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NH Legislature Passed Lots of New Laws

By John Toole,  jtoole@eagletribune.com

Potato lovers, mark your calendar.

The white potato officially becomes the New Hampshire state vegetable on Aug. 3.

That’s the law.

It’s one of scores of new state laws, or revisions to existing laws, coming on the books as the Legislature concludes a busy session.

The major work of the session — approval of a $10.7 billion, two-year budget — was no small potatoes. But dozens of other issues concerned lawmakers ranging from the economy to public health.

Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry, joined other Derry lawmakers in sponsoring the potato bill, House Bill 535, on behalf of Derry students.

But potato wasn’t the only thing on O’Connor’s plate this session.

O’Connor also sponsored HB 328, which met with approval from both the Legislature and governor.

The bill, relative to the sale of pets, cleans up state law, making it clear they must be free from communicable diseases and parasites, O’Connor told a Senate panel in testimony in April.

The state veterinarian and the Dog Owners of the Granite State supported the bill.

Yvonne Nanasi, testifying on behalf of the dog owners, said O’Connor’s bill lets breeders and others know, “When you transfer a pet — a dog, a cat, a ferret — you must provide a health certificate.”

Nanasi said the legal housekeeping proposal mattered.

“We’ve been very concerned the importation of dogs from out of state, as well as out of the country, has been on the increase,” she told senators.

The pet law revisions take effect the same day as the potato law.

The Legislature changed New Hampshire law back on May 20 to help business and boost the state economy.

Senate Bill 1 had strong, bipartisan support with more than two dozen sponsors, including GOP Sens. Chuck Morse of Salem, Jim Rausch of Derry and Sharon Carson of Londonderry.

It doubled the state’s research and development tax credit.

After House passage in March, Gov. Maggie Hassan thanked the Legislature and said she looked forward to signing the bill.

“The R&D tax credit has provided a boost to hundreds of businesses and doubling the credit will help more businesses as they develop new products,” Hassan said.

Business and Industry Association president Jim Roche hailed its passage.

“R&D jobs require highly educated people and pay top wages. These are jobs we want more of in New Hampshire,” he said.

Lawmakers address bedbugs, history, charity

Lawmakers also attempted to deal through HB 482 with the growing problem of bedbugs in New Hampshire, spelling out landlord, tenant and municipal responsibilities under state housing law.

“It’s an issue that hurts our tourism industry and our constituents when they get them,” Rep. Patrick Long, D-Manchester, told a Senate panel at a hearing in April. “Whether you have money or you don’t have money, you can get bedbugs,”

Sarah Mattson, an attorney with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, asked legislators to approve the law.

“During the past several years we have observed a marked increase in the number of calls we get from low-income tenants about problems with bedbugs,” Mattson testified. “At this point, we get at least a call every week about the problem.”

The Legislature took steps to preserve New Hampshire history.

Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who represents Newton, sponsored Senate Bill 12, which becomes law in Jan. 1. It lets communities lay out a process to protect significant archeological deposits through local regulations.

“Some communities will choose to do it, others will not choose to do it,” Stiles testified at a Senate hearing last January. “The intent of this legislation is to give the opportunity to document our history in our communities and not to prohibit new construction.”

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, isn’t the first to worry about how much money is raised for charity and how much actually gets spent on charitable causes. But Kurk got the Legislature to do something about it.

His HB 558 calls for the state to disclose on its website a list of charities, their vendors and the percentage of dollars that goes to each.

“We may see a change in practices which will result in more money going to the charity and less money going to the solicitors,” Kurk told a Senate committee in April.

The law takes effect Aug. 3, but Kurk told the Senate panel he didn’t expect the state to get the information posted immediately, but within six months.

Wine, B&B’s get attention, too

Lawmakers moved to protect home vintners.

HB 237, which takes effect Jan. 1, expands the state’s home brewer law to cover people who make wine.

“The purpose of it really is to align our state law with federal law and make sure that our many home wine brewers in the state are not violating the law by including wine along with our home brew beer production restrictions,” Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, testifed before a Senate panel.

The law says people can make between 100 and 200 gallons of wine per year at home, depending on household size.

“I think a lot of people are making wine at home without realizing there are actually some federal laws around the quantity they can produce,” she testified.

The Legislature eased liquor license restrictions on operators of bed and breakfast establishments.

“I think it makes it much more accessible and possible to open a profit center for these businesses, some of them that desperately need it,” Rep. Edward Butler, D-Hart’s Location, testified at a Senate hearing.

House Bill 202, which becomes law July 15, lets those businesses, when they don’t have or want a full restaurant, obtain a liquor license to serve guests, but not the public.

The State Liquor Commission and the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association supported the legislation.

“These changes all kind of help the industry,” Henry Veilleux, a lobbyist for the association, testified.

The Legislature approved a study, through HB 339, of debt collection laws and practices.

Concord lawyer Roger Phillips, testifying before a Senate committee in April, related experiences of clients being pursued by collectors for debts they didn’t owe.

“I think this needs to be addressed. It’s affecting consumers, your constituents, in New Hampshire,” Phillips told senators.

A committee of lawmakers will report their findings by November.

A growing list of bills that are becoming law is available on both the House and Senate websites under “Chaptered Final Version.”

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