Legislative Update

legislationThe Chamber's legislative priorities affecting your business

This legislative update, written on behalf of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee, is designed to 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.

March 23, 2018
Thank goodness spring is finally here. The snow is almost gone, and 2018 legislation has crossed over. The Chamber started reviewing all bills introduced into the 2018 legislative session in January, and watched a list of bills about 55 pages long. Many of those bills died or got sent to interim study. We're now reviewing about 15 pages of bills that are still standing.

What failed to make the crossover?

Employment:

Dozens of employer/employee issues such as wrongful employee discharge, salary ratios for employer/employees, work requirements for Medicaid, minimum wages based on employee health care benefits, advance notice of work schedules, youth work employment revisions and expanded job-training.

Tax credits:

Tax credits for living wage, tax credits for childhood development programs, tax credits for charter public schools, tax credits for paid maternity leave, and income and expense information for valuation of property.

General issues:

Gambling was defeated again, health insurance from out-of-state companies, and nearly ten bills dealing with contamination of water, ground and air.

What’s moving ahead?

Employment:

Temporary employee rights, definition of workplace violence, apprenticeship programs for unemployed workers and biweekly payment of wages.

Taxes:

Interest and dividends tax repeal or exemption increase and utility valuation study.

General:

Gender identity, rail study from Boston to Concord, deletion of separate bathrooms in restaurants requirement, council on creative economy, road usage fee for fuel-efficient cars, regulation of arsenic and water, DES standards for PFOA in water, ambient water quality standards and traffic control measures.

A few highlights of bills still alive

HB 1201: Be prepared to pay for unused vacation time

HB 1201, which would force all NH businesses who offer their employees paid vacation leave to pay employees for unused vacation time, has passed the House, 192-139 and is headed to the Senate. Every business, except those who have collective bargaining agreements, would have to pay employees for their unused vacation time up to the maximum accrued vacation hours limit established in company policy. Mandating that companies pay for vacations that are never taken would likely prompt some companies to offer fewer vacation days.

Senate President Chuck Morse recently made a point of speaking out against politicians trying to act as every New Hampshire company’s human resources department. As a successful business owner, he knows how well-meaning meddling can make things worse. We’ll see what Sen. Morse and his colleagues will do with HB 1201.   

SB 301: Help for first-time home buyers

A tax break for first-time homebuyers easily passed the NH Senate but all indications are that the bill might have a tougher time in the House. SB 301 would reduce the rate of the real estate transfer tax for two years, from 75 cents to 50 cents per $100 in valuation on homes purchased for less than $300,000. It would be retroactive to Jan. 1 and sunset at the end of 2019. “SB 301 would decrease the marginal costs to first-time homebuyers, increase homeownership, and help retain and attract New Hampshire’s future workforce,” wrote Gov. Sununu to the House Ways and Means Committee who is working on the bill.

SB 313: Will Medicaid be expanded for another five years? 

The plan to keep New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion intact for another five years has weathered its first public hearing in the House. SB 313 passed the Senate 17-7. Patients, health providers and other supporters spent hours urging lawmakers not to let the program expire at the end of this year.

The proposed legislation relies heavily on the federal government for support, and aims to make up the state’s share by tapping into the alcohol fund and then backfilling that with money from other sources. Critics say that plan lacks financial stability and could jeopardize state funding for addiction treatment and prevention. The plan includes a work and community engagement requirement which is meant to encourage people to get involved in their communities but the detractors say it could end up deterring people from seeking coverage. If SB 313 fails in the House, about 51,000 people could lose coverage at the end of this year. We’re betting it passes.

HB 628: Family Medical Leave, the Bill with nine lives   

Introduced in January of 2017 by Concord’s Rep. Mary Stuart Gile, HB 628 was retained by the House Labor Committee, and worked on all summer and fall of 2017. The House Labor Committee amended the bill in November and it was passed by the full House in January 2018. The bill was then referred to the Commerce Committee. The Commerce Committee killed the bill only to be overturned by the full House in February. The bill was then referred to the House Finance Committee where a new amendment totally changing the program was approved. For the third time the bill has gone to the House floor for a vote. Immediately upon being brought up, a motion was made by the chair of the Finance Committee, whose committee had amended and passed the bill, to table the bill which means it cannot go forward unless taken off the table by a two-thirds majority. A big debate followed about tabling the bill. Eventually the tabling motion failed 164-168. 

After the tabling motion failed, the next vote was on the Finance Committee rewrite amendment which failed 156-175, then the motion was ought-to-pass on the state-run FMLA program, which passed 171-162. Not over yet, a move to reconsider the vote was made – failed 161-169. HB 628 is still alive and off to the Senate.

It will be very interesting to see what the Senate does with this cat of nine lives.

New Creative Economy Czar for the State

Sarah C. Stewart of Manchester, a veteran political and public affairs consultant, is Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee to be the next Commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Stewart is the founder of B-Fresh Consulting, a Manchester firm that does advertising and media consulting. She serves on the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and is on the board of New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts. “Sarah brings to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) a vast knowledge and passion for supporting our state’s vibrant arts and culture,” said Sununu. “Sarah has what it takes to drive DNCR onward into the future by supporting and growing our state’s creative economy while protecting the forests, lands, and waterways that make our state a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

If confirmed, Stewart would replace Jeff Rose of Merrimack, who announced earlier this month that he was moving on. A big shout out to Commissioner Rose for a great job as Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, as well as following in the huge footsteps of our dear Van McLeod as Commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Best of luck to Commissioner Rose. And the Greater Concord Chamber looks forward to working with Commissioner Stewart when confirmed, as the Chamber has been on the forefront of promoting a creative economy across the state.

winding down

Only two months left for the House and Senate to finish their work and then members will get out to the dumps, parades and picnics campaigning for the November elections.


This legislative update was provided by Teresa Rosenberger, president of Devine Strategies, on behalf of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee.

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