Legislative Update

legislation The Chamber's legislative priorities affecting your business

Updates written on behalf of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee keep Chamber members posted on legislation affecting your business, your employees, and your quality of life. If you have any questions, please contact the Chamber at (603) 224-2508.

Check back for updates throughout the 2019 legislative session. Click here  to view a legislative calendar and for information about bills, committees, legislators, state representatives, state senators, etc.  

 

April 5, 2019

HOUSE BUDGET NEARLY FINAL

The House Finance Committee has finished its work on its version of the next biennium’s operating budget. The full House will vote next week. And we all know what that vote is going to be…totally partisan, like the House Finance Committee, Democrats voting yes and Republican voting no.

The proposed House budget is about $300 million more than Governor Chris Sununu’s $3.1 billion two-year plan and spends much of the additional money on education and implementing sections of the state’s new metal health plan.

The House budget does not include a new $26 million psychiatric building on New Hampshire State Hospital grounds replacing the secure psychiatric unit housed at the Men’s State Prison in Concord nor additional construction Governor Sununu proposed for a new facility to house children now at the state hospital, nor millions in local projects (earmarks according to the Democrats) in a couple of dozen communities that critics said should have been done through the capital budget process. Responding to the elimination of the new psychiatric facility, the Governor said, “I am shocked that Democratic leadership went from applauding this initiative in my budget address to failing to fulfill New Hampshire’s obligations in the state’s 10 Year Mental Health Plan”. Democrats on the committee said more details are needed before they could support spending $26 million on the new building. “It would be irresponsible for the House Finance Committee to appropriate $26 million for a building without plans or even a site”. The House budget plan does, however, create 40 transitional housing beds to help address the backlog of people with severe mental health issues waiting in hospital emergency rooms or waiting for a bed to open at the state hospital or at a community mental health program.

The Committee substituted the Family and Medical Leave Plan SB 1 approved by both the House and Senate for the Governor’s FMLI proposal for state workers in New Hampshire and Vermont. SB 1 should make it to the Governor’s desk for signature next week and you can bet his veto pen will be ready.

The Governor had proposed putting $15 million in the state’s rainy day fund , bringing the total to a record $137 million, but the House plan would only put $5 million in the state’s rainy day savings account.

The House Finance Committee must have really gotten excited about March Madness as they worked feverously on the budget instead of watching basketball as they adopted most of the Governor’s plan for sports betting .

What else did the Committee do? They added money to support early intervention programs to treat mental illness and a mobile crisis team for children and youth; added a dental benefit to the state Medicaid program, costing $2.5 million; increased staff for child protection and additional money for services for at-risk families and prevention; gave an additional $165 million for state education funding aid to school districts largely paid for through a new capital gains tax of 5%; eliminated the planned reductions in the BET and BPT rates.

The Committee decided to return to a policy of fiscal capacity disparity grants (stabilization grants) to school districts that struggle to pay for education. They wanted to add money to school districts that have such a difficult time with tax rates such as Berlin whose population is down, revenue is down due the the mills closing and they have lost some of their education stabilization grant. The disparity grants would be awarded based on the number of students on the free and reduced lunch program. Don’t expect much new money to come to the Capital region.

The Republican Committee members questioned using a capital gains tax for additional education funding as it is an unreliable tax. Who knows how many wealthy seniors are going to move out of state to avoid a 5% capital gains tax. If the tax only returns $50 million instead of $150 million as is the estimate, then $100 million would have to come from somewhere. Where? Increase in business taxes?

The school building aid program received about $17 million more to cover five new building projects approved by the Department of Education as the school building moratorium has ended.

The House will vote on the budget April 11 then it will be off to the Senate for major fireworks as the Senate develops their own budget in response to the Governors and Houses budgets. The new psychiatric hospital slated for Concord will certainly be a major debate.

Senate and House negotiators have to reach a compromise by June 20. Both bodies will have to vote the compromise budget on June 27. Expect a veto by July 4.

The current budget expires June 30. The expectation is there will be a continuing resolution and the current FY’19 budget funding levels will continue up to 6 months until the House, Senate and Governor can compromise on a new budget. Any program is slated for an increase in the FY’20 budget, the increase will not be retroactive to July 1.

Legalization of marijuana passes the House again 

The House again passed legalization of marijuana, this time with taxes being levied at the retail (9%) and wholesale (5%) levels. The first vote a month ago was 209-147. This time with taxes added, the vote was 200-163. Looks like the pro legalization numbers are slipping. The Governor is expected to veto legalization and it still does not look like the veto can be overridden. Let’s now see what the Senate does. Recreational Marijuana, sports betting, a casino…what is next for NH?

Governor Sununu comments on Concord I93 expansion 

The Governor was asked about the DOT plan for the expansion of I93 through Concord at the Chamber’s State of the State luncheon this week. He was very clear…he does not like the current plan. He thinks the Stickney Avenue DOT buildings (a real eyesore) should come down, the land be sold to the city and the land be used for economic development and the expansion of the Concord tax base. He has made his thoughts clear to DOT. The Governor suggested this is our opportunity as a City to plan for the next couple of decades for the City and we should engage now with DOT, come up with a workable plan and move forward. It’s always reassuring that someone who lives on the Seacoast but commutes to work in Concord has the same issues we do with the DOT plan for widening 93 through Concord.

Watch the Chamber's full State of the State luncheon featuring Governor Chris Sununu on YouTube, courtesy of our partners ConcordTV:

 

March 30, 2019

House updates

While still working on the budget, the House Finance Committee has voted to roll back business taxes decreases (in other words, increase business taxes), create payroll deductions for a paid medical and family leave insurance plan and institute a new tax on capital gains. The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to legalize marijuana. Here’s the run down:

An increase in state business taxes moves forward (HB 623)

HB 623 will freeze business taxes at last year’s rate (7.9 percent for the business profits tax and 0.675 percent for the business enterprise tax), wiping out the tax cut that went into effect in January as well as future decreases currently in law.  This was a partisan vote.  Expect the Senate to pass it as it comes from the House or amend it to the current tax rate.

FMLI closer to a reality (HB 712)

HB 712 will establish a mandated paid family and medical leave insurance program financed with a half-percent payroll deduction.  Again, this was a partisan vote.

Rumor is folks are moving to Florida (HB 686)

HB 686 will extend the interest and dividends tax to capital gains, triple the personal exemption for seniors and double it for all others. The money would be used to raise adequacy educational grant. The chatter on the street is with a current 5% interest and dividends tax and a new 5% capital gains tax along with our high property taxes, the wealthy older folks will become permanent snow birds.

Marijuana shops on Main Street? (HB 481)

HB 481 will legalize and commercialize recreational marijuana instituting a tax of 9% at the retail level and 5% at the wholesale level.

Expect to pay a local tax if you stay in an Airbnb (HB 641)

HB 641 will allow municipalities to charge a local Rooms and Meals Tax of no more than an extra $2 per room night. 

Expect to pay double for permits from DES (HB 682-FN)

HB 682-FN will create a water resources fund and double many DES permit fees.

 

Senate updates

The Senate had a marathon day discussing, arguing and voting, mainly on partisan lines, on everything from expanding the net metering cap, increasing renewable portfolio standards to putting the Affordable Care Act into state law.  

Don’t ask until after the interview (SB 100)

SB 100 will ban discrimination in criminal background checks. No employer shall inquire about a prospective employee's criminal record on an employment application nor conduct a criminal record check prior to the initial interview. The argument was giving criminals a chance to rehabilitate vs. time and expense to business.

Will Concord and Bow bond together? (SB103)

SB103 will allow municipalities to engage in multi-town bonding projects for anything including fire trucks. Will we see lots of town compacts created?

House Science and Technology Committee will really dig in as major changes in state energy policy come over.

SB 159 will increase net metering from 1 to 5 megawatts for renewable generation and storage.

SB 166 will require that competitive electricity suppliers purchase electricity generation from net energy metering just like regulated electric utilities do.

SB 168 will increase the solar renewable portfolio standard from .07 to 1.9 percent in 2020 to 5.4 percent in 2025.

Still have to go to Court (SB 306)

SB 306 creates the housing appeals board, so developers can take their disputes with local planning boards to an appeals board without having to go to court. There were a number of maneuvers to try to retain the bill but in the end a non-partisan group voted to move the bill on to the House. But it did not make it as next came a tabling motion, so this bill is not moving over for now.

Pre-existing conditions allowed in NH (SB 4)

SB 4 puts much of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law.

Attempting to increase the healthcare workforce but at a price—estimated to be over $250M (SB 308)

SB 308 increases Medicaid provider rates, gives scholarships for students who work in the health care field, creates healthcare training programs and workforce recruitment advertising. The inability to hire workers has reached near crisis proportions in New Hampshire, particularly in the healthcare industry. The bill passed the Senate and then was placed on the table by the Senate before it could be sent to the House. Tabling is often used to express the Senate’s position on a bill, and hang on to it until the budget comes over from the House.

 

What's happening in the next couple of weeks

The House is Budget, Budget, and Budget.

The Senate will work on the House bills that have crossed over to get as much work done as possible before the heavy load of the House budget comes over.

 


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