NASHUA BULLETIN                                 April 13, 2015


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!

After the high controversy of last week's vote on the State budget in the House, this week saw things settle back to normal, with a focus on the non-budget bills that are still making their way through the House and Senate. Our major focus this week was on rail, and specifically two bills sponsored by our own Senator Bette Lasky.

Chamber Lends Support To SB 63 (Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority).  

The first of the two bills to be heard this week was SB 63, a bill that was filed in order to change the composition of the Board of the New Hampshire Rail Authority.


One of the things that happened when the Rail Authority was first created was that a Board was established that included pretty much everyone who expressed an interest in participating in the process. Under the current law, the Board consists of 27 members, and as a result the Board can sometimes have difficulty in achieving a quorum.  The solution that SB 63 comes up with is to reduce the size of the Board to 7 members, and create a 28-member Advisory Board whose members (including the mayors of the Cities of Nashua, Manchester, Concord, Berlin and Claremont) will provide statewide input on rail projects.  As Chamber President Chris Williams said in his letter of support to the House Transportation Committee, "We believe it makes sense to always find ways for government to operate more efficiently and effectively.  This bill accomplishes that objective by better streamlining the governing structure of the New Hampshire Rail Authority, while ensuring that all stakeholders still have a voice in its operation through the creation of the advisory group." 


Note that the Capitol Corridor Project is not a part of SB 63. We are urging the members of the Transportation Committee to support SB 63 regardless of where the individual members stand on the Capitol Corridor, because the New Hampshire Rail Authority is responsible for a far wider range of rail-related issues.  So although the Capital Corridor of course is something that the Chamber strongly supports, any opposition to that project should not become a reason to oppose this particular piece of legislation.  We are hopeful for a good outcome in the House Transportation Committee, and we appreciate Senator Lasky's work on this (and also the work of Nashua's own Representative Mike O'Brien, a member of the Transportation Committee, who is working on an amendment to the bill to ensure participation on the Advisory Board by members of the House and Senate, which we think would be a good idea.) 

Chamber Registers Support For SB 88 (Intermodal Transportation)

The second of the two bills heard this week was SB 88, a bill to create a study committee to explore the potential for public- private partnerships related to intermodal transportation.  This bill was heard on Wednesday in the House Public Works and Highways Committee (which is located, appropriately enough, right next door to the Transportation Committee). 


It is no secret to anyone in the Nashua region that criticism of the Capital Corridor Project has focused chiefly on the issue of where funding for the project would originate.  In the testimony Chris Williams submitted to the Committee in favor of the bill, he summarized the legislation as an attempt "to work with critics of the Capital Corridor Project by creating a mechanism for exploring partnerships between the public and private sectors that would provide the vehicle for the public sector to avoid sharing the entire costs of the project." 


One of the other intriguing things about what is proposed in SB 88 is the fact that public-private partnerships may be useful in a number of areas.  Chris said in his testimony that the bill "potentially lays the groundwork for public-private partnerships in the State on other projects involving multimodal transportation.  It therefore has potential benefits beyond just the Capital Corridor, which should be of strong interest to any legislator, regardless of what geographic region that legislator represents."


As with Senate Bill 63, we are hopeful that the members of the Committee will look at this bill on its own merits, and will not let any objections to the Capital Corridor Project get in the way of passing a piece of legislation which makes all sorts of sense and which had bi-partisan support in the Senate.

In Other News....

Yesterday, the Senate voted to pass HB 279, which creates a commission to look at the economic impact of arts and culture in New Hampshire. The commission, which will include members of a variety of representatives from artistic and cultural organizations, is directed to submit its report by November 1, 2016.


Governor Hassan announced this week that she is nominating Vicki Quiram of Bedford to be the new Commissioner of Administrative Services (Quiram is currently the Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services). The Department of Administrative Services traditionally has been one of the more influential state agencies because it oversees all purchasing and property for the State, manages the executive branch budget, and also runs the State personnel system (no small task, given the fact that there are around 10,000 state employees).

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