News & Issues

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE STATE HOUSE THE WEEK OF FEB 8, 2021

Feb 9, 2021 | Energy, Property Tax, Schools, Taxes, Voting

SB 79 authorizing the moderator to verify the machine count is sidelined.

SB 79 to authorize the moderator to verify the machine count will be re-referred to the Senate Election Law Committee by the full Senate on Feb 11. The excuse for retaining the bill is to await the outcome of other legislation. The problem is that neither of the similar bills address the constitutional requirement of a public count certified by the moderator. SB 79 could resurface later in the session, but history says that it is unlikely. To read the history of efforts to affirm the intent of a public count by the moderator, follow this LINK.

Other Priorities Requiring Attention

So while SB 79 sits in limbo for the next couple of months, there are many other bills that need our attention.

VOTING

On the topic of voting, there are several bills in the NH legislature that either are designed to or have the effect of suppressing the vote. HB 429, HB 362, and HB 86 are designed to suppress the student vote. SB 31 suppresses voters who are purged from the voting roles because of misidentification or poor record keeping. HB 86 prevents undeclared voters from voting in NH primaries. It also suppresses the vote of those who choose to register on election day. HB 554 suppresses transient voters. HB 292 suppresses the vote of persons who do not return their absentee ballot in person along with a picture id or are unable to find a notary to verify their identity.

On the other hand, four bills in the NH House are designed to expand the vote. HB 61 and HB 516 authorize no excuse absentee voting. HB 555 allows those in prison for a misdemeanor or in jail awaiting trial to vote. HB 538 expands voting privileges for people without a permanent address. HB 491 requires the Secretary of State to require voting devices to return ballots containing over votes for correction.

TAXES

This being the budget year for NH, there are a lot of bills related to the budget floating around. There are four bills that will end up raising our property taxes. HB 10 and HB 210 lower two of our highest revenue sources at the state level thus limiting the amount of revenue available to share with towns and municipalities. HB 20 and HB 607 will siphon off money intended for local public schools, passing costs off to property taxpayers.

On the other hand, there are four bills (HB 274, SB 99, SB 72, and SB 118) that increase the amount of revenue the State shares with the towns and municipalities, not to the extent previously agreed to, but in the right direction.

ENERGY

On the Energy and Environment front, HB 213 reduces long term renewable energy goals in all categories from 15% under current law down to only 6%, a giant step backward. HB 167 and HB 225 seek to raise the net metering limit thus removing one of the barriers keeping towns and municipalities from building renewable energy projects large enough to meet their needs. HB 315 supports community aggregation where one supplier of renewable energy is able to share it and its savings with a discrete list of community members.

ACT NOW

I will go into greater detail about each of these priorities in coming newsletters. But action is needed now on some of these bills. What you can do.

HB 20 which increases eligibility for school vouchers that can be used to attend private schools or home schooling and thus reduce state aid to public schools is schedule to be heard on Thursday Feb 11 in the House Education Committee. I think this will cause property taxes to go up so I am opposing this bill. You can register your position on this bill or sign up to testify HERE.

HB 315 which allows municipalities of towns to provide or contract for electricity for willing residents of the town or municipality bargaining for reduced rates is scheduled to be heard on Friday, Feb 12 in the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. I think this is an opportunity for towns and municipalities to bargain for lower electric rates for willing residents. I like this idea. You can register your position on this bill or sign up to testify HERE.

HB 225 also supports community aggregation of customers to reduce energy rates by contracting for reduced rates on behalf of willing residents. It is in the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. It provides that the municipality itself can provide the electricity. I think this will increase distributed energy resources and reduce energy costs. I like this idea also. You can register your position on this bill or sign up to testify HERE