Legislative Update April 21, 2017
The House held a relatively short session on Thursday morning, passing, among others, several bills clarifying sections of the medical marijuana law. The Senate met for a good part of the day, dealing with just over 100 bills. At one point in the morning, the two chambers designated members to a committee of conference, which quickly agreed to an amendment that would allow cities and towns to gather input at public hearings and ratify the results of municipal elections that were postponed by the March 14 snowstorm.
One in; one out
The Executive Council voted 4-1 to confirm Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield as commissioner of the Department of Labor. Merrifield will resign from his mayoral duties in May. Earlier in the week, Governor Sununu withdrew the nomination of Peter Kujawski of Bedford as Commissioner of Environmental Services over concerns by council members about his lack of pertinent experience for the post. The Governor’s office has not yet named a new nominee.
Pay me now or pay me later
The Senate passed a bill permitting employers to pay employee wages on a weekly or biweekly basis. Currently, employers must apply to the state for permission to pay biweekly. Supporters said the bill would remove unnecessary state regulation, while opponents argued the bill would be a major disruption for people who plan their budget around a weekly paycheck.
The Power Rangers
The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee heard testimony this week on legislation to give the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) authority to review potential Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the potential to help reduce electricity costs. The PUC recently stated that there have been two PPAs it could not take up because of the way the current restructuring law is written. Stakeholders from many businesses and chambers of commerce, including Michael Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, testified in support of the bill and the goal of reducing energy costs. Some opponents asked the committee to retain the bill in the belief that it could disrupt the upcoming sale of Eversource’s generating assets.
Down on its luck
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 19-1 to recommend killing a Senate bill authorizing two full-service casinos. The recommendation will go to the full House. Casino measures have been a fixture on the legislative agenda for many years, and although some votes have been relatively close, casino legislation has never yet succeeded.
Not so fast
House Ways and Means also voted to retain two Senate tax reform bills. One proposed to reduce the rates of the Business Profits and Business Enterprise taxes, while another would establish a tax credit for small businesses. The bills could actually be held for study, but in a budget year it is likely they will be part of the discussion and debate when the House and Senate sit down in June to hash out the details of the 2018-2019 Biennial Budget.
The Senate will meet in session next Thursday, April 27. The House will meet in session on Thursday, May 4. Committees in both chambers will continue to meet and deliberate on remaining bills, while the Senate Finance Committee continues its work on crafting the biennial budget.