March 28, 2014

     Thank you for your interest in one of our most proud efforts- business advocacy during the legislative session.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. 


Legislature Reaches Midway Point Of Session 

Yesterday, the House and the Senate made it to the halfway point of the 2014 session, the deadline for all bills to cross over to the next body.  This is always a good time to take stock of the legislative session, and as usual, the Chamber has been right in the middle of the action on some of the most important issues that are being considered by the House and Senate this year.


  • Gas Tax:  When Chamber President Chris Williams testified at the public hearing in favor of SB 367, the bill to increase the gas tax, the Nashua Chamber became the first Chamber of Commerce to come out in support of that bill while also expressing deep concerns over tying future gas tax increases to inflation.  The Chamber has played an important role in the advocacy for this bill; yesterday, during the discussions on the Senate floor prior to the final vote, Senator Sylvia Larsen of Concord read from portions of the Chamber's letter concerning SB 367. We were pleased that the Senate gave its final approval to SB 367 and that the version of the bill that was passed reflects the format that was advocated by the Chamber:  a one-time increase with no automatic increases tied to inflation in the future.  
  • Non-profit Taxation:  On the first hearing day of the session in January, the Chamber registered its opposition to HB 1509, the bill to make certain non-profit charitable enterprises liable for payment of the Business Enterprise Tax.  The Chamber, and the many other business organizations that weighed in on this, were happy that the House voted to kill this bill several weeks ago.  
  • Damages in Lawsuits:  The Chamber joined with a number of other business groups and trade organizations to oppose SB 297, legislation to change the law concerning how fault is apportioned among responsible parties in a lawsuit.  SB 297 would have made it possible to force a defendant with a low percentage of fault to still pay a disproportionately large percentage of the plaintiff's damages because a more responsible party who is immune from suit would not be involved in the apportionment of fault.  The Senate agreed with our position, and killed that bill. 
  • Criticism of Employees:  The Chamber also registered its opposition to SB 302, a bill that would have prohibited employers from terminating employees who publicly or privately criticize the employer.  That bill also bit the dust in the Senate.  
  • Career Schools:  Chris Williams testified back in January on SB 221, a bill to regulate private post-secondary career schools.  Chris spoke in support of an amendment that was submitted to the Committee in order to ensure that software companies like Skillsoft were exempt from the requirements of the bill. The final version of the bill which passed the Senate contained the necessary language for the exemption.  
  • Highway Signs:  Chris also testified in support at the hearing on SB 321, a bill filed by our own Senator Peggy Gilmour that would allow the placement of motorist service signs on New Hampshire highways as far north as Concord and Rochester (currently, the law only allows these service signs to be placed on exit ramps.)  This bill passed the Senate yesterday, but not without some parliamentary drama. The bill came to the floor out of the Transportation Committee with a recommendation that it be sent to interim study (which, in this second year of the legislative session would be the equivalent of killing the bill).  But Senator Peggy Gilmour got up on the floor and delivered some remarks that laid out some really irrefutable reasons why the bill should be passed, and this flipped the situation around entirely. The Senate not only voted down the interim study motion by a bipartisan vote of 8-16, but it then voted to pass SB 321 on a simple voice vote.  Really a tour de force by Senator Gilmour.  
  • Non-Compete Agreements:  The Chamber also threw its support behind SB 351, a bill to repeal a law passed last year that has placed some major hurdles in the way for businesses that need to utilize non-compete agreements.  The stakeholders on both sides (including the prime sponsor of last year's bill) got together and came up with language that would help to fix these problems, and that consensus approach gained the support of the Senate Commerce Committee and ultimately the full Senate.   This one has a hearing in the House Labor Committee next Wednesday. 
  • ERZ Credits:  The Chamber supported SB 327, a bill to change the prospective repeal date for the ERZ tax credit from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2020.  Long-time Chamber members will know that the ERZ tax credit is on the books due to a law that was initially proposed a decade ago by the Chamber. The Senate sent this one to the House yesterday. 
  • Burial of Transmission Lines:  This week, the Chamber provided testimony to the Senate Energy Committee in opposition to HB 569, a bill seeking to create a presumption in favor of the burial of electric transmission lines.    We told the Committee that this bill is problematic because it is sure to increase the costs of developing future projects, it unwisely limits the discretion of the Site Evaluation Committee regarding the aesthetic situation in each site, and it inadvisably jumps the gun on a comprehensive state energy planning process that is currently being undertaken.  That bill is still awaiting a vote by the Energy Committee.

So as you can see, this has been a productive three months for the Chamber in Concord. We expect the final 10 weeks of the session to be just as eventful.  

House Passes Landmark New Hampshire 

Health Protection Program (SB 413)

On Tuesday, the House gave its approval to the bipartisan compromise plan that came out of the Senate on SB 413.  Under this bill, federal Medicaid funds will be used to provide private health insurance coverage for about 50,000 New Hampshire residents with incomes up to 138% of federal poverty limits.  The bill, which was signed into law yesterday by the Governor, contains a repeal clause that sunsets the law if the federal government stops paying 100% of the costs of the program. 


The passage of SB 413 was notable for a variety of reasons.  In the first place, of course, it ensures that tens of thousands of New Hampshire citizens who are working but who are unable to pay for insurance will now receive health coverage.  Another major beneficiary of SB 413 will be the state's hospitals, which will receive some level of compensation for care that they have been providing for free in their emergency rooms.  And finally, it is clear that SB 413 became law only because of some intensive behind-the-scenes work that was done to reach the final bipartisan compromise version (which, as a true compromise, was perfect in the eyes of no one, but acceptable to many).  In particular, we once again want to give a tip of the hat to Senator Gilmour, who played an indispensible role in achieving the resolution to an issue that has been perhaps the number one conundrum facing the Legislature for the last year and a half. 


Legislators Attend Chamber's Legislative Crossover Reception

On Monday night, the Chamber held its annual legislative crossover reception at The Crowne Plaza Hotel, and the Nashua-area delegation once again demonstrated its tremendous commitment to the region's business community by turning out in substantial numbers for this event. The attendees included our local Senators Bette Lasky and Peggy Gilmour, as well as 35 Nashua-area members of the House of Representatives. We even had several city aldermen in attendance.  Keep in mind that all of these House members turned out for an event that was literally on the eve of the first day of a scheduled three-day marathon series of House sessions.  We at the Chamber cannot tell you how proud we are to have such a great delegation and what a pleasure it is to be able to work with legislators who are so engaged and committed to the interests of their constituents.  

Chamber Unveils Results Of Statewide Survey

On Monday morning, Chris Williams started off the week by giving a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord to unveil the results of a statewide survey that has just been completed by the Chamber. As Chris said at the press conference, the reason that the Chamber did this survey on a statewide basis is because our Chamber is the most active of all the Chambers when it comes to work on statewide issues, and we are the only one of the 60+ Chambers of Commerce in New Hampshire which, through our good friends at Devine Millimet, has a continuous lobbying presence in Concord.


The highlights of the survey: 


  • A majority of New Hampshire citizens support commuter rail in the Capital Corridor, even if that will require an initial state expenditure of $100 Million and ongoing state appropriations of $15 Million each year.  
  • A majority of citizens oppose the requirement that transmission lines for The Northern Pass be buried if that means that it is going to raise electric rates.  
  • A majority of New Hampshire citizens support casino gambling, and a strong plurality favor placing one in the southern tier of the state.  
  • A sizable number of New Hampshire citizens support a gas tax increase if it is exclusively dedicated to the work on roads and bridges.  

If you would like to see more details from this survey, Click Here.



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