January 17, 2014 

    Our Chamber is very proud of its efforts to represent you and all of our members in Concord.  Our work would not be possible without the strong support of our friends at Devine, Millimet & Branch, whose lobbying team serves as our "boots on the ground" in Concord on a daily basis.  We thank them for their unyielding support of our advocacy efforts, particularly through the sponsorship of this newsletter.
      This weekly newsletter is intended to give you an overview of what has happened at the State House over the past week. Read this every Friday to learn about our Chamber's lobbying efforts relating to those activities, and to preview what we are doing on behalf of our Chamber members.  
Did you miss our Legislative Symposium or Economic Outlook Luncheon this past week? We've made the slides from each event available to the public, located on our website here.

Your Help is Needed!

We're interested in what you think about a potential gas tax increase.  Our Chamber is considering whether or not to take a formal and public position on this issue, and we need your input as part of our due diligence.  Please click on the following link, and complete this easy survey.  It's only six questions, and won't take much time at all!


Take the Survey Here.


Chamber Opposes Bill Requiring  Nonprofits To Pay Business Enterprise Tax (HB 1509).

The first week of legislative hearings for the 2014 session featured one of the most controversial bills that came out of the gate this year:  HB 1509, which would require certain 501(c)(3) entities to pay the Business Enterprise Tax.  Prime sponsor Representative David Hess of Hooksett has been upfront in stating that this bill is designed chiefly to garner BET payments from hospitals and institutions of higher education.  The Chamber strongly opposes this bill.


In his written testimony to the House Ways & Means Committee, Chamber President/CEO Chris Williams said that the bill does not reflect the right tax policy for New Hampshire.  As Chris told the committee, "the passage of this legislation would constitute a significant financial blow to institutions that are important to their communities in many ways, not the least of which are the economic benefits that they bring to their local areas." 


Chris used the hospitals as an example.  He said that the simple fact of the matter is that there have been some massive changes in healthcare policy at the state and national levels over the last several years.  "With the recent adoption of the federal Affordable Care Act and the state Medicaid Managed Care Law, as well as the State's recalculation of the Medicaid Enhancement Tax formulas last year (which has had significant negative financial impacts on many New Hampshire hospitals), this is exactly the wrong time to be contemplating the adoption of a revolutionary change in the Business Enterprise Tax."


Representative Hess was the only person who spoke in support of the legislation at the hearing on Tuesday.  In contrast, a long list of nonprofits and business organizations lined up in opposition, including the New Hampshire Hospital Association, the New Hampshire College and University Council, New Hampshire Catholic Charities, the New Hampshire Health Care Association, Easter Seals, the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, and the Granite State Home Health Association.  We are hoping that this is a good sign for how this one will turn out when this bill comes to a committee vote within the next couple of weeks.

We Come Not To Bury Caesar (HB 569) 

You may remember that last year there were a series of bills being considered by the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee which in one way or another sought to restrict the ability of electric utilities to develop electric transmission projects. These arose out of the debate over Northern Pass, and the Chamber has been a consistent critic of the approach taken by these sorts of bills because of the fact that they have impacts that potentially run to all future projects across the state even if they have nothing to do with Northern Pass.


The 2013 bills were retained for further study in the Science & Tech Committee over the course of the summer and fall, and in November the Committee chose HB 569 as the vehicle with which to proceed on this issue. Originally, HB 569 was written so as to mandate the use of transportation rights-of-way (essentially roads and highways) for the placement of all new electric transmission lines.    By a 12-7 margin, the Committee voted to recommend to the full House an amendment that directs the Site Evaluation Committee (the body that reviews large energy projects) to give "preference" to transmission projects that use burial technology along public transportation rights-of-way. Although the bill was slated to be voted upon this past week, the House only made it through about a dozen bills in the course of its session on Wednesday, thanks to an unexpected two-hour debate on the legalization of marijuana.  It seems almost certain that HB 569 will therefore receive a vote next Wednesday. 


This week, Chris Williams figuratively put pen to paper in a Telegraph op ed that noted the Chamber's opposition to HB 569.   The three reasons he gave are worth recounting here:


First, HB 569 picks winners and losers. Instead, the Chamber believes that there should be a level playing field that affords fair and equal treatment to all types of projects. It is not a good idea for the Legislature to change the rules on how projects get approved, based on the unique circumstances of individual projects. Let the process that is in place do its job.


Second, HB 569 will hurt New Hampshire's ability to meet future energy needs at the very time when the state and the region are facing serious energy challenges.  As we noted in last week's edition of The Advocate, it appears that a high level of reliance on natural gas may be creating volatility in the energy market.  The development of new and diverse sources of energy can help enhance our energy diversity and insulate us from this market volatility. But HB 569 restricts that sort of flexibility and hurts our ability to meet this challenge.


Finally, HB 569 threatens to short-circuit ongoing energy policy discussions.  Currently, the Legislature has two study commissions in place working on important energy policy issues.  One is focused on studying and offering recommendations regarding the Site Evaluation Committee process; the second is working to develop a comprehensive State Energy Plan aimed at insuring reliable and diverse energy sources.


The Chamber is urging all of the members of the Nashua delegation to vote against HB 569 when the bill comes to the floor next week.  

Chamber Supports Economic Revitalization Zone Tax Credit Extension (SB 327)

Lest anyone think that the Chamber has been up in Concord doing nothing but opposing bills, we want to close by noting that the very first thing the Chamber did this week was to register its support on Tuesday for SB 327, which extends Economic Revitalization Zone Tax Credits until 2020.  Currently, ERZ Tax Credits are only available until 2015. 


The Chamber has always been a staunch supporter of these tax credits, and for good reason:  it was the Chamber that drafted and successfully lobbied for the passage of the law that created these zones back in 2003, the first time that the NH General Court had ever approved such a thing.  We think that these ERZTCs have been a positive contributor to the New Hampshire's economy over the past decade, and we want to make sure that they remain an arrow in the quiver of the State as it seeks to retain New Hampshire businesses and attract new businesses to the state. Thanks to our own Senators Peggy Gilmour and Bette Lasky for serving as co-sponsors of this bipartisan piece of legislation.


Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce | (603) 881-8333 
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