Legislative Update February 3, 2017

By February 3, 2017Advocacy

The House met in session Thursday, taking action on almost 50 bills. Many of the bills that brought the most discussion were education related. The Republican majority rejected two bills aimed at repealing the education tax credit, and two others that would have given the state more control over charter school teacher qualifications and charter school boards. The House also passed a bill requiring parents to be notified in advance when teachers will be presenting material on human sexuality or sexual education. The Senate did not meet in session this week, but committees continued their work.

Priority delivery

Senate Bills 1 and 2, typically bill numbers given to Senate priorities, were released this week. Both have to do with reducing the rates of the state’s two main business taxes, the Business Profits Tax and the Business Enterprise Tax. The bills reflect the desires of both Governor Chris Sununu and the Republican majority in the Senate to pass measures they believe will stimulate business expansion and entice new businesses to move here.

It’s just a matter of time

The House passed a bill that would have the state eliminate Daylight Savings Time by moving from Eastern Standard Time to Atlantic Standard Time, but only if Massachusetts does so first. Some members objected to following Massachusetts, but others said that with an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Granite Staters working in Massachusetts every day, the economies are too closely tied to be on different time zones.

One for the road

The House Ways and Means Committee voted to recommend passage of a bill that would establish a road usage fee for vehicles registered to travel on the state’s roadways. The bill seeks to ensure that vehicles that currently pay less gasoline tax because they get better mileage, such as alternative fuel vehicles, contribute a fair share toward highway maintenance. The issue has been studied by the legislature for several years. The bill, which employs a formula based on the federal miles per gallon rating of the vehicle, passed the committee by a bipartisan 20-1 vote. If the bill passes the House, it will be sent to the House Finance Committee, after which it faces another vote on the House floor.

It’s what he wants.

Governor Sununu will give his first Budget Address on Thursday, February 9. His proposed budget is expected to total in the range of $11 billion, about the same size as the last biennial budget. Lawmakers will be listening to hear where the governor wants the state to go − and where he feels it can afford to go − in the next two years. The address will mark the official start of the budget process in the House. Members will use Ways and Means Committee revenue projections and their priorities to fashion their own version of the budget before passing it on to the Senate.

The House and Senate will continue with committee hearings this coming week. Both chambers will meet separately in session next Thursday, February 9, and then in joint session to hear the Governor’s Budget Address at noon.