NASHUA BULLETIN                 March 4, 2016
Bulletin No. 8
This turned out to be the busiest week of the legislative session so far for the Chamber. It began early on Monday morning with a meeting of the State Advocacy Committee, and it picked up on Tuesday and Wednesday as Chamber President Tracy Hatch decamped to the Legislative Office Building in Concord to weigh in on several of the Chamber's top priority bills for 2016. Here is what happened up there.

Chamber Assists In House Finance Committee Review of HB 1696 (New Hampshire Health Protection Program Reauthorization)
One of the big events of the week in Concord was yesterday's vote by the House Finance Committee to recommend that the full House pass HB 1696, the legislation to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program for another two years. The Chamber strongly supports this legislation.

Yesterday's vote was preceded by long work sessions by the Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the Committee invited in several state agencies, as well as our Chamber and the BIA, to answer questions on the bill. Tracy informed the Committee that the information which the Chamber has received from its businesses about the NHHPP has been uniformly positive, and since the program eliminates much of the uncompensated care that was the subject of cost-shifting to private insurance, it seems likely that the NHHPP will have long term impact toward limiting the rate at which health insurance premiums are escalating (remember that the folks that now have health coverage under the NHHPP used to get what health care they got only by visiting hospital emergency rooms, and so the NHHPP has meant not just better health care for these 50,000 people but also a reduction in the amount of uncompensated ER care that hospitals need to provide and in the related costs that need to be shifted to private insurance).

The Finance Committee decision is a big deal, because the vote that the full House takes on this bill will be the deciding vote on whether the bill gets over to the Senate, where it seems quite likely that there is already a majority in favor of the bill. We are urging all Nashua-area legislators to vote in favor of HB 1696, as recommended by the Finance Committee.

Commuter Rail Provision Arrives At First Station (HB 2016)
On Wednesday, the House Public Works Committee voted on HB 2016, the proposed 10-year state infrastructure plan. As you will remember, the Chamber had urged the Committee to maintain $4 million in rail money that was proposed in the bill to do further preliminary work on the Capital Corridor Project. We thought this was an important and sensible provision to begin with, but our feelings in that direction were only strengthened when it emerged at the public hearing on the bill that the $4 million in federal funds that are at stake here could not be used for any other purpose, and thus they will disappear if they are not used for the rail project.

The Committee voted - albeit by the skin of its collective teeth - to keep the money in the bill. This happened when the Committee rejected a proposed amendment that would have removed the rail piece from the bill. The motion to remove the rail funding was defeated on a split vote of 10-10 (the amendment failed, of course, because a majority vote was necessary in order to get the amendment passed). This means that the version of HB 2016 that will go to the House floor will include the rail funding provision.

Thank you to the members of the Public Works Committee who voted to keep the rail provision intact. We urge all Nashua-area House members to vote in favor of HB 2016 as it has come out of the Committee

Chamber Supports Intermodal Transportation Bill (SB 549)
Tracy also testified this week in front of the Senate Transportation Committee in support of Sen. Bette Lasky's SB 549, which would allow the Commissioner of DOT to enter into contractual arrangements with private entities so that the State can take advantage of public/private partnerships for intermodal transportation projects. This bill is a follow-up to legislation that Sen. Lasky introduced last year, which resulted in a study committee to look at how public and private money could be combined as a way of getting transportation projects done. The concept is pure common sense: since state budget dollars are tight, especially in the transportation area, we are going to have to figure out how to leverage both private and public funds in order to undertake major improvements to our transportation infrastructure. 

A tip of the cap to Sen. Lasky for bringing this bill forward, and for her tremendous work in this area over the course of many months. The bill was passed by the Committee and will be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday. 

Chamber Lends Its Voice to Highway Sign Bill (SB 519)
Tracy Hatch also raised an increasingly hoarse voice to lend the Chamber's support to SB 519 in front of the Senate Transportation Committee. This one would allow signs to be placed on highways to show that restaurants, gas stations, etc. are located nearby (currently, these signs may only located on exit ramps). Obviously, we think it is going to be far better for local businesses if motorists are able to see that these businesses are located nearby. How often do we drive by one of these signs in other states and feel grateful or relieved that (fill in the blank: food, gas, coffee) are not far away? This is a common sense item that will be of advantage to both businesses and consumers.

Similar legislation was brought forward by former Sen. Peggy Gilmour a couple of years ago, but that legislation ended up getting amended and passed in such a way that it only applied to so-called "attractions" (there was some sentiment on the part of a few on the House Public Works Committee at that time that the bill was going to be bad for scenic views on New Hampshire highways - not a strong argument in our view, but it was the perspective that prevailed).

We expect this one to come out of the Senate Transportation Committee next week with a positive vote.

The Week Ahead
On Monday, back Tracy Hatch goes to the Legislative Office Building, to emphasize the Chamber's ongoing opposition to HB 626, the bill that would create energy corridors where electrical transmission lines should be placed. The House Finance Committee is doing further work on the bill in the wake of the public hearing that took place a few weeks ago. We are concerned about this bill because we think it will contribute to higher energy costs for New Hampshire businesses (and that is why we strongly oppose the bill).

Finally this week, we want to express our condolences on the passing of former Representative Linda Foster of Mont Vernon. Linda served many years in the House, including a term as Deputy Speaker.

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

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Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce | (603) 881-8333 |
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Nashua, NH 03060

Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce | 142 Main St. | 5th Floor | Nashua | NH | 03060