Legislative Update April 4 2023

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Time to Cross Over at State House

While it was opening day for the Red Sox last week, New Hampshire legislators are about to hit the midway point in their calendar – commonly referred to as “crossover day.” That means all House bills need to be sent to the Senate, while all Senate Bills need to cross over to the House. Each body will now have a swing at the other’s bills.   

House Committee Balks At Governor’s Plan to Fund Housing

A recent UNH poll showed that housing availability was the No. 1 concern for New Hampshire residents – ahead of jobs, inflation and taxes. It’s a result which should not have come out of left field for anyone who has listened to concerns from residents and businesses about the lack of housing. 

So not surprisingly, Gov. Chris Sununu proposed adding significant appropriations for housing development in his budget.

Last week, the House Finance Committee curtailed the Governor’s requests to expand housing construction. The Governor had asked for $30 million to “accelerate the approval and construction of affordable workforce housing,” a program he started last year with $100 million in federal dollars. The House Finance Committee cut that amount by half, leaving $15 million. 

The House Finance Committee also reduced the Governor’s request for $25 million for the NH Housing Finance Authority’s Affordable Housing Fund. That fund is used by NHHFA to provide low-interest loans and grants for the construction, rehabilitation, and acquisition of affordable housing to families and individuals with low to moderate incomes. The House has allocated $15 million for the fund.

Of course, the House Finance Committee action is like the third inning of baseball game, and there is still a long way to go. The full House still has to approve the budget – which is far from guaranteed – and the Senate has clearly indicated that housing will be a priority in its budget.

Designated Superior Court judge for land use cases moves forward.

Earlier this session, the House of Representatives had approved HB 347, which would establish within the NH Superior Court a designated judge to hear cases on matters dealing with land use. The intent is to appoint a judge with knowledge of New Hampshire land use law in order to speed up appeals from local land use boards. 

Last week, the House Finance Committee included the funding for that new justice in the state budget. Under existing statute (RSA 677), after any decision of a zoning board of adjustment, or any decision of the local legislative body, in regard to its zoning, that decision can be appealed to the Superior Court. Unfortunately, that court process can take over a year and oftentimes the presiding judge is not an expert in land use law. The new land use judge would make appeals faster and therefore less expensive.

Swing the Lumber.

House Bill 174 is an attempt to clarify two parts of the timber harvest intent-to-cut/timber tax notification process. First, it sets the time a municipality has to provide a copy of the intent-to-cut form to the NH Department of Revenue Association (DRA) to five days (current laws states “immediately”). Second, this bill resolves the problem of towns failing to sign the intent-to-cut form within the 15-day statutory review period. Current law is silent on what happens after 15 days if the form is not signed. 

This bill would allow the timber harvest to begin without a signed intent-to-cut form after the 15-day review period, provided the intent-to-cut form is accurate and they do not owe back taxes. The bill also adds one more step before a timber harvest can begin: the timber-cutter must provide the NH Department of Revenue Administration a copy of the filed intent to cut form as well as the filing date.

The bill is expected to be heard in the Senate later this month.

Quote of the Week

“Restrictive zoning and NIMBYism are unjust. … While it may be fine if you do not want to build homes to alleviate the housing shortage, you have no right to use the local ordinances and planning boards and zoning board hearings to restrict others from doing so and thereby to restrict others from helping those in need. The affordable housing problem is indeed deserving of widespread moral outrage.”

Max Latona, Executive Director, Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm. (Union Leader, March 30)

NHAR’s legislative chart can be found here.

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

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