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 2020 legislative session. Click here to view a legislative calendar and for information about bills, committees, legislators, state representatives, state senators, etc.  

 

March 16, 2020   

COVID 19 shuts down Legislature for one week

Wisely, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President have shut down the Legislature for a week. After last week, it seems a very good move. The House members were seen in CVS on Main Street during Thursday’s session day stocking up on snacks as they expected to be in session ‘til midnight. The joke was who could get the best snack for their row! They did not need only snacks, but breakfast too as they were in session until 3:56 a.m. on Friday morning. That was a 19+ hour session. The Senate was also meeting on Thursday but recessed in time to make it home for dinner. 

Bills finally killed

No mandated charge for plastic bags

The House killed HB 1194, a new voluntary surcharge on certain single use plastics. Intended to encourage recycling and the use of reusable plastic, the House saw the bill as unnecessary because it simply suggested merchants do something they can already do now.

What is that envelope on the door?

HB 1397 would have required a 2-week advance notice by a home visit, certified mail, direct phone communication, or posting on the consumer’s door before referring of a debt for collection. The House sent the bill to Interim Study. Since we have a workforce shortage, one wonders where they thought companies would find people to put these debt collections notices on doors.

The California Privacy Bill is gone for now

HB 1680, which would have regulated the collection of personal information by businesses has gone back out West for now. Despite increasing concerns about online privacy, the data privacy problem is not a problem contained within New Hampshire’s borders. Hopefully the Feds will deal with the privacy issues or this one will be back as soon as California irons out all the kinks in their privacy law.

Charges for paper bills

Businesses can still charge for paper bills. HB 1690, intended to protect consumers who do not have online access, are uncomfortable using the internet, or want a paper bill, by prohibiting businesses from charging fees for paper billing. The bill did not actually prevent paper-billing fees, especially with the entities that are most likely to impose them. So off to Interim Study it goes.

In the name of transparency

Thank goodness that the House Judiciary Committee understood the huge consequences of HB 1673 and the full House followed suit by killing the bill. This bill extended the reach of the Right-to-Know Law from publicly elected or appointed boards to businesses and non-profit organizations who receive “state funding.” The committee recognized that this bill sought to turn RSA 91-A on its head by extending it into the private sector. This unprecedented extension did not find favor with the House.

BILLS STILL ACTIVE

Notice of security breaches immediately

At least security breaches don’t have to be noticed on a door. The House passed HB 1482, which requires immediate disclosure of a security breach to anyone affected. Currently, disclosure can be delayed while an investigation takes place. Under the bill, additional details can be withheld to protect an investigation but only after those affected are notified.

Single use plastics recycling

The House passed HB 1701 requiring certain retailers to not only recycle but also provide consumer collection bins for film plastics, the non-rigid plastic resin packaging such as plastic carryout bags, food storage bags, bubble wrap, dry cleaning bags and shrink wrap. Seen by proponents as common sense legislation that would provide consumers with a recycling alternative and save municipalities money by decreasing the disposal of film plastics in curbside recycle bins, this bill now moves to the Senate.

Wage differences between men and women in NH

In a 179-98 vote, the House passed HB 1144, which requires employers with 100 or more employees to submit data on wage differences between male and female employees to the NH Department of Labor. The data, which should be the same data reported to the Feds, can then be published on the Department’s website. Time will tell if this data will helpful with discussions of inequality in the work force.

NEXT WEEK

For next week, the question is will the Legislature meet? Stay tuned…

 

January 24, 2020   

Open your books — a strange week in Concord

It was a bit of a strange week in Concord. The most perplexing situation happened on HB 1673, which is a bill that adds for-profit, not-for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and other entities for whom a material portion (10%) of their incomes comes from the state or either $25,000 in one year, whichever is greater, to the definition of a “public body”. That means any nonprofit or corporation that meets those requirements would be under the state right-to-know law. This bill had tremendous opposition and very interesting support. That means any nonprofit or corporation that meets those requirements would be under the state right-to-know law. This is an attempt to get more transparency with those organizations that perform services for or receive grants from the state. This bill had tremendous opposition and very interesting support. 

Sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire of Epsom, the bill had tremendous opposition from the NH Hospital Association, the NH Center for Nonprofits, Area Agencies, and the New Hampshire Rivers Counsel. The non-profit community was also there in force opposing. Missing in action was for-profit business opposition—let us just assume a business sells salt to the State for roads. At least 10% of its revenue is derived from the State contract. It is a privately owned LLC. The company now would be under the state right-to-know law, their books, minutes and records open to the public for inspection. That has huge unintended consequences for a business who has a state contract. It will be very interesting to see what the House Judiciary Committee does with this bill. We cannot imagine it will go forward the way it was presented.

California privacy legislation in New Hampshire

There was a huge turnout in opposition to HB 1680 which grants consumers the right to request that a business disclose the type of personal information it collects, the purpose for which it is collected, and the categories of third parties with which it is shared. It also allows consumers to opt out the sale of their personal information. In addition, it creates a private right of action for the consumers. The bill on the surface looks like it applies to the Amazons, Googles and Apples of the world; however, on closer inspection it actually applies to small businesses as well.

Much of HB 1680 appears to be modeled after California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which has continually been amended since it was adopted in 2018. Since when did NH begin following California’s lead?

There is no consensus among privacy and security experts that the rights granted in HB 1680 improve either privacy or security. In fact, it is likely that along with the new rights in HB 1680 come a much greater threat risk to consumers that their privacy will be compromised in the event of a breach. This is because one of the rights conferred in HB 1680 is a right to receive a copy of all personal information a business possesses about a consumer. To comply with this requirement, business must aggregate together in one place all information they possess and link that information with an identifiable individual. This is contrary to common, widely accepted data security standards, which recommend anonymizing data and avoiding storage in one location.

HB 1680 likely applies to 75% of all New Hampshire businesses. It is a common misconception that consumer privacy is just an issue of concern for big businesses or high-tech companies. In fact, tens of thousands of New Hampshire businesses are likely to be affected by HB 1680 because it applies to any business which receives as few as 137 visits to its website a day on average over the course of a year. Overly broad definitions throughout this proposal will lead businesses unknowingly violating the law and exposing themselves to steep penalties.

We cannot wait to see what next week brings—businesses beware.

 

January 10, 2020  

The NH Legislature finishes the old and rings in the new

The House and Senate met this week to finish the 2019 business. The bills that were not ready for passage or elimination at the end of the 2019 session were worked on over the summer and fall.  Those bills were voted on this week either to move forward in 2020 or to die. The Senate took half a day to finish their business. The House took two full days to finish their business.

What's moving ahead that's of interest to the business community:

HB 532, which requires an employer to pay its employees earned but unused vacation or personal time is moving forward.

HB 712, which creates a mandatory paid family leave program, as expected, passed the House. The bill is very similar to the bill the governor vetoed last summer.  It will be interesting to see this one’s final fate.

HB 690 eliminates the work and community engagement requirement added to the Medicaid expansion program.

SB 159 raises the net metering from 1 MW generators to 5 MW generators. It will be interesting to see how this bill fairs as the Republicans and the Governor have submitted more modest increases in net metering. This should be an interesting debate throughout the session.

HB 731 increases the state minimum wage gradually over time up to $15 per hour by 2025, increases the base wage for tipped employees and inserts a cost-of-living adjustment.

One very good small business tax bill that is moving forward is SB 223, which increases the minimum gross business income required for filing a business profits tax return from $50,000-$75,000. Hopefully, the House will continue to move this bill forward.

Much to our chagrin, the bill allowing purchasing alliances by organizations like the Chamber will not be moving forward. This bill just keeps being killed year after year. 

What's ahead

Hearings will begin with a flurry over the coming weeks. Expect this to be a very fast session as it is an election year. The House and Senate hope to be wrapped up with most of their work by Memorial Day. 

FUTURE updateS

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