NASHUA BULLETIN                February 8, 2016
Bulletin No. 5
We would like to apologize for the tardiness of this bulletin as the weather on Friday prevented us from getting the bulletin out last week. We also hope everyone is staying safe and warm today, and don't forget to get out tomorrow and take part in the first in the nation primary! Make sure your voice is heard, and cast a vote!
It was a busy week last week for the Chamber in Concord, with Chamber President Tracy Hatch up at the Legislative Office Building on both Wednesday and Thursday to testify on bills.  There was also a lot happening behind the scenes on matters that the Chamber has weighed in on.  So despite what it might look like on TV, not all the action was out on the FITN Primary trail.

Chamber Opposes Bill on Energy Infrastructure Corridors (HB 626)
It seems appropriate that Tracy Hatch's first opportunity to testify on a bill as President of the Chamber came on a bill that deals with the subject that our members say is their top priority:  the cost of energy.  Tracy appeared before Division I of the House Finance Committee (Division I is the subcommittee which handles energy-related issues) to oppose HB 626, the bill that creates "energy infrastructure corridors" for the placement of energy transmission lines (the "corridors" are I-93, I-95, I-89 and Route 101).
Tracy told the Committee that the Chamber reviewed this bill through the prism of the Chamber's principles governing review of energy projects, and in keeping with those principles she posed three main questions for the Committee:
  1. Does this bill reduce energy costs?
  2. Is this bill directed at a particular project that is already in progress?
  3. Are there state or federal entities already in place which can address concerns of New Hampshire citizens as part of the project's review and approval process?
We think it is indisputable that HB 626 fails to pass muster on any of these points. Of course energy transmission projects are going to be more costly if they need to be constructed in a restrictive way, and this is especially true if (as this bill provides) burial of the lines is the preferred method for the Site Evaluation Committee to choose.
There was some push back from the Committee.  Tracy and other witnesses were asked to produce data that HB 626 would in fact increase the costs of energy projects.  To us, that is like our being asked to provide data that proves that it is brighter in a room when the lamps are on. Some on the Committee also are hanging their hats on the fact that the bill says that use of the energy infrastructure corridors is only optional; but it is obvious that the Site Evaluation Committee is going to move projects in that direction because that is what the legislature would be telling them is the preferred approach.  And if the use of these infrastructure corridors is NOT something which the legislature wants to encourage in as many cases as possible, then why pass the bill in the first place?
What sort of a message does it send to businesses that are thinking of coming into this state that ground rules might keep changing?  We are hoping that the Finance Committee sees the shortcomings of HB 626 and recommends that the full House kill the bill when it comes back to the House floor. As Tracy told the Committee, let's not turn the New Hampshire advantage into the New Hampshire business disadvantage.  

House HHS Committee Recommends Passage of New Hampshire Health Protection Program Reauthorization (HB 1696)
On Tuesday, the House HHS Committee voted by the decisive margin of 17 - 1 to recommend the passage of HB 1696, the legislation to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program.  The bill will be on the House floor this coming Wednesday.
The Chamber supports this legislation.  As we have told Greater Nashua-area legislators, this bill is an important step toward trying to stem rising health insurance costs (and if the cost of energy is issue #1 for our members, the costs of health insurance are not far behind). By getting private health insurance into the hands of almost 50,000 people who previously had been receiving health care through visits to hospital ERs, the NHHPP has made a sizeable dent in the amount of uncompensated care that must be provided by hospitals. In turn, that reduction in uncompensated care has reduced the pressure to shift those costs to private health insurers (and ultimately to all of us who pay for that insurance). So even aside from the other benefits that flow from the reauthorization of the Health Protection Program (which are by no means insignificant - for instance, these 50,000 people now have access to substance abuse treatment benefits), the reauthorization is a big deal for New Hampshire businesses.
We know that there are a number of legislators out there who oppose this bill.  But we have not seen anyone come forward with a proposal that will reduce uncompensated care, provide the additional benefits that come from this program, and not leave on the table in Washington some hundreds of millions of dollars that we sent to Washington through our taxes. 
As is the case with the energy-related bills, there are many factors driving the high costs that New Hampshire businesses need to pay for things like energy and healthcare, and many of those factors are beyond the control of New Hampshire legislators and citizens.  This is why it is so essential that the legislature seize on any opportunity that is within its power to reduce those costs. Because HB 1696 is one such important opportunity, we hope that all of our area legislators will support New Hampshire businesses and vote in favor of HB 1696.

House Public Works Committee Reviews Rail Funding (HB 2016)
Tracy Hatch traveled up to Concord Thursday as well, in order to testify in support of including $4,000,000 in funding for the Capital Corridor Rail Project in the proposed State 10-Year Infrastructure Plan. Tracy told the House Public Works Committee that the Chamber remains a strong supporter of the project because it is a way of both creating new jobs and filling existing jobs. There was also testimony in support from Mayor Donchess (in his first trip back to the State House as Mayor), the NH Rail Advisory Board, and the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission. Funding for the Capital Corridor Project also was one of the items that Governor Hassan specifically mentioned in her State of the State address yesterday afternoon.
One of the things that emerged at the hearing was that there is basically nothing else that can be done with these funds if the money is not used for this project. So there would be nothing gained by trying to shift this money to some other purpose. That is obviously an important consideration for the Committee to think about.

Pipeline Proposal Panned by House Science and Tech Committee (HB 1149)
The House Science and Tech Committee has unanimously voted to recommend that the full House kill HB 1149, the bill that would have required the payment of royalties on certain revenues from the natural gas pipeline. The Committee correctly recognized that the costs of this proposal would simply have been passed on to rate payers. The House votes on this one on Wednesday.
All the pieces of legislation that are looking to create new requirements for the gas pipeline are opposed by the Chamber.  As we have repeatedly been saying, there should be a strong presumption against passing bills that are intended to deal with (or even worse, to stop altogether) a particular project that is already underway.  This sort of ad hoc legislating is short-sighted and it potentially leads to unintended consequences down the road with respect to projects that the legislature is not even contemplating at present. 
These types of bills, directed as they are at a specific energy project, are regrettably becoming too common in New Hampshire. It seems to have become the fashion here that when a project is announced there is a raft of bills filed to create new mandates and procedures for review, approval, oversight and taxation of that project.  This shifting of the goalposts sends a poor message to businesses who might be thinking of relocating to New Hampshire. So we hope that the full House will go along with the recommendation of the Committee, and kill HB 1149 and all of the similar bills which will be hitting the floor over the coming weeks.

Make Your Voices Heard!
We think that all of the bills that we have mentioned above are important to our members.  If you want your legislators to help us get a handle on energy and healthcare costs by voting as the Chamber has recommended, then we encourage you to contact your local House members to let them know your feelings.  We are extremely fortunate to have an incredibly dedicated group of legislators here in the Greater Nashua area, and they are always eager to know what the Chamber and their constituents think.  You can get the contact information for your legislator by going to

Our Prediction For The Big Game on Sunday?
Well, the weather ruined our predictions for the big game, but how did we do?:

Puppy Bowl XII goes to the Golden Retrievers, 17-10.

Tracy Hatch
President & CEO
Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce 
Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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