Legislative Update April 26, 2022

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Legislative Update: April 26, 2022
Senate Votes to Study Making Political Beliefs a Protected Class

As passed by the House of Representatives, House Bill 1469 would prohibit any licensed professional who is subject to the Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A), such as real estate licensees, to discriminate against or cause adverse treatment of any person, business, or organization based on their political views or ideology.

If a REALTOR chose not to work with a client due to his or her support of a political candidate, party, or an ideological cause, the Realtor could potentially be sued under the Consumer Protection Act, which requires treble damages.

NHAR testified in opposition to the bill.

Last week, the Senate put the brakes on the bill with an amendment which creates a legislative study committee to “study the need for antidiscrimination legislation in the New Hampshire financial services industry.” Virtually all testimony at the Senate hearing by the supporters of the bill revolved around banks and financial institutions which might decline to engage in business activity with people who hold a certain political view.

The Senate agreed with NHAR’s concerns and chose to remove other professional occupations, such as real estate, as part of the study committee’s discussion. The legislative study committee would be required to report it findings by November 1.

The bill now goes to a “Committee of Conference” between the House and Senate. A Committee of Conference is panel composed of House and Senate conferees, formed for the purpose of reconciling differences in legislation that has passed both chambers.

Potential fees on septic systems flushed by House Committee

Senate Bill 257 would allow cities and towns to incorporate all private septic systems into their public stormwater utilities. That means towns would be authorized to charge a new fee to property owners who have a private septic, as well as opening the door to allowing those same towns to mandate potential upgrades. The bill had passed the State Senate.

NHAR was the only opponent of the legislation to testify at the House hearing. Fortunately, the House Resource and Development Committee unanimously agreed that NHAR’s concerns were valid and decided to interim study the bill. Septic systems are clearly a target of legislators and regulators due to concern that nitrogen from the systems are contributing to drinking and groundwater issues.

And speaking of septic systems …

Some days it feels like every bill in the legislature is in some way connected to expanding regulations of septic systems. For instance, House Bill 1272, which passed out of the House of Representatives, would have expanded the authority of town health officers “to make regulations for the prevention and removal of nuisances such as garbage, insects, unsanitary living conditions, septic, rodents, and safe drinking water inspections.”

At the Senate hearing, NHAR testified against the bill, partly because the language makes no sense (safe drinking water inspections are a nuisance?), but also because it could have greatly expanded town authority over septic systems and private wells.

The Senators also expressed their confusion with both the language as well the intent of the bill and unanimously recommended the bill to be killed. HB 1272 will go to the Senate floor for final action next week.

For more information, contact New Hampshire Realtors CEO Bob Quinn: bob@nhar.com.

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