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Business Perspective: BIA to champion business interests in jam-packed session

Business Perspective: BIA to champion business interests in jam-packed session

The staggering number of bills before the Legislature this session has swelled to over 1,000 and many could impact New Hampshire businesses and the economy.

The Business & Industry Association’s mission is to champion a competitive business climate and prosperous economic future for New Hampshire. That’s why BIA, the statewide chamber of commerce and leading nonpartisan business advocate, recently convened our annual January roundtable with regional chambers, trade associations and top lobbyists from New Hampshire. This input keeps us connected to the most important issues and related legislative efforts. Top concerns were workforce development, housing and overreaching regulations, particularly those targeting landfills and waste streams.

We would need much more space than this column provides to cover all the bills discussed at our roundtable, so we’ll highlight a relative handful of the top and most concerning.

The lack of housing is the most prominent contributor to New Hampshire’s labor shortage. This session is expected to see perhaps the greatest number of housing bills ever. Some are better than others, including increasing the annual real estate transfer tax revenue contribution to the state’s Affordable Housing Fund by $5 million (SB 454), adding $15 million to the InvestNH housing program and creating a state historical preservation tax credit for converting old mills, warehouses and other underused buildings into housing (SB 364). Another would limit who can qualify as an abutter to appeal local land-use board decisions (HB 1359). Some are worse than others, such as merging the state’s Housing Appeals Board into the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (HB 1651).

Workforce development legislation focuses on addressing two prominent employee shortage areas — health care and child care. SB 403 establishes and provides appropriations for various programs focused on community health and health care employment using American Rescue Plan Act funds. Goals include establishing programs to incentivize students to seek employment in health care and remain in New Hampshire upon graduation, as well as increasing the number of entry-level clinical staff, including direct care workers. SB 456 establishes a nurse retention school loan debt relief program, establishes a dedicated fund and makes an appropriation to it.

The lack of available and affordable childcare is often cited as keeping many people from returning to the workforce. SB 404 seeks to expand eligibility criteria for child care professionals to receive scholarships for their own children’s day care in hopes of growing the workforce, creating more options and possibly lowering costs.

Several bills are raising concerns about regulatory overreach.

Those on the environmental front include prohibiting private ownership of landfills (HB 1145), an anti-business measure that may severely limit landfill capacity and drive up waste disposal costs. Another (HB 1649) seeks to prohibit certain products with intentionally added PFAS, which would affect nearly every industry and ban vital products such as solar panels, semiconductors, food packaging and hospital equipment. It’s also rife with enforcement issues related to constitutional protections of interstate commerce.

The newest “bottle bill” (HB 1636), which had a public hearing before House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Jan. 9, would transfer the cost of disposing bottles and cans from municipal taxpayers to producers of the products. BIA is among opponents who say the bill would drive up costs and provide producers little flexibility in establishing redemption programs. HB 1630 would also enact extended producer responsibility for packaging with a goal to reduce solid waste disposal costs for municipalities. Opponents consider it ineffective and likely to increase consumer costs.

A particularly concerning bill, SB 462, would remove the $150,000 cap on damages for wrongful death loss of consortium claims. Removing the cap could skyrocket award amounts, and would be especially harmful for hospitals and physicians who are most at risk of wrongful death litigation.

Data privacy remains a significant issue this session, which includes two bills retained from last session. SB 255, a comprehensive bill based on model legislation passed in over a dozen states, has BIA and industry support, while HB 314 is broadly opposed. At least three other new bills (HB 1535, HB 1663 and HB 1273) would add privacy regulations that could negatively impact routine and necessary business transactions.

Bills are already moving through the legislative process. BIA will be there throughout, advocating for bills that help employers and strengthen the Granite State economy while playing defense against those that don’t.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Business & Industry Association. Visit

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