NASHUA BULLETIN                 March 11, 2016
Bulletin No. 8
It was a week of ups and downs in Concord. Let's start with the bad news and end on the high notes.

House Kills Rail Funding (HB 2016)
Yesterday, the House voted to pass HB 2016, the 10-year infrastructure plan. Unfortunately, the House also narrowly passed a floor amendment to the bill that deleted the $4 million dollars set aside for further work on the Capital Corridor rail project.
The fight on this is not over. When HB 2016 goes over to the Senate, we will work to try to get that money put back into the bill. We take some solace in the narrowness of the House vote on the floor amendment (it passed by a margin of only 12 votes), which tells us that there are many in the legislature that understand the importance of this project to the future economy of this state.
On a related note, we also are happy to report that the Senate yesterday passed SB 549, Senator Bette Lasky's bill to enable public/private partnerships for intermodal transportation projects. So the horizon is not entirely grim on this front.

Chamber Keeps Up Fight Against HB 626
Chamber President Tracy Hatch started off the week with another visit to the Legislative Office Building in Concord, this time to reassert the Chamber's opposition to HB 626, the legislation that is designed to create certain electrical transmission corridors along interstate highways and Route 101 for the burial of electrical transmission lines. The Chamber strongly opposes this bill, because we think it is obvious that it will result in higher electric rates for New Hampshire customers, and our belief in that regard was greatly strengthened by the information that was produced at the meeting on Monday in front of Division I of the House Finance Committee.  In response to questions that had been posed by the Committee, Donna Gamache of Eversource informed the Committee that, if the Northern Pass project had to comply with this new corridor burial requirement, the additional costs to the project would be $300 million.
The subcommittee seemed to doubt whether in fact the bill actually creates a mandatory requirement, given that the bill is written in terms that look on their face to be optional.  However, Eversource walked the Committee through the text of the bill, and it seems evident that the bill would have the effect of creating what amounts to a mandate for burial in these restricted corridors.
To make matters worse, Ms. Gamache informed the committee that because this is a new requirement that is unique to New Hampshire, it is likely that ISO-New England  (the Independent System Operator that oversees the electrical grid in New England) would require those additional costs to be paid only by New Hampshire ratepayers, and that the costs would not be able to be spread out among all of the customers on the grid. 
There are other cost impacts that look to flow out of this bill if it were to become law.  For one thing, the installation of these lines along interstate highways would have to be done on the extreme edges of the highways, and that would require wholesale cutting of trees along the rights of way and would also require additional wetlands mitigation. 
All in all, it is crystal clear to us that a vote in favor of HB 626 is a vote in favor of higher energy costs.  End of story.  We hope that every legislator in the Greater Nashua area will stand up for ratepayers and vote down HB 626.  

House Votes On Medicaid Reauthorization (HB 1696)
The big event of the week happened on Wednesday, when the House voted to pass HB 1696, the legislation to reauthorize the NH Health Protection Program. The vote came by the wide margin of 216-145, but before the final vote happened, there was some drama on an important amendment to the bill dealing with severability (the amendment was to ensure that the whole law does not die if the federal CMS fails to give necessary approval to one provision). The vote on that amendment was 181-181, and Speaker Shawn Jasper had to cast the vote that broke the tie in favor of the passage of the amendment (Speakers typically cast votes only in the rare event of a tie vote).
The Chamber strongly supports this bill, and we applaud all the legislators who voted to pass HB 1696. In particular, we want to give a tip of the cap to Speaker Shawn Jasper of Hudson and House Majority Leader Dick Hinch of Nashua for their strong and effective leadership on the bill and the floor debate. This now goes over to the Senate, where there will be a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on March 22.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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

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