While the 2023 NH legislative session is over, legislative committees will meet this summer and fall to discuss some of the more complex policy problems facing our state. Over 200 bills from this year are “retained in committee” for more work, and several special committees are tasked with studying issues from meat processing to common law marriage. These committees have until November to meet, research, debate and, ultimately, report legislative recommendations to their colleagues in the House and Senate. Here are some of the big issues these committees are working on for 2024.
Codifying Consumer Data Privacy
The House Judiciary Committee retained two bills related to consumer data privacy, SB 255 and HB 314. SB 255 would create a new chapter in state law about expectation of privacy. This would give consumers various rights over what data a business collects and how it is used. The bill then regulates how businesses handle consumer data. HB 314 similarly states that consumers “shall have a reasonable expectation of privacy in personal information… given or available to third-party providers.” That bill would also prohibit the government from gathering private user data from a third-party.
Senate Majority Leader Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry) and Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) championed SB 255 as a necessary protection for consumers and even penned a bipartisan op-ed in favor of the bill. HB 314 is much shorter than SB 255 and only has two sponsors, but one of those sponsors is former state Supreme Court justice and influential Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Windham). With such powerful advocates, a data privacy bill is likely to move forward
Preparing for Electric Cars
There are several ongoing legislative studies related to electric vehicles. First, HB 412 re-established a study commission on alternatives to the gas tax for funding state highways and bridges. This follows a years-long debate about how the state can make up for lost gas tax revenue as cars get more fuel efficient and electric vehicles become more common. This year’s budget included an annual fee for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, but that new revenue will be a relative drop in the bucket.
Gov. Chris Sununu also signed SB 52 this year, which established a committee to study electric vehicle charging infrastructure funding. On a related note, HB 111 established a committee to study electrical vehicle charging for residential renters. Lastly, the House Public Works and Highways Committee retained a bill–HB 606–that requires publicly funded buildings to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure at parking spaces. While NH lags behind neighboring states on electric vehicle infrastructure, lawmakers appear interested in closing that gap.
Handling a Surplus of Trash
For several years legislators have debated NH’s landfill siting process, prompted by a proposed landfill near Lake Forest State Park. This debate is heaped on top of a larger underlying issue: NH is running out of space for trash. In June, the governor approved a study committee that will look at unlimited service area permits for landfills as well as the flow of out-of-state trash into NH. The legislature approved yet another committee to study extended producer responsibility for disposing of waste created by consumer products. Expect more trash-related debates in 2024.
Gov. Sununu surprised many policymakers in May when he issued a statement supporting marijuana legalization, so long as the state controls marketing, sales and distribution. While it’s still not clear if a majority of state legislators will get on board with that idea, there will no doubt be a state-run cannabis legalization bill that comes out of committee work this fall. There might even be competing proposals. In addition to any newly filed 2024 bills, the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee retained HB 544, a 2023 marijuana legalization bill that would put the Liquor Commission in charge.
These bills will have to come out of committee with either a thumbs up or thumbs down this fall. In the meantime, state representatives can start requesting new 2024 bills this September.
Anna Brown is director of research and analysis for Citizens Count, a nonprofit that provides NH residents with information about their representatives and the policy issues shaping NH. For more information, visit CitizensCount.org.