NASHUA BULLETIN                                 May 15, 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!


Energy Still the Main Issue

Although the Senate Energy Committee did not vote this week on the electric rate reduction financing bill (SB 221), discussions regarding SB 221 and energy issues in general are continuing to top the agenda in Concord.


Last Friday, the Public Utilities Commission opened up a docket to look at establishing an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS), a policy to establish specific targets or goals for energy savings that utilities in New Hampshire must meet.  One of the things that the Commission has identified as a subject to be considered in that docket is the leveraging of private funding sources. This is a sign that the cost of the energy efficiency programs is going to be an issue that the Commission will have in the forefront.


It's good that this will be the case because, as all of you know, it is the cost of energy that is the number one concern for New Hampshire businesses. Although SB 221 and the Eversource divestiture settlement are using up a lot of the energy-related oxygen in the discussions going on in Concord these days (and no question that this is an important bill), it is important for everyone to keep their eye on the ball. The most important thing that policy makers should be doing is working on getting more energy into New England and New Hampshire. That is how energy rates will go down.


All of this is a reminder of why the legislature should vote down HB 572, a bill that would place significant new hurdles in the path of the development of the new natural gas pipeline.  That one could be voted on by the Senate Energy Committee as early as this coming week, and as you know, the Chamber opposes the bill and the amendments that have been proposed. 

Commuter Rail Amendment Proposed For Capital Budget 

One of the committees that met this week was the Senate Capital Budget Committee, which is in the process of reviewing HB 25, the State's capital budget.  As you will recall, when Governor Hassan submitted her proposed budget to the House in February, it included $4 million to do some necessary preliminary work for the development of the Capital Corridor Project.  The House voted to remove those funds from the budget.  On Wednesday, Senator Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester introduced an amendment that would reinstate the $4 million.  The Capital Budget Committee is slated to meet again next week, at which time they may take up that amendment.  In any event, we will know the fate of this money soon, because the Committee needs to make its final decisions on all amendments by the end of the month.  We don't need to remind you that the Chamber strongly supports this amendment, and we stated our case for it this past week in a guest editorial published by The Telegraph .


Senate Finance Committee Holds Firm on Dedicated Fund Raids   

One method that the New Hampshire Legislature has sometimes used to help balance budgets in recent years has been by raiding dedicated funds (these are funds that are earmarked for particular purposes and are accounted for separately from the State's general fund). Instead of using those monies for the purposes that led to the raising of the funds in the first place, a the Legislature sweeps up those monies and includes them as revenue to fund other parts of the budget.  The House turned to this option in the closing stages of its review of the State budget earlier this year, when it took about $52 million from the State's renewable energy fund and moved it to the general fund in order to fill a big part of the hole in the Department of Transportation budget.


This week, the members of the Senate Finance Committee voted to reject this raid on the renewable energy fund.  Since the money in the renewable energy fund comes from electric utilities, and thus ultimately from the utilities' rate payers, the raid on the fund would ultimately mean that electric rate payers were funding the work of the Department of Transportation - a result that is not exactly what the doctor ordered at this particular point in time, as we have noted above.


This decision by the Finance Committee is not a one-off sort of thing.  Senate President Chuck Morse has made it clear that the Senate is not going to build its version of the budget through the diversion of funds that are dedicated to other purposes.  The taxpayers who pay into dedicated funds - whether those taxpayers are electric customers or anyone else who has paid a fee or a license which they assume is going to be used for a particular purpose - should not be subject to having that fee diverted by the Legislature to some other use.  If the Legislature is going to have dedicated funds at all, then obviously those funds need to be maintained for the purposes for which they were created in the first place. Good work by the Senate Finance Committee on this one.

Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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