NASHUA BULLETIN                        March 13th2015


Welcome to the Chamber's weekly legislative newsletter, The Advocate!  With the start of the new year comes the start of NH's state legislative session.  For those of you who have been active with our Chamber for a while, you already know to expect this legislative newsletter in your inbox each week. It provides a recap of what happened in Concord each week, and previews what is coming up in the following week that pertains to various business interests. We hope you find this weekly publication informative, and a great way to stay attuned to what is happening in Concord that impacts southern NH's business community!


Eversource Energy Announces Historic Agreement On Generation Assets

The big news out of Concord this week was the announcement by Eversource Energy (formerly known as PSNH) that it has agreed to sell its generation facilities in New Hampshire. The company says that this will produce $300 million in savings for New Hampshire energy customers over the next five years. In many ways, this sale will mark the culmination of the decades-long efforts in this state to restructure the way electric utilities operate in New Hampshire, because one of the hallmarks of that effort was the concept of separating the generation of electricity from the sale of electricity such that both activities would not be done by a single company.


This agreement will resolve several dockets at the PUC and will also resolve some annual legislative initiatives concerning the divestiture of these facilities by Eversource. We are in the early stages of this, so we will keep you updated as the details of this major story develop.


House Kills Employer Burden Bills

This was a big week for both the House and Senate. The Senate had its first day-long session of the year so far, and the House had to meet on both Wednesday and Thursday to get through over 200 bills that were on its plate (yes, you read that right).


Among those bills were several that were opposed by the Chamber because they would have created undue burdens on employers. The House voted down HB 600 (which would have required employers to give employees certain mandated levels of sick leave) and HB 365 (the bill to prohibit employers from using credit histories in employment decisions). Although the House Labor Committee told the House that it was sympathetic to the plight of prospective employees who might have had credit problems due to no fault of their own, the majority on the Committee felt (and the House obviously agreed) that "most employers who seek good employees will go the extra step to ascertain the cause of any credit problems." The House also killed a sales tax (HB 673) and two bills that would have raised the minimum wage (HB 392 and HB 684). 

Telecom Poles Bill Wins Out (HB 547)

It's been a few years since we've seen this issue, which as some of you will remember was  a big deal for a couple of sessions back around 2010: whether telecom poles and conduits should be subject to local property taxes. The last time the Chamber was reporting on this, the issue before the legislature was whether the tax exemption should continue. In the 2010 session, the House narrowly voted against keeping the exemption in the law, and so the exemption expired.


The end of the exemption, of course, led to assessments being performed by the various municipalities, and those in turn led to a large number of abatement appeals. One of the things that came out of that process was a recognition that the valuations from municipality to municipality apparently have varied pretty significantly. HB 547 was introduced as a bill to put the exemption back in place, but it came out of the House yesterday with an amendment that had been agreed to by the House Ways & Means Committee that establishes a statewide methodology for the valuations, so that there can be some uniformity from town to town and city to city.


Senate Kills Attempt To Speed Up CON Repeal (SB 214)

Your Chamber has been a consistent voice in favor of proceeding cautiously when it comes to repeal of the Certificate Of Need (CON) process for health care in New Hampshire. Although we appreciate the fact that proponents of this repeal are advocating from the perspective of the free market - and we applaud that impulse - we think that there needs to be a serious recognition that the health care market in New Hampshire is not able to be viewed as a fully free market environment because of the significant role that is played by Medicaid. Providers that rely on Medicaid for much of their business are entirely dependent on the State to set the amount of money that is available overall and for the Medicaid rates that can be charged in individual cases. So as things stand at present, it is hard to see how these providers would be able to freely compete in an open, free-wheeling market unless the State significantly increases Medicaid reimbursement (which does not seem likely, to say the least.)


We want to make sure that a transition away from CON does not cause massive problems in the health care system and unintended increases in overall health care costs as well as county property taxes (because the counties all run nursing homes, they use county property taxes to help fill the Medicaid shortfall, and so whatever exacerbates that shortfall potentially increases county property taxes).


So we congratulate the Senate for their decision yesterday in voting down an amendment to SB 214 that would have moved up by one year the slated repeal of CON from June 30, 2016, to June 30, 2015. The amendment itself was the subject of some controversy on the floor because the hugely significant amendment was not in the original bill and thus there had been no opportunity for the public to comment. The next volley in this skirmish will be on the House side, as the House is looking at a possible 2-year extension of CON in HB 2, the budget trailer bill.

Next Chapter In House Republican Story

This week, Rep. Bill O' Brien and his allies opened a Concord office for their insurgent Republican group. You may recall that, in the wake of the election in December when Representative Jasper came out of nowhere to defeat Representative O'Brien for Speaker, there were some hard feelings on the part of the O'Brien camp.  Representative O'Brien and his allies spoke loudly about their intentions of creating essentially a shadow Republican leadership team that, to the O'Brien team, would represent the "true" Republican majority in the House.  There were concerns at the State House that this might lead to chaotic House sessions marked by in-fighting between the O'Brien faction and supporters of Speaker Jasper.


At this point in the session, at least, those concerns have not materialized.  Although the O'Brien forces have clearly not changed their views, the urgency of the issue at least from a wider perspective in the House seems to have eroded a bit. The Speaker, as a long-time House veteran, is greatly experienced at the parliamentary world of the House, and this has given him a sure hand in the running of the House and in keeping House sessions moving effectively. It also has not hurt that he has run things with an eye toward collegiality, something that Rep. O'Brien was infamous for not doing. And he has matched his own experience with a leadership team that also has a lengthy record of service in the House.


So we'll see how things go here. The opening up of this new office certainly marks a new chapter in this saga, so it will bear watching how things transpire over the coming weeks.

Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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March 6th, 2015 
Febraury 20th, 2015
Febraury 6th, 2015 
January 30th, 2015 
January 26th, 2015
November 5, 2014
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Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce | (603) 881-8333 |
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