This is the fourth 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 neither the Senate nor House held a general session to act on bills. Both  chambers’ policy committees were busy conducting public hearings, deliberating, and voting on recommended actions for the full House or Senate to consider. The full House will look at many of these recommendations next Thursday (Feb. 1) when they meet in general session. The Senate’s next general session is Feb. 8.

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 504 (line 10 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This is one of the more unusual bills we will work on this session. As drafted, it modifies the Current Use law to create a method of posting land to allow “public recreational use.” Specifically, the bill states a landowner may post “no trespassing except for public recreational use.” The bill also modifies the criminal trespass law by adding this new method of posting. This bill is unusual because it is being introduced at the Governor’s request to help law enforcement agents deal with illegal border crossings in northern New Hampshire.

We have reviewed the proposed bill and do not understand how it changes the regulatory authority of law enforcement to apprehend individuals entering the U.S. illegally, and we are concerned it will harm Current Use. Specifically, the NHTOA is concerned the proposed posting language will create confusion within the public and the recreation community about what 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)? In the current law, the recreational uses allowed on unposted lands enrolled in Current Use are listed, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, and nature observation.

NHTOA Position: Although the NHTOA does not see the need for this legislation, we will be working with the bill’s sponsor and the N.H. Attorney General’s Office to see how we can help them address their issue while also protecting Current Use. The first hearing on this bill is before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday (Jan. 30) at 1p.m. in Room 100 of the State House.    

House Bill 1183 (line 12 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill prohibits the ownership of agricultural land and land essential to New Hampshire critical industries (technology, manufacturing, and health care) by the Chinese government or Communist Party. It is very broad as it applies to companies, or subsidiaries that are owned whole or in-part or controlled by the Chinese government or Communist Party. The prohibition also applies to companies located within China, and “Ownership” is also broadly defined to include leasing, possessing, or exercising control.

NHTOA Position: Although sympathetic to the sponsor’s concerns over national security, the NHTOA opposes this bill as many of our sawmill and paper mill members do business with companies located in China.

Status: This week the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee voted to commit this bill to Interim Study. This tables the bill from further examination this session. 

House Bill 1234 (line 13 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill seeks to require all residents on a Class VI road to obtain a road use and maintenance agreement. It is not clear how such an agreement would apply to landowners who have property on the Class VI road but do not reside on it. The bill also obligates the residents to pay for maintenance of the road.

NHTOA Position: This bill has a lot of problems, and the NHTOA will be opposing it. First, it obliges private citizens to enter a contract with their neighbors, possibly against their will. The bill is silent on abutters who use the road but do not reside on it. The bill does not contemplate road damage and maintenance expenses incurred by individuals who neither live on nor abut the road. And the most fundamental problem is this bill will obligate private property owners to pay and maintain a public right of way. If the property owners want to take on that responsibility, there are mechanisms to do that by seeking to have the road reclassified as a private road or in the case of a landowner building a residence on a Class VI road they can sign a “agreement and release” form with the town.

Status: The first public hearing on this bill is before the House Public Works and Highways Committee next Tuesday (Jan. 30) at 2 p.m. in Room 201 of the Legislative Office Building. Anyone seeking to register their opposition to this bill can do it through the House’s online portal. Go to,

https://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

After you enter your personal information in “Step 1.”

In Steps 2 and 3

  • select the hearing date– January 31;
  • select the committee name – House Public Works and Highways;
  • choose the bill – House Bill 1234;
  • identify yourself as a member of the public;
  • indicate you are representing yourself;
  • check the  box indicating you OPPOSE the bill.

In Step 4 either upload a written document, or type in the text box you oppose this bill as it will infringe on an individual’s property right by forcing them to enter contracts to maintain a public asset (Class VI road).

House Bill 1033 (line 15 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill will require all lumber, logs, timber, or other wood products to advertise their true dimensions and not a nominal size.

NHTOA Position: Although we appreciate the sponsor’s intent to add a higher level of precision to the sale of forest products, it is not clear how this would account for defects and deductions on log sales and the slight variability that can occur when selling cord wood (i.e., dimensions of stacks of firewood can differ slightly). For these reasons, the NHTOA opposes this bill.

Status: On Thursday (Jan. 25) the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing on this proposal. There was little support for this proposal and a lot of questions from committee members asking how this could disrupt existing lumber sales and distribution channels.

House Bill 1697 (line 18 on the spreadsheet)

Background: As printed, this bill sought to change New Hampshire’s participation in a regional carbon cap-and-trade program commonly known as RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative). At the public hearing before the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee, the bill’s author admitted modifying RGGI was not his intent. Instead, he introduced an amendment to replace the entire bill with a proposed two-year moratorium on forest-carbon credit sales. His motivation for introducing the bill was the recent announcement by the new owner of the Connecticut Lakes Headwater Forest (146,000 acres in Pittsburg, Stewartstown, and Clarksville) to increase their participation in the California carbon market by reducing timber harvests and selling more forest-carbon credits. Because of the size of this property and that it is subject to a Forest Legacy Conservation Easement held by the State of New Hampshire that promotes multiple-use management, including active forest management, the new owners’ decision has become controversial. Like House Bill 1484, writing a law that will cover every landowner in the state based on the activity of a single landowner is problematic. Moreover, as it came out in the hearing, the proposed amendment has multiple technical and operational flaws (including being unconstitutional).

NHTOA Position: Although sympathetic to many of the sponsor’s concerns, based on the many technical and constitutional problems with the bill, the NHTOA cannot support it.

Status: On Monday (Jan. 22) the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee heard a forest carbon presentation by Charles Levesque from Innovative Natural Resources Solution and following the presentation they resumed the public hearing. Next Tuesday (Jan. 30) at 1:30 p.m. the committee will be having a work session, and they hope to vote on the proposal following that session.

House Bill 1229 (line 21 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill requires landowners selling shoreland property subject to the state’s Shoreland Protection Act to provide the buyer documentation explaining the Shoreland Protection Act and obtain a signed copy acknowledging receipt. Failure to do this will result in a $1,000 civil penalty for the first offense and $2,000 for each subsequent offense.

NHTOA Position: Part of a landowner’s due diligence before purchasing a property is to learn what rules and regulations apply to the property. To encumber these real estate transactions with this additional requirement is inappropriate. Moreover, if it is the sponsor’s intent to shift this due diligence to the property seller, why stop at the state Shoreland Protection Act? The NHTOA will be opposing this proposal.

Status: The first hearing on this bill is before the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee next Wednesday (Jan. 31) at 2 p.m. in Room 305 of the Legislative Office Building.

Anyone seeking to register their opposition to this bill can do it through the House’s online portal. Go to,

https://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

After you enter your personal information in “Step 1.”

In Steps 2 and 3–

  • select the hearing date– January 31;
  • select the committee name – House Resources, Recreation and Development;
  • choose the bill – House Bill 1229;
  • identify yourself as a member of the public;
  • indicate you are representing yourself;
  • check the  box indicating you OPPOSE the bill.

In Step 4 either upload a written document, or type in the text box you oppose this bill as it is the obligation of the land purchaser to perform their own due diligence of the rules and regulations the property is subject to.

Houe Bill 1208 (line 29 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 them 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 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: The first hearing on this bill is before the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee next Wednesday (Jan. 31) at 11 a.m. in room 305 of the Legislative Office Building.

Anyone seeking to register their opposition to this bill can do it through the House’s online portal. Go to,

https://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

After you enter your personal information in “Step 1.”

In Steps 2 and 3–

  • select the hearing date– January 31;
  • select the committee name – House Resources, Recreation and Development;
  • choose the bill – House Bill 1208;
  • identify yourself as a member of the public;
  • indicate you are representing yourself;
  • check the  box indicating you OPPOSE the bill.

In Step 4 either upload a written document, or type in the text box you oppose this bill as it adds an unnecessary bureaucratic step to the current timber harvesting wetlands permitting process. It also adds confusion over who is responsible for obtaining, verifying, and maintaining the wetland permits.  

House Bill 1423 (line 37 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. In the bill’s fiscal note, the department estimates it will require seven new staff members to identify and map “old growth” on all state, federal, and municipal lands. This requirement alone is a distraction from the department’s charges of forest health, wildland fire protection, timber harvesting law enforcement, and the management of state lands and is an unnecessary waste of resources, as the state has already identified the few stands of “old growth” on their land already. Moreover, the bill fails to define “old growth,” although earlier drafts had defined it as any stand of trees over 60-years old. Therefore, to legislate this is inappropriate.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA testified in opposition to the bill at the Jan. 10 public hearing before the House Resources Recreation and Development Committee..

Status: On Wednesday (Jan. 24) the committee voted to recommend the full House kill this bill when they convene in early February.

House Bill 1408 (line 76 on the spreadsheet)

Background: Last year, through the state budget, the Governor proposed an overhaul of the state’s professional licensure and certification system. This proposal included the merging of land surveying with engineers and total elimination of forester licensing. Under its own weight, the proposal failed. In 2024 about a half dozen bills have been filed to implement portions of last year’s failed attempt. Although it will not eliminate forester licensing, House Bill 1408 seeks to remove two public members (forest landowners actively engaged in forest management) from the board of seven.  

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 will be opposing this change at the Jan. 31 public hearing before the House Executive Departments and Administration. Having forest landowners and their perspective on this board is important. We are asking our members to submit testimony opposing this change or attend the public hearing at 1:15 p.m. in Room 306 of the Legislative Office Building (gray building behind the state house) on Jan. 31. To submit written testimony, use the House online testimony portal,

https://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

After you enter your personal information in “Step 1.”

In Steps 2 and 3–

  • select the hearing date– January 31;
  • select the committee name – House Executive Departments and Administration;
  • choose the bill – House Bill 1408;
  • identify yourself as a member of the public;
  •  indicate you are representing yourself;
  • check the  box indicating you OPPOSE the bill.

In Step 4 either upload a written document, or type in the text box you oppose the removal of landowners from the forester licensing board and explain why (i.e., consumer protection, etc.).