While this year’s legislative session is in the rearview mirror, much work remains for law-makers when they return in January.
Atop their list should be enacting a le-gal safe harbor for employers. This would provide businesses, who’ve acted in good faith during the pandemic by following state and federal workplace health guide-lines, with a legal safe harbor from spuri-ous COVID-19-related lawsuits.
The Business and Industry Association was disappointed the legislature put three related safe harbor bills off until next ses-sion. BIA led a coalition of nearly 36 cham-bers of commerce and trade associations across the state, representing tens of thou-sands of employers, pushing for enactment of a legal safe harbor to shield businesses acting in good faith from COVID-related lawsuits. At least 27 states have safe harbor laws, and NH should join them.
Some lawmakers said such protections aren’t needed because no lawsuits have been filed in the state. But that’s like say-ing, “Hold off getting auto or homeowners’ insurance until after you have an accident or house fire.” That doesn’t make sense.
Lower Energy Costs
Lowering NH’s electricity costs is an-other top issue. The Granite State has the nation’s seventh highest average electric-ity costs—more than 60% higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administra-tion. For industrial customers, NH has the fifth highest rates, almost double the national average.
BIA’s biggest concern about the gov-ernor’s plan to create a state Department of Energy (DoE), introduced in his two-year biennial budget in February, was that the DoE would administratively absorb the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), yet rules for siting energy infrastructure projects would not be improved as part of the department’s creation. The SEC is the gatekeeper to lowering energy prices and improving system reliability by facilitat-ing new energy infrastructure projects. Its decision to negate the Northern Pass project, which would have brought 1,090 megawatts of clean hydroelectricity from Canada to NH and New England, was viewed by many, including BIA, as a short- sighted decision.
Policies should favor projects that im-prove system reliability and capacity, bring additional competitive energy sources to market, stimulate economic growth and reduce energy costs. BIA worked with the governor’s office and legislators to create a study committee that will make recom-mendations for the next session on ways to fix the siting process within the DoE.
Housing for Working People
House Bill 586 encouraged local plan-ning and zoning board members to obtain free training on state laws and regulations relating to workforce housing. BIA be-lieves doing so will have a positive effect on the development of more affordable workforce housing.
HB 586 was tabled, and since it was never voted on by the House, it can be res-urrected in the 2022 session in the form of a new bill. We hope legislators do so. The need for affordable workforce housing cannot be overstated.
R&D Tax Credit
Businesses conducting cutting-edge research and development and using NH’s R&D tax credit should keep an eye on House Bill 210. This proposal increases personal exemptions for interest and divi-dends taxpayers but decreases the annual state investment for the R&D tax credit program—one of NH’s most successful economic development programs. BIA fought this legislation, but rather than kill-ing it, the House Ways and Means Com-mittee retained the bill.
BIA played the leading role in securing a state R&D tax credit in 2007 and worked to increase the pool from which it’s drawn from $1 million to $2 million to today’s $7 million. Businesses receiving the credit are eligible for up to $50,000 per year as an offset against their Business Profits Tax or Business Enterprise Tax. Use of this eco-nomic development tool has grown every year. BIA would like to see the cap on the pool removed, not reduced.
HB 210 should be killed when legis-lators reconvene because the new state budget will phase out the interest and dividends tax. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, as HB 210 would do, is terrible public policy.
David Juvet is senior vice president of public policy for BIA. David Creer is direc-tor of public policy for BIA. Rick Fabrizio is director of communications and public policy for BIA. For more information, visit biaofnh.com.