NASHUA BULLETIN                        March 27th2015


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!


House Finance Committee Hits The Road On The Budget

The House Finance Committee completed its work on the budget yesterday, with party line votes of 14-9 (14 Republicans voting for it, and 9 Democrats voting against it) to recommend the passage of HB 1 and HB 2, the state budget and the budget trailer bill.  


At one point mid-week, it was far from certain that the Committee was going to reach a consensus that would obtain the support of a majority of the members. As you will recall from last week's Advocate, the DOT portion of the budget was carved out from HB 1 and was turned into an amendment to another bill. Republican leaders on the Finance Committee said that they were going to bring in a floor amendment to that bill that would create a gas tax increase to fill the $88 million DOT hole. That idea went over like a lead (or should we say leaded? cue the high-hat cymbal) balloon, and the Speaker's ruling that the gas tax amendment was non-germane meant that the gas tax amendment could not be introduced. The House then proceeded to reject the DOT amendment proposed by the Finance Committee, and so the budget went back to the House Finance Committee, which had to try to figure out a way to solve the DOT problem before it could vote on HB 1 and HB 2.


The proposal that passed Finance yesterday filled the DOT hole with a combination of funds from other sources. One piece consists of money from the gas tax increase that was passed last year. You will remember that last year's law included a provision that required the proceeds of the tax increase to go to roads and bridges. So in order to allow DOT to use that money for general operational purposes, House Finance is proposing the elimination of that restriction. The Finance plan also redirects about $50 million from the renewable energy fund, and an additional $14.3 million in cuts from the UNH budget.


Now mind you that there is plenty of other angst associated with the other parts of the budget. For instance, the House Finance Plan eliminates the Governor's proposal to reauthorize the NH Health Protection Program (last year's "Medicaid expansion", which sunsets in 2016), and there are all sorts of other cuts to social services, including a controversial diversion of 25% of the funds produced from a tax on nursing homes, the proceeds of which currently go back to nursing homes but which the House plan would divert to other purposes.


The back story to all of this is the way that the fault lines in the House have now clearly developed. The Speaker and his leadership team have the difficult task of trying to get a budget passed by a House that is divided not just between Republicans and Democrats, but which is also divided as between the Republican members of the House who are supporters of former Speaker O'Brien, and the Republican members who are supporters of Speaker Jasper. Just getting this budget out of the House will be a major undertaking.


So it will be hugely interesting to see how things play out on the House floor next week. Whatever takes place, it is still early in the budget process. Once the budget gets to the Senate, the whole process starts over again, leading up to the grand finale - the committee of conference in June.

In Other News...

The budget was not the only controversial item being considered this week. Yesterday, the Senate voted to re-refer the workers' comp bill, SB 3. This means that the bill will be kept in the Senate Commerce Committee for further study this summer and fall, presumably in the hope that the rival parties can reach agreement on an approach going forward. The Senate also voted to approve SB 221, the bill to allow for low-cost financing relating to the sale of Eversource's generation facilities in New Hampshire. The expectation is that this will produce lower electric rates for Eversource's customers. 

On Wednesday, the Senate Energy Committee had a briefing from Kinder Morgan, the entity that is trying to build a natural gas pipeline through southern New Hampshire. Kinder told the Committee that it hopes to avoid taking any properties by eminent domain, and that instead it is trying to work through existing rights of way.

The Concord world was abuzz this week with the news that UNH Law School had banned John Broderick, the recently-resigned head of the Law School's Rudman Center for Public Policy, from the UNH Law School campus. As former Chief Justice of the N.H. Supreme Court and former Dean of the Law School, Broderick is one of the most highly-respected and well-liked people who inhabit the world of New Hampshire state government, so UNH's hard-line response to Broderick's decision to resign did not gain many friends for the embattled institution. One of the Rudman Center Board members who resigned in protest to the UNH action was former Governor Steve Merrill.  

The exodus of ranking employees from NH DHHS continues, as Director of Public Health Jose Monteiro announced yesterday that he will be leaving in several weeks. If you have listened over the past seven years to anyone from the State talking about things like Ebola, eastern equine encephalitis, e-coli, or any number of other public health crises that begin with the letter "E" or any other letter, then you have heard from Dr. Monteiro. Don't underestimate the stress that DHHS is under as it tries to deal with vast numbers of vacancies at every level.

Chamber's Legislative Crossover Reception

Thanks to all the legislators who joined us for our annual Legislative Crossover Reception at The Crowne Plaza on Monday night.  We were honored to host Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper, Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, Senator Bette Lasky, and many members of the House of Representatives, including three of the ranking members of the House Finance Committee:  Representative Dick Barry from Merrimack, who is Chair of Division IIII of the Finance Committee; Representative Lynn Ober of Hudson, who is Chair of Division I of the  Finance Committee; and Representative CindyRosenwald of Nashua, who is the former Chair of Division III.


One of the things that we think sets the Nashua Chamber apart is the outstanding relationship between the Chamber and its legislative delegation.  The proof is in the pudding; every time we invite legislators to an event, they attend in large numbers.  We recognize that our legislators make a tremendous sacrifice of time simply by engaging in their duties in Concord, so we especially appreciate the extra effort that they go to when they join us for evening events at the Chamber.

Congratulations To State Advocacy Committee Chair David Heath

Last but not least this week, we want to extend our congratulations to the Chair of our State Advocacy Committee, David Heath of Melanson & Heath.  At today's Chamber Eminence Awards, David received recognition as Chamber Volunteer of the Year.  As one of David's colleagues said when told of the award, "I am surprised to hear that he has not won it before!"  David's longtime dedication to the Chamber and in particular the Chamber's advocacy efforts in Concord is another one of the things that sets this Chamber apart.  Thank you, and congratulations, to David.

Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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