January 24, 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.  

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 Testifies in Support of Motorist Service Signs Bill (SB 321)

Chamber President Chris Williams traveled up to Concord on Tuesday to testify in support of Senator Peggy Gilmour's bill (SB 321) to allow the placement of motorist service signs on NH highways as far north as Concord.  These are the signs that you see in many other states, which tell you what sort of hospitality facilities are located off of each exit (McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, different restaurants and hotels, etc.).  Currently, the law allows these familiar service signs to be placed only on exit ramps, which means that you already have to be taking an exit in order to learn that might be located off of that exit.  Last year, a similar bill without the geographical restriction ran aground because some North Country legislators expressed concerns about the effect that these signs would have on roadway aesthetics.  Hopefully, the restriction in the bill limiting it only to highways in the southern part of the state will make the difference this time. 


As Chris told the Transportation Committee, SB 321 would provide a tremendous benefit to the hospitality industry within southern New Hampshire by making it easier to connect with visitors who are traveling through our state for business and for leisure.  These signs already are on highways all across the country, and it makes sense for New Hampshire to take this step.


This legislation easily passed the Senate last year, and it certainly is going to get through the Senate with no problem this time around as well.  

Private Postsecondary Career Schools (SB 221) 

Chris also testified on Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee to express the Chamber's opposition to SB 221.   


A bit of history is in order on this one.  In 2008, the Legislature passed a law defining postsecondary career schools in such a way as to inadvertently make some private software companies subject to new postsecondary career school regulations and license fees that obviously were not intended to apply to them.  In 2009, our Chamber helped the Legislature recognize this problem, and Senator Lasky sponsored a bill that year correcting the problem by exempting those software companies. 


If it were to pass, SB 221 would mark a return to the 2008 problem. Software companies like our own Nashua-based Skillsoft suddenly would have to follow regulations and pay license fees that were clearly designed for degree-granting schools rather than software developers.   As Chris told the Committee, companies like Skillsoft are not career schools in any reasonable sense of that phrase. The Chamber is not going to simply stand by and watch well-intentioned legislation have a negative impact on businesses like these.

Chamber Opposes Bill to Immunize Criticism of Employers (SB 302) 

Also on Tuesday, the Chamber registered its opposition to SB 302, which would prohibit an employee from being discharged for publicly or privately criticizing an employer.  Prime sponsor Senator David Pierce said that he introduced the bill in order to give employees protections in circumstances where the employee is reporting some wrongdoing in the workplace or some misconduct by the employer or a fellow employee.


As business owners are well aware, however, there are already whistleblower protection laws that are in place to protect employees in these circumstances.   SB 302 goes well beyond the protections found in those laws.  It would probably be the rare employer who has never had an experience with a disgruntled employee, and if SB 302 were to pass, that law could be used as a sword by employees who have personality conflicts in the workplace, rather than being used as a shield to protect employees. 


This will be voted upon by the Commerce Committee within the next several weeks.

er schools in any reasonable sense of that phrase. The Chamber is not going to simply stand by and watch well-intentioned legislation have a negative impact on businesses like these. 




Chamber Testifies in Support of Fix to Non-Compete Statute (SB  351)

On Thursday, the Chamber testified in support of SB 351, which is intended to fix legislation that was passed last year to deal with non-compete contracts.  Under the law as it stands today, a non-compete or non-piracy agreement is unenforceable unless it is presented to the employee prior to or at the time of an offer of initial employment or a change in job classification.


As testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee showed, this new law is creating significant problems.  For one thing, the lack of definitions and the many ambiguities in the law make it questionable whether the law applies to non-competes that were entered into prior to the effective date of the new law, or even non-competes which post-date the new law.  For another thing, the law conflicts with normal business practice and development.  What happens, for instance, when a business starts up and then, two years later, the business has developed intellectual property that requires non-competes be entered into?  Under the way the law stands today, the non-competes would be unenforceable, because they were not presented to the employees when they began working for the company, even though non-competes were not even contemplated by anyone at that point in time.  The law just does not reflect the way that businesses legitimately utilize non-competes today.


If we are going to foster a business environment that is attractive to the sorts of high-tech companies that regularly use non-competes, then we need to fix the ambiguities that indisputably exist in the current law.


The Commerce Committee has agreed to give the stakeholders a little bit of time in order to work out whether some sort of acceptable compromise can be reached.  It should be apparent within the next week or so whether that can be achieved.  We will keep you informed on these developments.

House Comes Up Short On Electric Lines Bill (HB 569)

On Wednesday, the House took up HB 569, a bill opposed by the Chamber and other business organizations, which would establish a "preference" for the burial of electric transmission lines.  Unfortunately, the House decided to pass the bill. 

How the House got there is an interesting tale.  The first motion on HB 569 on Wednesday was to lay the bill on the table (in other words, to put the bill into a sort of suspended animation, presumably with the idea that this would be where the bill would go to die, without any final "up" or "down" vote having been taken).  The vote on that motion was deadlocked at 160-160, and so the motion did not succeed (parliamentary rules dictate that a motion dies if it receives a tied vote).  That same vote was conducted as a so-called "division vote", which records the number of votes but doesn't record the name of each individual legislator and how they voted.  There then followed a request for a vote by roll call, a procedure which of course does record names and individual votes.  When that roll call vote took place, the motion to lay the bill on the table failed 151-168, thanks to a number of legislators having changed their votes.   This showed the handwriting on the wall, and so a motion to pass the bill at last passed by 32 votes, 171 - 139.


As the Chamber has been saying repeatedly over the course of the past year, this bill is bad public policy due to its impact of saying that all future energy projects must first attempt to use buried lines versus other forms of transmission.  This is an incredibly expensive, and usually cost-prohibitive, way to create new transmission lines.  In an attempt to stop the Northern Pass project, the proponents of this bill are attempting to create a new process that may have long term impacts on future projects unrelated to Northern Pass.  Let's hope that the Senate thinks long and hard about the problem of electric costs and reliability in this state before the Senate vote on HB 569.  

Chamber Asks House HHS Committee To Kill CON Bill (HB 1539)
Long time readers of The Advocate will know that some issues in the New Hampshire Legislature just keep coming back over and over again, and one of the prime examples of that is the debate over "Certificate Of Need (a CON has to be obtained by healthcare providers before they can construct or expand certain types of medical buildings or services.) There have been a number of attempts to eliminate the Certificate Of Need process over the past several years, all under the banner of advocating for a free market in healthcare. As the Chamber has been saying repeatedly, however, the Certificate Of Need process is necessary precisely because the healthcare world in New Hampshire is not a free market. There can hardly be said to be free market competition in healthcare when a significant portion of healthcare provided by facilities like hospitals and nursing homes is controlled by the state and federal governments, right down to the amount of money that is appropriated and the rates that can be charged.

Last year, the Legislature passed a law that revamped the CON Board and changed the composition of the Board. Under the old law, the Board included representatives of the regulated entities. The new law passed last year created a Board that is made up of public appointees. That was a good move by the Legislature.

Under the law currently in place, the CON process is slated to be prospectively repealed effective June 30, 2016. HB 1539 would move that date up to June 30, 2015. As Nashua's own Representative Cindy Rosenwald said in her testimony on HB 1539, however, the State should be looking at extending the prospective repeal date by several years in order to see how the new system works. We couldn't agree more. Given the major upheavals that have happened in healthcare over the last several years at both the state and the federal levels, this is certainly not the time to be creating yet one more revolutionary change in the healthcare system in this state.
Local Politics

 Many of you have followed the never-ending saga surrounding efforts by one of the Chamber's past Leadership Greater Nashua (LGN) classes to gift an all-accessible playground to the City of Nashua.  This project by the 2012 LGN Class has taken on a life of its own, thanks to vehement opposition by certain neighbors of Greeley Park who are adamantly opposed to placing this playground in Greeley Park. 


The LGN Class won an important legislative victory back in December, when the city's Board of Public Works voted 4-1 to approve placement of the playground at Greeley Park.  This vote came after a public hearing in December, in which more than 150 Nashua residents packed the room that evening in support of the playground.


This playground project has now moved to the Board of Aldermen for review and approval, and they will take another couple months to study this playground.  The same neighbors opposing the playground turned out again to repeat their opposition with the Board of Aldermen earlier this week, and the aldermen have decided to hold a public "work session" between these neighbors and the LGN Class in an attempt to reach a middle-ground of sorts concerning placement of this playground. 


We're encouraged by this decision to hold the public session, since the LGN Class had actually offered on two separate occasions back in November and again in early January to do this very same thing.  We're hopeful that both sides - the LGN Class and the neighbors of the park - will show up with a commitment to objectively sharing and exchanging valid reasons for why the playground should, or should not, be placed at Greeley Park. 


Those interested in attending this work session can contact the project leader, Mr. Eric Brand of P&L Landscaping, for more information about its location and timeframe.  Eric can be reached at ericbrand@pllandscaping.com.  

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Devine Millimet

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