This is the 28th legislative/policy update for the 2023 New Hampshire legislative session. Since the N.H. House and Senate went into recess in July there has been a little activity to report. Although during the legislative session I provide this report almost weekly, since the start of the legislative recess I provide it as needed to keep NHTOA members informed of 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.)
Within the past couple weeks several House policy committees have begun having work sessions to review and debate bills that were retained in committee. The full policy committee will still need to vote on any recommendation by Nov. 17, before the bill can progress to the floor of the full House when they convene on Jan. 3, 2024.
We are beginning to get a glimpse of the policy debates we will be addressing in 2024 as the filing period for all House bills closed on Sept. 15. The House is introducing 815 bills (aka Legislative Service Requests – LSRs). Sixty will interest the NHTOA. Although we will not see the actual language of the bills, based on the title we can determine if it is a subject of interest to the NHTOA’s membership. And in some instances, I have contacted the bill sponsor to understand what they are trying to accomplish.
More bills will arrive over the next two weeks as the Senate bill filing period will remain open until Oct. 12. Again, we will only have access to the bill’s title.
I am attaching the updated NHTOA bill tracking spreadsheet (attached). All the passed and defeated bills have been removed and the new bill titles are added.
Four notes on this spreadsheet:
- The link to the bill text (in the spreadsheet) 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. Also, note that the language for the new bills is not available.
- 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 or it is blank, we are still gathering information or assessing our position on the bill.
- Bills that are either “Retained” or “Rereferred” are tabled within the committee and will be voted on by the full committee later this autumn. In the House this date is Nov. 17.
LSR 259 (line 10 on spreadsheet) The sponsor seeks to modify how land in Current Use is assessed; specifically, open space land assessed under Current Use that has also subject to a conservation easement. The constituent for whom the sponsor submitted this bill, is concerned that land enrolled in Current Use can remain under that form of assessment after it becomes subject to a conservation easement. There is a separate tax assessment law that mirrors Current Use and that is specific to land subject to a conservation easement (RSA 79-B). This law allows landowners to apply to have their land assessed as “open space” using the Current Use assessment rates. Like Current Use assessment landowners need to apply to have their property assessed under RSA 79-B. Most land in New Hampshire that is subject to conservation easements does not reapply for assessment under RSA 79-B. Because these lands continue to qualify for Current Use assessment, they remain in the Current Use program. Requiring landowners to switch assessment programs is unnecessary and adds an administrative burden. Such a requirement also opens the door to the question of whether a land use change tax should be assessed. Moreover, requiring this is contrary to the intent of Current Use assessment: to tax open space land on its ability to produce forest and agricultural crops, not whether it is subject to an easement.
LSR 2759 and 2613 (lines 11 and 46 on spreadsheet) Both of these bills come in response to concerns over a forest carbon deal in northern New Hampshire that reduces the amount of land available for logging. We are attempting to connect with the bills’ sponsor to get more details on these proposals.
LSR 2462 (line 26 on the spreadsheet) This is a constituent bill from Nashua where a homeowner got in trouble with a local land use board because a tree service cut trees the landowner was supposed to leave (i.e., shoreland buffer trees). Although the homeowner was contractually responsible for obtaining the permits/approvals, they felt the tree service should also be held responsible. It is not clear how this proposal would address this contractual issue.
LSR 2052 (line 37 on the spreadsheet) This proposal will require the state to give more attention to old growth forests. Specifically, the N.H. Division of Forest and Lands will need to identify and protect timber stands greater than 80 years old. The NHTOA will be opposing this proposal for two reasons, 1) the Division already inventories and considers old growth stands through their comprehensive land use and planning process, 2) defining trees greater than 80 years old as “old growth” is arbitrary and inappropriate.
LSR 2540 (line 75 on the spreadsheet) This is a new game camera bill introduced by Representative Jonathan Smith (R-Ossipee; an opponent to last year’s game camera bill). It seeks to modify the law that was adopted last year. We will be evaluating it to determine if it will dilute the new law or if there are elements of it worth supporting (i.e., requiring state agencies to get permission for camera placement on private property).
Professional Licensing Several bills are to be introduced that would modify the state’s professional licensing laws. Recall, the Governor, through the budget bill, sought to merge several licensing boards (e.g., land surveyors will be combined with the professional engineers) and eliminate 34 professional licenses (including forester licensing). The NHTOA opposed these proposals in the last session. Based on the 2024 bill titles the land surveyor and professional engineer merger will be introduced again. We will be scrutinizing the three other proposals to organize professional licensing.