This is the seventh 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 at the House and Senate general session the Governor delivered his state of the state address. Following the address both chambers acted on bills. Both chambers’ policy committees were also busy conducting public hearings, deliberating, and voting on recommended actions for the full House or Senate to consider. The full House and Senate will meet in general session again next Thursday (Feb. 22) to act on this week’s committee recommendations.  

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 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 (line 7 on the spreadsheet)

 Background: This is one of several bills dealing with forest-carbon credits the NHTOA is debating this session. Simply, landowners enter contracts (through a broker or “developer”) that adjust their forest management practices to retain and sequester more carbon on their property. By documenting the additional carbon on their property, they receive revenue over the contract term. The documented carbon retained/grown on the property (i.e., “carbon credit”) the company purchases is used to satisfy a regulatory, or in some instances voluntary, greenhouse-gas reduction requirement. The carbon credit “offsets” their greenhouse-gas emissions. In some cases, these programs have become controversial, as environmental groups question the efficacy of carbon credit offsets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Also, concerns are being raised in local communities about the economic impact the forest management changes may have on the forest products economy.

 NHTOA Position: House Bill 1709 attempts to establish a tax on carbon through the timber tax law. Last week the sponsor recognized his bill was about to receive kill recommendation from the House Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee the bill’s sponsor made a last-ditch effort to save it by introducing an amendment to study the tax and transparency aspects of forest carbon contracts. In addition to fixing its poor drafting (several significant typographic errors), the study commission will be reviewing items already addressed in the amendment to House Bill 1697 (see below) passed by the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. Again, recognizing the last week’s last minute amendment was flawed, this week the sponsor introduced a second last minute amendment modifying the study commission. Fortunately, he removed the timber tax reference and most of the Current Use references, but the membership composition and study duties for the commission are still problematic. Despite the NHTOA communicating its concerns to committee members just prior to their vote, and feeling like they ‘need to pass something’ the committee passed the flawed study commission.

Status: The full House will be voting on the study commission next Thursday (Feb. 22).

House Bill 1484 (line 8 one the spreadsheet)

Background: This is the second forest-carbon bill the NHTOA is working on this year. This bill proposes removing lands included in a forest-carbon program from current use assessment. This proposal is problematic for several reasons and the NHTOA testified in opposition.

Status: We are happy to report this week the full House killed this bill.

House Bill 1202 (line 14 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill would establish a review time limit for the N.H. Department of Transportation’s (NHDOT) issuance of driveway permits onto state highways. Currently, the driveway permitting process varies between 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 on this bill the NHTOA supported it and raised our concerns with the existing permitting process. We also recommended an online permitting process landowners, loggers, or foresters could use to obtain these permits. Although the primary concern the committee had with the permitting process was the obtaining timely permits for residential developments, our concerns were well received.

Status: This week the committee passed an amended version of this bill that addresses the residential permitting and the chairman has committed to working with the NHTOA to help address our timber harvest driveway permitting process..

House Bill 1697 (line 17 on the spreadsheet)

 Background: This bill originally proposed a two-year moratorium on any forest-carbon credit sales. While in the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee it was amended to remove the moratorium and replace it with language to address 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 NHDRA) to study the interaction of timber taxation with forest carbon-carbon credit management and sales. NHDRA is obligated to prepare a report with any recommendations to House leadership by Nov. 1, 2024. The bill also addressed the concern of transparency. Specifically, the concern of transparency for local communities regarding where the land is situated and its future landowners. It does this by establishing a registry of forest carbon projects at the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. It was initially thought these credit sales could be recorded on the county registry of deeds, where it could be publicly known what encumbrances or conditions are being placed on the property. But because these contracts do not necessarily run with the land, a real estate interest recording them at the registry of deeds is inappropriate.  

 NHTOA Position: NHTOA collaborated with a stakeholder group to study this issue and develop the amendment for the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee to consider. We are pleased to report last Tuesday that the committee unanimously voted to recommend that the full House support the new bill.

Status: The full House will be voting on the new bill net Thursday (Feb. 22)

House Bill 1208 (line 27 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 there 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 believes the genesis of this bill is a simple contract dispute and it is inappropriate to encumber an industry with this additional requirement. The bill fails to recognize the timber harvester is not always the person obtaining the permits (i.e., many foresters obtain the permits). The bill is also redundant, as Current Law already requires a copy of the wetland approval certificate to be posted on the log landing. For these reasons and the fact this adds an unnecessary bureaucratic layer to the timber harvest permitting process, the NHTOA is opposing this bill.

Status: Last week the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee voted to recommend the full House kill this proposal when they convene next Thursday (Feb. 22)

House Bill 1423 (line 35 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill requires the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to identify and map “old growth” on all public land. The Department already has a program to do this through their normal land management activities. This proposal differs from existing management work in that the objective of the required inventory was to manage the old-growth stands for carbon storage. This proposal was sought by an out-of-state environmental organization opposed to timber harvesting.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA opposes this proposal.

Status: Last week the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee voted (after a motion to reconsider) to recommend the full House kill this proposal when they convene next Thursday (Feb. 22)

House Bills 1059 and 1387 (lines 74 and 77 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 for the use of cross-laminated timber (a.k.a. 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 this week on House Bill 1387 the NHTOA learned the reason for removing the code provisions for log structures and biomass boilers from statute was because these provisions are now a permanent part of the state building code.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA will be supporting House Bill 1059 and monitoring House Bill 1387.

Status: The House Executive Departments and Administration will be having a committee work session on both bill next Tuesday (Feb. 20).