Legislative Update

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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.  

 

May 2, 2019 

The Senate is beginning work on the House Budget

The Senate has finished with all of the agency presentations as well as the Governor, House and DRA revenue estimates so expect them to begin working diligently on the House Budget next week. The proposed House budget is about $300 million more than Gov. 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.

How does the House budget impact Concord?

The House budget does not include a new $26 million psychiatric building on the New Hampshire State Hospital grounds replacing the secure psychiatric unit housed at the Men’s State Prison nor a new facility to house children now at the State hospital, both proposed by the Governor in his budget. 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. New Hampshire families have waited over 20 years for a solution and it is unconscionable that House Democratic leadership is now telling them that it is ‘too soon’ to move forward with this solution.” However, House Finance Committee Democrats said more details are needed before they could support spending $26 million on the new building. 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 (Concord Hospital has really felt the impact of not enough State Hospital beds).

The House decided to return to a policy of stabilization grants to school districts that struggle to pay for education. The stabilization 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 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. None are in Concord.

Senate and House negotiators have to reach a compromise by June 20. Both bodies will have to vote the compromise budget on June 27. There is some chatter in the halls that the Senate budget could be more palatable to the Governor. Rumor is the Senate will remove the capital gains tax and possibly leave the current BPT and BET taxes in place. Where will they get the increase in revenue…gambling? If the House would agree to go along with what the Senate passes, a veto may be avoided. It all depends on the Senate. The current budget expires June 30. If the Governor vetoes the budget there will be a continuing resolution and the current FY19 budget funding levels will continue up to 6 months until the House, Senate and Governor can compromise on a new budget. 

Legalization of marijuana and grow your own at home

The House again passed legalization of marijuana, HB 481, this time with taxes being levied at the retail (9%) and wholesale (5%) levels. The first House vote was 209-147 (without taxes). With taxes added, the House vote was 200-163. Looks like the pro legalization numbers are slipping. The bill is now in the Senate and has had a hearing that had to be continued as there were so many people wanting testify, as many in opposition as supporting. The Governor is expected to veto legalization. Considering the House does not have enough votes to override a veto, let’s now see what the Senate does. Betting if it passes, it will not have an override majority. The Senate has passed HB 364, which allows medical marijuana to be grown at home. Another interesting vote of 14-10 to pass but 2 Democrats, the Chair of the Finance Committee and the President of the Senate joined 8 of the 10 the Republicans in voting no. Recreational marijuana, marijuana in the backyard, sports betting and casinos…what is next for NH? 

Governor Sununu Comments on Concord 93 expansion 

The Governor is very clear about the DOT plan for the expansion of I93 through Concord. He does not like the plan. He travels our interchanges every day and does not think the new DOT interchange plan works. He says 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 State of the State luncheon featuring Governor Chris Sununu on YouTube, courtesy of our partners ConcordTV:

Read coverage of the Chamber's State of the State luncheon featuring Governor Chris Sununu in the Concord Monitor:

 

Association Health Plan legislation dealt a blow by DC judge

SB 228 would allow associations like the Chamber's to ban together to obtain health insurance at better rates for its members. The NH chambers have been trying to have a vehicle for an Association Health Plan for over a decade. It looked like the legislation was finally going to pass and the Chamber could offer a new benefit to our members. Not so fast. A Federal Court decision in DC recently struck down many of the provisions that make Associated Health Plans possible. NH may pass the bill anyway and have an effective date of when the Federal Court ruling has changed. Could be another decade.

Changing business identifiers

Many businesses are changing the way they identify customers. Technology makes it possible to identify individuals through recordings of the way they walk, the pattern of blood vessels on the back of their eyes, even the way in which they strike a keyboard while typing, as well as information available from genetic testing.

HB 536, sponsored by Concord area Representative David Luneau is attempting to put the enforcement of “biometric information” inside the state’s Consumer Protection Act, allowing the attorney general’s office to investigate and citizens to sue if they think businesses used that information “for any purpose other than that which the individual reasonably expects.”

The Senate Commerce Committee was packed for the hearing. HB 536, which has passed the House, mostly drew opposition at the Senate hearing from many state and national organizations including the NH BIA, the Internet Association, the Privacy and Security Coalition, trade groups whose members sell online and others. Even the assistant NH Attorney General, warned senators that it might swamp the four attorneys in the Consumer Protection Division, who currently handle about 3,000 complaints a year. Not surprisingly the only support of the bill besides the sponsor was former House Finance Chair Neal Kurk, who was known as the legislative privacy guru.

Many of the opposition testified the bill was too sweeping and vague. Targeting “biometric information” rather than “biometric markers,” is a problem as it could cover such things as messages left on company answering machines, which could be used to generate uniquely identified digital voice prints. We are guessing the Senate Committee will not move this one forward for this year.

Will NH businesses apportions sales for tax purposes change…maybe?

For at least the last two plus decades, the NH Legislature has been talking about apportionment…single sales apportionment, market based apportionment.  There have been at least four Commissions on apportionment over the decades.  The issue may actually move forward in this biennium. SB 190, a bi-partisan bill that adopts a market based apportionment formula, has passed the Senate. It is now having work sessions in the House Ways and Means Committee. It has been testified that there will be no negative impact on NH businesses. NH businesses are at a disadvantage under the current apportionment formula as there is no uniformity among the states, so currently many NH businesses are paying NH and out of state taxes. There may be a positive impact to some NH businesses but it is not clear exactly which ones yet. Out of state companies with sales in NH will probably have an increase in taxes. As yet, it is not clear what the impact will be on NH revenues. So do the revenues increase or decrease? No answer to that question yet. The House may have to vote as the Senate did without definitive information as to what the real impact of this change is. 

More updates to come

May is here and the flowers are blooming and work will accelerate at the State House as summer is near.

 


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