This is the 11th legislative/policy update for the 2024 New Hampshire Legislative session. I provide this update periodically (almost weekly) while the New Hampshire Legislature is in session to keep NHTOA members informed about what is happening in Concord. (If you do not wish to receive this update, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list.)

General Comments

This week only the House held a general sessions, but both chamber’s policy committees were busy hosted public hearings, deliberated bills, and voted on recommendations. Next both the House and Senate will have a general session and their policy committees will be active. April 11 is “Crossover Day.” By this date all bills must be acted on by the chamber where they originated. By April 3 all the policy committees must complete their public hearings, deliberations, and vote on a recommendation. For bills needing amendments this deadline can be difficult to hit.   

In the attached spreadsheet (click here for spreadsheet) is the list of the bills the NHTOA is currently monitoring and working on. The bills the House and Senate killed last week when they met in general session have been removed.

Three notes on this spreadsheet:

  1. The legislative process is very fluid and moves quickly. The House and Senate Status/Actions are as of the day on the report is printed. Please note these are subject to change.
  2. The link to the bill text should take you directly to the N.H. General Court website’s link to the bill. Note that during the heat of committee meetings and debate over amendments, this link will sometimes not take you to the most current amendments.
  3. The Priority/Action column looks at the entire bill and weighs many factors. The NHTOA Executive Director analyzes each bill and makes a recommendation to the NHTOA Policy Committee. Where a question mark is present, we are still gathering information on the bill.

The summaries below are of the bills moving through the legislative process. In some cases, the NHTOA is seeking assistance from our membership in the lobbying process (i.e., asking you to call a local Representative or Senator, send a letter or email to a committee, or attend a hearing to sign-in or testify).

Again, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any of the bills listed.

Jasen

Senate Bill 514 (line 7 on the spreadsheet)

Background: State Sen. Howard Pearl submitted this bill on behalf of the NHTOA. It does three things,

  • Increases the volume of wood a landowner can harvest for personal use from 10,000 board feet and 20 cords of firewood to 15,000 board feet and 30 cords,
  • Increases the threshold for when an intent-to-cut needs to be filed and timber taxes paid from 10,000 board feet and 20 cords to 15,000 board feet and 30 cords, respectively, for land being converted to a non-forest use, and
  • Changes the whole-tree ton “equivalent language” in the land conversion exemption to allow the addition of 300 tons of whole-tree chips.

The purpose of this bill is to reduce the timber tax paperwork and time burden for very small timber harvests (i.e., 1-3 days; half dozen loads).

Status: On Monday (March 11) the House Ways and Means Committee hosted a public hearing on the bill. It was evident many committee members did not understand timber taxation and how timber taxes are assessed. The NHTOA spoke in favor of the bill. Also speaking on the bill was the NH Department of Revenue Administration and NH Municipal Association. Although neither organization endorsed nor opposed the bill, they provided technical information that did support the NHTOA’s rationale for the bill. The Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill March 26  

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA supports this bill. While the committee deliberates we are encouraging members who wish to send emails to the committee supporting the bill.

Senate Bill 504 (line 9 on the spreadsheet)

Background: Originally, this bill modified the Current Use law to create a method of posting land to allow “public recreational use.” The bill also modifies the criminal trespass law by adding this new method of posting. This bill is being introduced at the Governor’s request to help law enforcement agents deal with illegal border crossings in northern New Hampshire.

At the public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the NHTOA raised our concerns about the proposed posting language, as we believe it will create confusion among members of the public and the recreation community about which recreational uses are allowed on unposted land enrolled in Current Use. “Recreational uses” can mean different things to different people. Could someone assume a property with the proposed signage allows motorized recreation (i.e., off-highway recreational vehicle use)?

NHTOA Position: While the bill was in committee, the NHTOA worked with the sponsor to amend the bill to replace “recreational uses” with the list of recreational uses currently allowed on unposted lands enrolled in Current Use; skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, and nature observation. Because the amended bill will not modify the Current Use law, the NHTOA is OK with the proposed change.

Status: The full Senate passed the amended bill on Thursday (March 7)

House Bill 1208 (line 24 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill came from a homeowner who hired a tree service to remove trees on their property. Unfortunately, the homeowner did not know the trees were protected and when they received a summons, they felt the tree service should have notified them of the tree cutting restrictions. This is despite signing an agreement with the tree service saying the homeowner is obligated to obtain all permits and approvals. This bill would require the person or entity cutting the trees to verify compliance with all state and local permitting requirements. These documents shall be maintained and provided to any enforcement officials. As drafted, this bill will also apply to commercial timber harvesting projects.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA is opposing this bill.

Status: On Thursday (March 7) the full House voted to table this bill. It is essentially killed for the duration of this year.

House Bills 1059 and 1387 (lines 66 and 69 on the spreadsheet)

Background: Both bills deal with the state building code. House Bill 1059 seeks to update the code with the new one that will allow the use of cross-laminated timber (aka. mass timber) in multi-story buildings. This new building technology has been used in Europe for years and is just beginning to catch on in the U.S. It creates new market opportunities for softwood lumber.

At the hearing before the Executive Departments and Administration Committee on House Bill 1387 the NHTOA learned the reason the code provisions for log structures and biomass boilers were to be removed from statute was because these provisions are now a permanent part of the state building code. Having an old code in statute is redundant, unnecessary and causes confusion, especially as the State Building Code gets updated. The passage of House Bill 1387 will ensure builders, designers, and code enforcement officers have only one place to look for wood boiler and log home codes, the State Building Code.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA supports House Bill 1059 and is monitoring House Bill 1387.

Status: The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee voted to recommend the full House pass both bills. The full House will vote on these recommendations later this month.

House Bill 1408 (line 68 on the spreadsheet)

Background: Last year, through the state budget, the Governor proposed an overhaul of the state’s professional licensure and certification system, including the review boards associated with the licenses and certifications. This bill seeks to remove two public members—forest landowners actively engaged in forest management—from the Forester Licensing Board. 

NHTOA Position: Because of the consumer protections these licensed professionals provide to landowners seeking professional advice for the management of what is often their largest financial asset, the NHTOA opposes this bill.

Status: The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee voted to recommend the full House place this bill into an “interim study.” This would block the bill from proceeding further this year. The full House will vote on this recommendation later this month.