The Ultimate Economic Guide To The 2012 NH Legislative Session

Jan 26, 2012

As the New Hampshire legislature begins whittling down a bevy of economy-related bills, we thought it would be helpful to offer you a brief, on-going roundup of what we believe are some key economic issues the General Court will be looking at, and why. We've also included resources if you'd like to research and track these issues on your own, or get in touch with the governor or your legislator.

This is not a comprehensive list of business– and economy-related legislation. But unlike most of our posts, this piece will be a living document. We'll be keeping track of some key legislation, adding things to watch for, and otherwise updating the post as needed.

Starting tomorrow, this post will live in our "Topics" section, just below the search bar. (More often than not, it'll also be making appearances in our Featured Topics menu right at the top of the site.) Any reporting or aggregating we've done–or related topics pages we've created–will be added to the bottom of this post for your perusal.

Key Issues

Expanded Gaming: From legalizing poker parlors and Keno to opening new casinos, the legislature is considering gambling as a potential revenue stream–especially if the new funds could be use to slash taxes.

HB 0593: Would allow two casinos ("video lottery facilities" with table games). Revenues would go to offsetting business taxes and supplementing the highway fund. Floor Date: February 8, 2012.

HB 1678: Would allow three casinos ("video lottery facilities" with table games), and create a State Police gaming enforcement division. Municipalities could decide if they wanted the facilities at Town Meeting. Revenues would go to the general fund, host municipalities, and state gambling addiction assistance fund. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: February 23, 2012.

HB 1697: Would legalize Keno, which would be regulated by the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: February 9, 2012.

Labor: Last year, the House failed to override Governor Lynch's veto of Right To Work legislation. For the 2012 session, a number of labor bills–including bits and pieces of Right To Work–are under consideration.

HB 1163: A short variation on the Right To Work theme. Would forbid employers from withholding union dues from workers' checks. Floor Date: Undetermined. Due Out Of Committee: February 23, 2012.

HB 1645: Would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. As the Concord Monitor reports, one of the bill's co-sponsors noted that it "went further than intended," and would work on amending it. Floor Date: Undetermined. Due Out of Committee: February 23, 2012.

HB 1574: Would abolish the requirement that workers get a half-hour lunch break after 5 1/2 consecutive hours of work. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: February 7, 2012.

HB 1323: Would require employers who offer benefits to full-time employees to also offer them pro-rated to part-time (non-seasonal) employees. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: February 7, 2012.

HB 1282: Would allow municipalities to decide whether they to offer workforce housing, rather than following current requirements. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: January 31, 2012.

Regulation And Deregulation: One of the dominant theme's of this year's session. The Republican-dominated House, in particular, is pushing for a number of regulatory cuts in the hopes of making the Granite State a more attractive to businesses.

HB 1263: Would allow absentee landlords to not tell municipalities where they can be served for housing violation lawsuits. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: February 2, 2012.

HB 1252: Would require banks to provide copies of property deeds before foreclosure sales could go forward. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: January 31, 2012.

SB 213: Would require state agencies to issue warnings for employer violations before levying fines. (According to the New Hampshire Business Review, this restriction has already been placed on the Department of Labor. Now it would extend to other executive agencies, including the Department of Environmental Services.) Floor Date: Undetermined.

Taxes: House and Senate leadership are pushing for a number of minor tweaks and even a major credit to draw more businesses.

HB 1418: Would allow small businesses to make greater gross receipts or wages before they had to pay the Business Enterprise Tax. The gross business receipts threshold would increase from $100,000 to $150,000. The gross employee tax base (basically, their wages) threshold would increase from $75,000 to $100,000. Floor Date: Undetermined. Due Out Of Committee: February 23, 2012.

SB 295: Would increase the total available funds for the Research and Development Business Profits Tax credit from $1 million to $2 million. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: January 31, 2012.

Utilities, Northern Pass, And Eminent Domain: Whether its continuing the long-abandoned process of utility deregulation, dealing with phone pole taxes, or using legislation to kill Northern Pass, utilities are a central focus this session.

HB 648: This is a legislative block of the Northern Pass project. The bill would only allow utilities to invoke eminent domain if the project were essential to the reliability of the power grid. Amended versions passed both the House and the Senate. Ultimately, to pass the bill, both bodies must agree on common amended language. (And there are various legislative mechanisms by which they could do this as the session progresses.) Should both bodies pass the bill with agreed upon amendments, it would go to the governor, who has not yet commented on whether he would sign it if it passed. Further Action: To be determined as session progresses.

HB 1238: Would require PSNH to quickly sell-off its energy generation assets. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: February 2, 2012.

HB 1305: Would prevent municipalities from levying property taxes on telecoms for phone poles. Floor Date: Undetermined. Next Committee Hearing: January 31, 2012.

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