This is the 18th 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 both the House and Senate held general sessions, and both chambers’ policy committees hosted public hearings, deliberated bills, and voted on recommendations. Next week only the House will have a general session and their policy committees will be active. The end of the session is now in sight. With several important deadlines looming, committees are working hard to meet them. May 23 is the deadline for the House and Senate to act on all bills. This means all public hearings, committee deliberations, and committee votes on a recommendation must occur by May 15. The last day the full Senate and House can act on a bill is June 13. The weeks between May 23 and June 13 will be consumed by “committee of conference” activity.  

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 signs it into law, vetoes it, or allows it to become law without a signature. If the originating chamber opts to not accept the changes, it may 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.

This part of the session can get interesting, as differing Senate and House priorities that were killed or tabled by the opposite chamber can re-emerge as an amendment on a bill to force a negotiation through the committee of conference process.

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. It was amended to create a forest carbon study commission. Unfortunately, the study commission’s membership and duties are problematic. The NHTOA testified in opposition to this bill.

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: On Thursday (May 2) the full Senate killed HB 1709 and passed HB 1697 with a minor edit.

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 pushed through an amendment to 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 under 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. After several postponements of the committee vote, the chairman has scheduled the vote to occur on Wednesday (May 8). Because this bill deals with immigration and this committee is also about to enter into contentious debates over other immigration issues (e.g., “sanctuary cities”), we hope SB 504 does not become a political football.

House Bill 1202 (line 11 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill would establish a 30-day time limit for N.H. Department of Transportation’s (NHDOT) review of driveway permits along state highways. It passed the full House. It applies to residential driveway installations and it includes a $750,000 annual appropriation for 4 staff members to expedite the permit review process.

Currently, the driveway permitting process varies among NHDOT district offices in terms of review periods and conditions. Standardizing this will greatly improve the planning process for foresters and loggers scheduling timber harvests.

NHTOA Position: At the hearing for this bill in the House, the NHTOA supported it and raised our concerns about the existing permitting process for temporary driveway permits for logging operations. We also recommended landowners, loggers, or foresters obtain these permits through an online permitting process. Although the primary concern the committee had with the permitting process was obtaining timely permits for residential developments, our concerns were well received and got the NHDOT’s attention. Since the House hearing, the NHTOA has obtained assurances from the NHDOT they will have an online permitting process in place this summer and the process will include temporary logging driveway permits.  

Status: On Tuesday (April 30) the Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing on this bill where the only organization opposing it was the NHDOT. The committee is currently deliberating it. The NHTOA signed in as supporting the bill and has communicated to committee members that we look forward to working with the new online permitting process. We are willing to give the new process a try to see if will resolve our permitting concerns.

House Bill 1628 (line 63 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill is the result of a comprehensive review of the laws dealing with the N.H. Department of Agriculture’s regulation of farm products: e.g., apples, cider, milk, and native lumber(unstamped lumber sawn on portable sawmills). Many parts of these laws are outdated and obsolete. This bill removes the obsolete laws and, in the case of the N.H. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of the state’s “native lumber law,” reorganizes the existing law within the Department’s laws. It does not make any legal or regulatory changes to the N.H. “Native Lumber Law.”

NHTOA Position: Although this bill does not make any legal or regulatory changes to the lumber laws, the NHTOA is monitoring it.

Status: This bill passed the full House of Representatives and on Tuesday (May 7) the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will host a public hearing.