Legislative Update January 27, 2017

By January 27, 2017Advocacy

The House held a very brief session Thursday, with only about a half dozen bills on the calendar. Representatives passed a measure to name a state building after longtime Department of Cultural Resources Commissioner Van McLeod, who passed away last July at age 70. The Senate did not meet in session this week.

Got milk?

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony this week on a bill to provide relief to the state’s dairy farmers. Hit hard by drought and falling milk prices, about 115 dairy farms would divide some $2 million under the measure. The bill may see some revisions relative to goat farmers and the formula to be used to distribute the funds.

The smoking lamp is lit.

The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee this week considered a bill that would loosen the longstanding ban on smoking in restaurants and pubs. Polling numbers presented by the American Lung Association show well more than 80% of those questioned oppose lifting the ban. The state Restaurant and Lodging Association is also opposed, but there is some sentiment on the committee to allow restaurants to make their own choice on whether or not to allow smoking.

You seen one pole, you seen ‘em all

The House Ways and Means Committee voted to recommend killing a bill that would have allowed cities and towns to use their own individual methods to assess the property tax value of telecommunications poles. Telecom and electricity are assessed differently, although the lines are on the same pole. The bill would reverse a law passed last year that standardizes telecom assessments. In rejecting the measure, committee members said the legislature wants to give the new law time to work, and that allowing municipalities to use different standards resulted in a more chaotic situation that saw many lawsuits against towns. Meanwhile, the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee will be continuing work on legislation that proposes to standardize electric utility property valuation in much the same way as telecom poles.

Strangers on a Train.

The House Transportation Committee heard testimony this week on a bill to dissolve the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. The authority is unfunded, and all work is done by volunteers. The legislature has rebuffed recent efforts to have the state contribute to funding for studies of the expansion of commuter rail service from Massachusetts into New Hampshire. New Governor Chris Sununu has stated his opposition as well. At the hearing, those opposed to dissolving the authority outnumbered supporters by a wide margin.

The House and Senate will continue with public committee hearings this coming week. The House will meet in session next Thursday, February 2. The Senate has not scheduled its next session.