This is the 16th 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 much of the N.H. took off for vacation, with a few exceptions. Specifically, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hosted multiple public hearings, deliberated and voted on bills. Next week only the Senate will have a general session. Thursday, April 11 was “Crossover Day.” By this date, all bills had to be acted on by the chamber where they originated. Bills not meeting the crossover deadline are dead for this session. This includes bills that were tabled or designated for further study (i.e., “interim study”). Bills can still be amended with language that was tabled or designated for further study. This frequently happens when a bill important to one chamber does not survive the legislative process in the other chamber. A germane bill can be amended to force a negotiation. This type of activity is more prevalent after crossover.

When different versions of the same bill pass each chamber. The originating chamber has the option to accept the change. If it does, the bill goes to the Governor’s desk for consideration where he will sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature. Otherwise, the originating chamber can opt to not accept the changes and kill the bill or it can seek a ”committee of conference” to negotiate a different version. If a committee of conference fails to negotiate a compromise, the bill dies. If a chamber seeks a committee of conference and the second chamber refuses to negotiate, the bill dies.

If the same version of a bill passes both chambers or if a bill survives the committee of conference process, it goes to the Governor’s desk for consideration. The Governor has three options, sign the bill into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

If a bill is vetoed, the House and Senate will hold a special session in the fall to vote on each vetoed bill. A two-thirds majority in both chambers is required to override a veto. 

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

House Bill 1709 and 1697 (lines 6 and 13 on the spreadsheet)

Background: These are the two forest-carbon credit bills the House passed. Originally, HB 1709 attempted to establish a tax on carbon through the timber tax law. When they recognized the tax was not going to pass, the sponsor successfully amended it to instead study the tax and transparency aspects of forest-carbon contracts. Unfortunately, the study commission’s membership and duties are problematic. The NHTOA testified in opposition to this and if the Senate committee wants a study commission, the NHTOA is prepared to work with them to make the needed changes.

HB 1697 originally proposed a two-year moratorium on any forest-carbon credit sales. While in the House it was amended to remove the moratorium and replace it with language that addresses two of the primary concerns raised regarding forest-carbon credit projects, transparency and taxation. The new bill directs the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration to study the interaction of timber taxation with forest carbon-carbon credit management and sales, and it establishes a registry of forest carbon projects at the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (because these contracts do not necessarily run with the land, a real estate interest recording at the registry of deeds is inappropriate). The NHTOA supports these changes. 

Status: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on both bills on April 9. There was much support for HB 1697 and little support for HB 1709. We can anticipate a committee vote on these bills in the coming weeks.

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; a half dozen loads).

Status: On April 11 the full House passed this bill. The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk for his consideration. This process (called the “enrollment process”) will take several weeks.

Senate Bill 504 (line 8 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill would modify the Current Use law to create a method of posting land to allow “public recreational use.” The bill would also modify the criminal trespass law by adding this new method of posting. This bill was introduced on behalf of the Governor to help law enforcement agents deal with illegal border crossings in northern New Hampshire.

We do not understand how this bill changes the regulatory authority of law enforcement to apprehend individuals entering the U.S. illegally. The NHTOA’s primary concern is to protect Current Use and to avoid confusion in the recreation community over what types of recreation are permitted on lands enrolled in Current Use.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA successfully amended the bill in the Senate to clarify what recreational uses are permitted by replacing the generic term “recreational use” with the list of uses allowed in current law.

Status: The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on this bill April 10 where the only person speaking was the bill’s sponsor. The committee postponed their vote on this bill until next week. Because this bill deals with immigration and this committee is also about to enter contentious debates over other immigration issues (e.g., “sanctuary cities”) we hope SB 504 does not become a political football.

Senate Bill 542 (lines 54 on the spreadsheet)

 Background: This bill would define “critical habitats” in law and broaden the Fish and Game Department’s authority regarding current habitats and habitats that could become critical in the future. Although the sponsor’s intention was to broaden the department’s authority for the purposes of land conservation and acquisition, the NHTOA is concerned it would also broaden regulatory authority.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA opposed the bill raising these concerns at the public hearing last month.

Status: On April 11 the full Senate voted to commit this bill to interim study. It will not proceed this year.