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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 2021 legislative session. Click here to view a legislative calendar and for information about bills, committees, legislators, state representatives, state senators, etc.
Read on for all the details.
The House Committees are holding hearings and some members of the Committee are remote...others are in-person. If you are the public, you are required to be remote. It is often hard for remote members and the public to hear those who are in the Committee room. So, it makes for a lot of “we can’t hear you,” comments. As has happened more than once, the Committee chair, whether in-person or remote, loses their internet connection, so now what? And then there are those who have an internet connection but forget to mute themselves during breaks so everyone who is remote can hear what they are having for lunch as well as other comments. It does make for great theater.
Dogs and cats have been banned from being in the room with the members who are virtual. Too much meowing and barking. Nothing has been said yet about parrots. The public is weighing in like never before. One hearing recently had over 3,600 people sign in their position. Another hearing had to go to an entire second day as so many people wanted to speak—over 100. Democracy is at work in NH.s.
We all remember the full House meeting in the hockey rink and later, Members in their cars in a parking lot at UNH. The House has now found a new secret indoor location for its sessions in late February. It is supposed to be very large. Any guesses where it is?
The Senate is holding hearings nearly every day and all remote. Therefore, everyone can hear. However, like the House, some members forget to mute themselves so the public and other Senators can hear their every comment. The Senate so far has not banned dogs or cats being in the room with their owners during hearings and there are quite a few present.
The Senate is moving at lightning speed. They are printing bills and holding hearings within days. Like last summer, there are several omnibus bills, some industry specific, such an environmental or health care or COVID-19 related. A few are a bit of a hodgepodge. One is 95 pages long. The hearings are being held and different Senators are sponsoring different parts of the omnibus bill. Therefore, each Senator testifies to why they are sponsoring their section and then there is public testimony. One can only assume the reason for these omnibus bills is to cut down on hearing time; but more importantly, Senate session time is starting in March—they will be in-person in the House Chambers, socially distanced.
We are seeing a fair amount of bipartisanship in the Senate. Many of the fast-tracked bills are being supported by Republicans and Democrats. The camaraderie so far is nice to see.
SB 3 says that if you got money under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), you do not have to pay NH BPT or BET taxes. This bill would have NH be consistent with the Federal tax law on PPP. Only businesses of 500 employees or less received PPP. The Commissioner of Revenue testified that if a business received the PPP and used it to pay employees or expenses, then they will not pay anyway, as expenses are 100% deductible. One thing is clear: If this is going to pass, it needs to do so quickly as tax time for 2020 is upon us.
SB 63 limits the liability of business organizations, including for-profit and not-for-profits, from claims based on exposure to COVID-19. The major business and nonprofit organizations are supporting this bill. The only opposition is the trial lawyers association. They argue there have been very few cases so far against businesses, so no need for the legislation.
SB 99 sponsored by new Republican Senator Denise Ricciardi form Bedford, is attempting to restore the State's revenue sharing formula to the municipalities back to 40% of the meals and rooms tax. Some Senators want a guarantee that the money will go to local property tax relief.
SB 13, the omnibus state tax and fee legislation, among other provisions, decreases the BET to .5% and the BPT to 7.5% without a revenue trigger; and raises the Interests and Dividends exemption from $1200 to $2400 for elderly, blind and disabled.
The Governor has just released his budget with no new taxes or fees and no increase in taxes or fees. He has proposed cutting the Rooms and Meals tax from 9% to 8.5%; the BET from .6% to .55%; raising the filing threshold for the BET from $111,000 to $250,000 which may mean 30,000 NH small businesses no longer file for the BET; and phasing out the Interest and Dividends tax over 5 years. The Governor also called for more revenue sharing of State monies to the municipalities, as well as more money going to public education.
The real question during the budget process, which is beginning now, is how the State will stimulate the economy with some of the tax decreases while maintaining funding for many necessary programs, particularly in the healthcare and social service areas.
Stay tuned, as it is going to get interesting.
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