This is the ninth 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 took their mid-winter break. The House and Senate return to business next week with general sessions on Thursday (March 7) and policy committees hosting public hearings, deliberating bills, and voting on recommendations for their respective chamber to consider.

April 11 is “Crossover Day.” By this date all bills must be acted on by the chamber where they originated. All the policy committees must complete their public hearings, deliberations, and vote on a recommendation by April 3. 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 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.

NHTOA Position: Originally, House Bill 1709 attempted to establish a tax on carbon through the timber tax law. Last week the sponsor recognized his bill was in trouble and 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 reviewitems already addressed in the amendment to House Bill 1697 (see below) passed by the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. Fortunately, the sponsor 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.

Status: The full House approved the amended bill with the study commission. Because the study commission will have a fiscal impact (e.g., mileage for participants) it now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. The hearing is scheduled to occur on Tuesday (March 5) with a committee work session and vote occurring the following day.

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 will vote on it March 7. We can anticipate a debate over state sovereignty as it regards border control.

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 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 is opposing this bill.

Status: Last week I erroneously reported this bill was killed by the full House. The full House will be voting on this bill Thursday (March 7)

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 (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 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 will be voting on both bills next Wednesday (March 6).

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 this law provides to landowners seeking professional advice for the management of what is often their largest financial asset, the NHTOA opposes this bill.

Status: Last week a subcommittee of the House Executive Department and Administration met and unanimously voted to recommend the full committee vote to recommend this bill go to an interim study. The full House Executive Departments and Administration Committee will be voting on this bill Wednesday (March 6).

SPECIAL CALL TO ACTION

Oppose the closing of Bartlett Experimental Forest

Earlier this week the Maine Woodlands Owners, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association submitted a joint letter to the U.S. Forest Service, urging the continued operation of the Barlett and Massabesic Experimental Forests. Both experimental forests are unique assets to the region’s forestry, scientific, and natural resource management communities due to the length of time they have been in operation (up to 90 years) and the tenure of the staff (e.g., William Leak’s 68-year career). The operational length and staff tenure has provided continuity for long-term silvicultural studies rarely seen at other experimental forests. These studies help answer questions about silviculture, forest habitat, carbon management, and forest response to a changing climate. The Massabesic Experimental Forest (located near Sanford, Maine) has unique experimental plots focusing on eastern white pine management, while the Bartlett Experimental Forest (located near Conway, N.H.) focuses on northern hardwood management.

The U.S. Forest Service is evaluating whether it will continue to staff[WC1]  and maintain these experimental forests.

In addition to being extraordinary research sites, these experimental forests are also educational centers for forest managers, and landowners from the Northeast and internationally (the NHTOA frequently hosts workshops at the Bartlett Experimental Forest).

The NHTOA is asking its members to email the U.S. Forest Service urging them to staff and maintain the operations of these experimental forests and please be sure to copy the N.H. and Maine Congressional delegations.

Please address your email to:

Angela Coleman, USFS, Associate Chief: angela.coleman2@usda.gov

David Lytle, USFS, Deputy Chief of Research in the Washington Office:  david.lytle@usda.gov

Cynthia West, USFS, Northern Research Station Director: cynthia.west@usda.gov

Because most congressional offices use online forms for constituent contact, I am providing the links to the forms below. You may need to cut and paste your email into the congressional comment form.

United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen: www.shaheen.senate.gov/contact/contact-jeanne

United States Senator Susan Collins: www.collins.senate.gov/contact/email-senator-collins/form

United States Senator Angus King: www.king.senate.gov/contact

United States Senator Maggie Hassan: www.hassan.senate.gov/contact/email

United States Congresswoman Annie Kuster: kuster.house.gov/contact/

United States Congressman Chris Pappas: pappas.house.gov/address_authentication?form=/contact/email-me

United States Congresswoman Chellie Pingree: pingree.house.gov/contact/

United States Congressman Jared Golden: info@jaredgoldenforcongress.com


 [WC1]Here is a good example. Instead of using the future continuous (-ing). Use the simple future.

General Comments

This week both the House and Senate held general sessions and their policy committees hosted public hearings, deliberated bills, and voted on recommendations for their respective chambers to consider. Next week only the House will have a general session but both chamber’s 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. All the policy committees must complete their public hearings, deliberations, and vote on a recommendation by April 3. 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 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 9 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This is a bill state Sen. Howard Pearl submitted 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: Last month it passed the full Senate and on Monday the House Ways and Means Committee will be hosting a public hearing.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA supports this bill. Members wishing to sign in supporting this bill can do electronically through the N.H. House of Representatives website at, https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

To enter testimony or register your support use the site’s 5 step process,

Step 1 – enter your personal information

Step 2 – select the hearing date (March 11)

Step 3 – select the committee (House Ways and Means Committee) and bill (SB 514) identify yourself as “a member of the public”, representing “myself), and select the support button

Step 4 – enter any written comments, or attach written testimony

Step 5 – review and SUBMIT it.

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 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 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 (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 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 this law provides 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 this bill from proceeding this year. The full House will vote on this recommendation later this month.