Legislative Update: February 2, 2018
Full speed ahead
The House and Senate this week had full schedules of public hearings and committee votes on several hundred bills, as they worked to deal with the more than one thousand measures before them this year. The Senate met in session on Thursday and dealt with 52 bills, voting to pass a measure reforming the law on the payment of regular wages, and sending to study a bill that would ban bump stocks for firearms.
Head ‘em off at the pass
In a move that surprised many, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) voted 7-0 on Thursday to deny a permit to the Northern Pass project. The committee had scheduled 12 days of deliberations, but made their unexpected decision on just the third day. Events had appeared to be tilting momentum the other way, as the committee agreed the day before that Eversource met the first of four criteria for approval, which was the financial and technical ability to complete the project. Additionally, Massachusetts last week named Northern Pass as the sole winner of its long-term renewable energy contract. The SEC vote may not be the final word on the project, as Eversource has indicated they will appeal the decision.
EV does it
The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony this week on a bill to create a commission to study New Hampshire’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Supporters are anticipating what one witness termed a flood of electric vehicles hitting the market in the next few years, and they urged the state to be ready. The commission would be comprised of a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including state agencies, business concerns and utility interests. The state will also be releasing its plan for how to use the $30.9 million it will get from the Volkswagen settlement. Several Northeast states have indicated a desire to use their funds for an EV infrastructure, and supporters are hoping New Hampshire follows suit.
A bump in the road or the end of the road?
The House Commerce Committee voted 11-9 along party lines to recommend killing a bill that would provide paid family leave insurance to employees. Opponents said the program’s design is not sustainable at expected participation and benefit levels. Supporters said an amendment to raise the employee premium and reduce leave time would solve the problems. The bill goes back to the House floor next week, where it passed last month by 33 votes. If it passes the House again, it will go on to the House Finance Committee.
The pen is mightier than the paint brush
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Governor Chris Sununu vowed to use his veto pen on two bills he said would create new taxes. One is a Senate bill that would establish an architectural paint recycling program on retail interior and exterior paints. Governor Sununu said the program would place a tax on consumers buying paint and was unnecessary in view of ongoing local recycling programs. Another Senate bill would require canoes and kayaks to be registered at a $10 annual fee. The House Fish and Game & Marine Resources Committee has already recommended killing a similar bill establishing a fee on canoe, kayak and personal watercraft rentals. That bill is scheduled for a House floor vote next week. Both bills had designated some of the revenues for Fish and Game rescue activities.
Mi casa es su casa. Or not
What’s in a name? A lot, when the name of one business comes a little too close to the name of another. The Senate Commerce Committee this week heard testimony on a bill to correct and improve the law on the naming of businesses. Supporters said the law was loosened several years ago, resulting in unintended problems. An example was the Mexican restaurant La Carreta, which had concerns after another Mexican restaurant, Mi Carreta, opened. The Secretary of State’s office, which administers the naming process, testified that the proposed bill would improve the law.
Your train awaits?
The legislature held a hearing this week on the 10-year Transportation Improvement Plan. Much of the attention was focused on the $4 million in federal funding added to the plan for a study of the expansion of commuter rail service from Massachusetts up the so-called Capitol Corridor. The study plan, which has been stalled in the station after narrowly failing to pass the House in recent years, appears to be gathering steam. Manchester Chamber of Commerce President Michael Skelton, joined by business and industry leaders, testified in support of funding the study.
The House will meet in session next Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 7 and 8. The Senate has not scheduled its next session. Both chambers will meet in joint session Feb. 15 to hear the governor’s State of the State address.