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.  

 

March 18, 2019

It's nearly crossover point of the legislative year, when the House bills that are still alive go to the Senate and the Senate bills to the House. As we approach crossover, tempers begin to flare and session days last too long. And things get done. So this past week after much talking a number of things happened.

 

Senate passes Association Health Plan Bill (SB 228)

The House has voted on partisan lines to increase New Hampshire's minimum wage from $7.25 (tied to the Federal minimum wage) to $12 per hour which would be set specifically by NH, not the Feds. HB 186 increases the minimum to $9.50 an hour in 2020, $10.75 in 2021 and $12 in 2022. The increase along with other labor and tax bills being passed will certainly have an impact on businesses, especially small business.

 

Family and Medical Leave moves forward

The House also passed the Senate's version, SB 1, of a paid family medical leave insurance program on a party line vote, 12-7, with virtually no debate. The bill will deduct a half a percent from private employees' wages to finance a program that would pay 60 percent of wages for those workers who take off up to 12 weeks to care for a family member or themselves. SB 1's major difference from HB 712, which has passed the House, is that it extends the unpaid Federal Family and Medical Leave Act job protection provisions to businesses with 20 employees or more.

SB 1 and HB 712 are both expected to pass both chambers. Will the House and Senate eventually combine them to form one bill? We expect so. Will Governor Sununu veto? He says it is a payroll income tax. He has compared that payroll deduction to an income tax, indicating he might veto it. Instead, he is proposing a voluntary bi-state program which would allow private businesses to sign on to a program that both New Hampshire and Vermont would offer to their state employees.

So New Hampshire has moved forward putting out a request for information to insurers. Seven insurers responded to the State's RFP and indicated their interest in providing the coverage.

Before going to a formal bidding process, the plan must still pass the legislatures of both Vermont and New Hampshire - a significant obstacle given that there are Democratic majorities in both states that have proposed their own mandatory paid family leave plans.

 

No more credit history checks

The Labor Committee also passed HB 293, which would prohibit employers from using credit history in employment decisions.

Some Republican committee members objected, claiming that exemptions for those jobs where employees have access to cash or credit cards were not clear. But the committee passed the bill, again on a party-line vote.

 

Rolling back tax cuts

As you may remember from last session, we reported that new tax credits, except the credits for regenerative tissue companies, passed in a Republican controlled Legislature. This year, there have been many bills; including SB 270, which creates a tax credit against the BPT and BET for donations to career and technical education centers supporting workforce development. However, both the House and the Senate are pushing hard to repeal or gut the education tax credit for low-income students that has been successfully working for the last five years. It's ironic that the Democrats are promoting workforce development programs while rebuking educational options for low-income children. And the Republicans are supporting low-income kids. Has the paradigm flipped?

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 10-9 on HB 632, to repeal the education tax credit after testimony from over 100 students, parents and school administrators opposed to the repeal. The Senate Ways and Means Committee seems intent on allowing the education tax credit which is currently for low-income kids to go to charter, private or be home-schooled, instead to be used for workforce development programs at public schools. 

 

Senate approves changes to BPT/BET tax rate reductions (SB 135 & SB 301)

SB 135 sets the tax rate for 2019 as the rate that was in effect for 2018, and then delays the future tax reductions for two years beyond the dates that are currently in the law. SB 301 is similar in that it would set the tax rates at 2018 levels, but it would simply suspend the future rate increases. The vote on both was 14-10, again along partisan lines. Expect the Governor to veto both once they get to his desk; however, expect the Democrats to put them back on the budget. The fun is starting.

 

Budget and HB 2 (Trailer Bill)

The widening of Interstate 93 and the redevelopment of the Storrs Street Corridor to I-393 are major priorities for the Chamber and the City. The Governor has put $620,000 to authorize the Department of Transportation to demolish and do environmental mitigation for the DOT structures located at state-owned property on Stickney Avenue in Concord. 

HB 2 also directs the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to develop plans for the construction of a new, 60-bed forensic psychiatric hospital; construction of 40 new transitional beds for forensic patients; development of new treatment facilities for children who are currently patients at New Hampshire Hospital; and the conversion of children's beds at New Hampshire Hospital to adult beds. The new complex shall be completed by June 1, 2020 and operational by June 1, 2021.

Some $31 million has been appropriated for this project. The Concord community should think about how this state project impacts our community.

 


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