounts to cover insurance copayments or deductibles when generics are cheaper. 12-8.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

HB109 requires background checks for commercial firearms sales, including private sales (like at gun shows). 10-9.

HB394 would steeply increase the penalties for crop theft. 18-2.

HB514 imposes a waiting period of seven business days between the purchase and delivery of a firearm. 12-8.

Executive Departments and Administration

HB121 creates a license for massage, reflexology, structural integrator and Asian bodywork therapy establishments with two or more employees, to combat human trafficking. These businesses will also no longer be subject to various town or city bylaws. 12-7.

HB562 updates the definition of the state building code from 2009 to 2015 including some but not all of the energy code. 11-8.

Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services

HB293 prohibits employers from using credit history in employment decisions. 12-7.

SB1 imposes a mandatory employee payroll deduction of a half a percent to fund a Family Medical Leave Insurance program. The bill also lowers the minimum threshold for federal unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act job protections for firms with 50 employees to 20 employees. 12-7.

Resources, Recreation and Development

HB326 includes in the definition of prime wetlands the narrower portions that might connect two wetland, preventing development making development more difficult. 13-7.

Science, Technology and Energy

HB358 reverses last session’s bill which would have allowed construction and degree incineration that would particularly affect Wheelabrator’s solid waste facility. 11-9.

HB365 would raise the capacity limit on renewable customers-generators eligible for net metering rates from 1 MW to 5 MW, similar to the bill passed last year that was vetoed by the governor. 12-6.

HB464 updates the definitions of solar energy and  wind powered energy systems to include related hardware such as inverters and storage. 12-7.

HB466 will increase the net metering threshold for small customer generators from the current 100 kilowatts to 500. In other words, some large generators will become small generators, and get a better rate. 13-6.

HB568 adds climate change to the concerns to the state energy strategy and expand it beyond just electricity generation to transportation, heating and cooling. 12-7.

HB582 earmarks all the residential revenues from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to energy efficiency programs while rebating everything back to commercial customers. Currently, only a small portion goes to efficiency while the rest is rebated. 11-8.

HB614 doubles the fines for many air pollution violations and allows the fines to be charged on a daily basis. 16-3.

HB715 requires electric utilities cut peak demand by 2 percent via storage and gives the PUC the authority to up that percentage to 15 percent if it is in the ratepayers’s best interest. 10-8.

Thursday, March 21

The Senate will vote on the following committees’ recommendations on the following bills.  (The Committee vote margin at the end are recommendations to pass, unless otherwise stated.)

Commerce

SB10 creates a minimum wage and sets it for $10 an hour next year and $12 in 2022, but at $11 for businesses providing 10 paid sick days,  It also sets and fixes a $4 an hour tipped wage. 3-2.

SB63 requires insurers to certify on an annual basis to the NH Insurance Department that they are making a percentage of rebates available to their enrollees. 3-2.

SB150 authorizes individuals and certain businesses to purchase health insurance from out-of-state companies. The committee voted 3-2 to kill the bill.

Energy and Natural Resources

SB206 excludes the costs of lobbying and political activity from the rates or charges of public utilities. 4-0.

Finance

SB167 sets up a commission to investigate the cost-effective procurement of renewable energy generation resources. 5-0.

SB 247 establishes the sunny day fund to obtain and disburse grants for research and development and increase commercialization of new technologies.  The funds – up to $15 million – would come from rainy day fund surplus. 5-0.

Categories: Government