Wednesday, January 4, was the opening day of the 165th New Hampshire General Court and on Thursday Chris Sununu was sworn in as the 82nd Governor of New Hampshire. This is the first time in time in 24 years that the Republicans hold a majority in the state’s Senate and House of Representatives as well as holding the Governor’s Office. With this new majority, the Republican leaders are vowing to reduce business taxes and regulations. This is reflected in the number and types of bills and requests for legislation (LSRs) we see being filed. Although bills and LSRs continue to be filed, as of this morning (January 6) there are 991 filings. Within this list the NHTOA has identified 80 of interest to our membership. Judging by the titles and actual bill language the NHTOA will be working on a diverse number of issues this year. These issue include small business issues (e.g. electricity pricing, business taxation, trucking operations), and forest/land management (e.g. timber harvesting around wetlands, access road use and maintenance). The good news is, currently, there are no bills seeking to directly impact Current Use tax assessment, nor proposals to prescribe forest management activities. And of course, all of this debate will be occurring in the context of the state budget debate where the state will be wrestling with a number of agency deficits and expanding needs.
This year, the NHTOA’s marque legislation is a bill that will help address the single largest issue facing N.H.’s timberland owners and forest products industry; the loss of low-grade timber markets and all the associated with these markets. The bill is a renewable energy bill designed to support the state’s biomass power industry and retain the low-grade timber markets these facilities provide. With the recent contraction in the region’s pulp and paper industry, the importance of these markets are more important now than ever. Already, we are seeing impacts on the ground as landowners with a lot of low-grade timber in their woodlots struggle to find logging contractors able to cut and sell their timber, foresters having to modify or abandon management plans for woodlots with a lot of low-grade timber, and sawmills struggling to find homes for their mill wastes (slabs and sawdust). As this bill and many others (some that seek to undo the state’s renewable energy laws) move forward we will keep you apprised of their progress and when we will be needing your support.
Thank you and Happy New Year.