Legislative Update July 14, 2020

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July 14, 2020

Legislative Update 

Need for broadband addressed 

By BOB QUINN
Vice President of Government Affairs, NHAR

Here are a few items being explored in the New Hampshire state government that are of potential interest to the real estate community and being watched closely by your New Hampshire REALTORS government affairs team::

Legislature and Governor address lack of adequate broadband in rural areas.

The lack of adequate broadband coverage can make it difficult for rural communities to retain and attract residents and businesses. Reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a convenience, but has become a necessity for residential and commercial properties.

House Bill 1111 would allow municipalities to join together by formal agreement to create a separate “Communications district.” These districts would allow towns to use bonding authority for broadband infrastructure as well as for contracting with service providers. Both the Senate and House passed the legislation with broad bipartisan support, and the legislation is now headed to the Governor.

Meanwhile, Governor Chris Sununu has authorized an expenditure of $50 million from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund to address the increased need for internet connectivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Connecting New Hampshire – Emergency Broadband Expansion Program will target the need of students participating in remote learning, as well as other Granite Staters utilizing the internet to access tele-health services, including vital mental health services.

The program is also designed to improve broadband so New Hampshire families with limited internet connectivity can access everything from vital public health information to ensuring they can connect with other family members that are otherwise cut off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connecting New Hampshire is seeking proposals from qualified applicants to provide high speed internet connectivity (25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload) to as many unserved New Hampshire properties as possible at the least cost to the State. The $50 million will be spent before the end of 2020.

House rejects Senate proposal on license recognition

In early June, the Senate tacked on an 80-page amendment to House Bill 1491,which among other things would have required all professional licensing boards or commissions, including the Real Estate Commission, to create a process for granting a New Hampshire license to a licensee from another state, if it determines that the requirements for licensure in that state are equivalent to, or greater than, those established in New Hampshire.

But last week, the House refused to concur, meaning the legislation is dead for the session. The House cited the size and complexity of the amendment, which dealt with everything from marriage officiant licenses to the Fire Marshal’s ability to license places of assembly, as the reason for nonconcurrence. Expect the language to come back in 2021.

Governor vetoes rent payment legislation

Last month, the legislature passed House Bill 1247 which among other things would have prevented a landlord from evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent payable during the state of emergency, unless there was a written offer to permit the tenant to pay the entire arrearage in partial payments over a six-month period, beginning with the first rental period following the date of the offer.

Last Friday, the Governor vetoed the bill stating, “We must remember that property owners have also struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Small property owners who rent 10 units or fewer account for 90 percent of rental units in New Hampshire. They too have financial obligations that must be met, including mortgages, taxes and utilities. Denying property owners the opportunity to pay their bills is a recipe for them removing these rental units from the market, placing them up for sale in our robust real estate market, and further exacerbating the shortage of rental units that already exists across New Hampshire.”

If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2020 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Quinn at bob@nhar.com or 603-225-5549.

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