Concord, NH – Today at the New Hampshire House of Representatives started calmly with a serenade from a local barbershop quartet, Average Joes, but advanced to high drama by the end of the session. The formal House session activity focused primarily legislation that had been key bills that could have defined the legacy of this legislative term.
First major law to come forward was SB126 which would provide some protection for local automobile dealers in New Hampshire. Car dealers usually enter 5 year contracts with manufacturers and these recently have include demands from manufacturers that dealers spend enormous amounts of money to bring their showrooms in-line with some corporate theme. Before coming to the House, motorcycle and snowmobile dealers had been added to the bill.
These demands by manufacturers are a recent development and result in dealers having to spend estimated millions to refurbish their showrooms to exacting and unbending specifications that dictate details that were made by some central marketing group without regard for local codes or regulations. In some cases, examples included removing a pitched roof and installing a flat roof (how practical is that in New Hampshire?), or even removing recently installed low energy lighting to install a certain brand and type of light and fixture chosen by someone in marketing for some reason that no one really knows.
The only major debate was possibly adding an amendment to SB126 to include tractor dealers but that amendment failed since tractor are already covered under separate laws. The main bill, SB126, passed by a wide margin.
The next major debate up was SB89 which included a ban on lead in fishing apparatus. This bill in committee had been opposed by the state Fish and Game Department which wanted time to commission a study to see what impacts such a ban may have. But, as one lawmaker in debate said “lead is good for nothing in anything” and the debate proceeded based mostly on perceived lead poisoning possibilities in the Loon, a migrating species of bird. Fears that maybe 5 Loons every year may die from eating a fish that had a lead sinker attached to it eventually after over 90 minutes of debate lead to passage of the new law.
The most heated debate and probably the most significant legislation to come forward in the 2013 term was SB152, the casino gaming bill. For over 2 hours both sides argued for or against the new law but in the end it was defeated by over 30 votes. In defeating the bill outright, debate and vote on the more than 14 floor amendments to “improve” it was not possible. The 30 vote margin was more than almost anyone had estimated.
Defeat of the casino bill leaves New Hampshire in trouble with it biennial budget which had been brought forward with some revenue from expanded gaming licensing and taxes. Negotiations on the state budget between the House and Senate will now begin and the house is now in a weakened bargaining position without having casino gambling on the table.
One House Representative as we were leaving the state house said “well, we’re one step closer to sales and income tax”.