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BIA opposes HB 544, ‘divisive concepts’ bill

BIA opposes HB 544, ‘divisive concepts’ bill

CONCORD — The Executive Board of the Business and Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce and leading business advocate, voted Thursday, April 15 to oppose language included in House Bill 2, the House-passed “trailer” bill of the state budget, relating to the “propagation of divisive concepts.” This language was originally the subject of HB 544, which the House tabled last week following a vote to add the language to HB 2.

“The issues of gender and race are important to most employers around the state, and many of our members have already implemented diversity training that reflects their corporate culture,” said BIA President Jim Roche. “This controversial language sends the wrong message to employers who recognize the importance of open, honest and yes, sometimes difficult and uncomfortable conversations with their employees about the issue of race and gender discrimination. To prohibit some employers from engaging in these discussions, as the language from HB 544 does, will leave them vulnerable to race and/or gender discrimination litigation,” Roche added.

Language from HB 544 included in HB 2 prohibits the dissemination of “divisive concepts,” which could include discussions of race and gender inequality, among all state departments, educational institutions, and political subdivisions of the state, including cities and towns. These prohibitions would extend to private enterprises that contract with government for the provision of goods or services. Currently, an estimated 1,000 enterprises provide services to the state, including many of the state’s leading employers.

“Essentially, this language contains unnecessary restrictions on some private sector companies. We cannot support language where the state is in a position to dictate to private enterprises what they can and cannot discuss with their employees,” Roche said.

The Senate Finance committee has begun its work on HB 1 and HB 2, the biennial state budget. A public hearing has yet to be scheduled for the legislation.

“Putting this language into statute would be a black eye for New Hampshire. It would put the national spotlight on the Granite State, and not in a good way,” Roche concluded.


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