CarriageTowneNews.com, Kingston, NH

August 8, 2012

My Opinion: August 9, 2012

By NH State Rep. L. Mike Kappler
Carriage Towne News

---- — RAYMOND - Sorry, dear readers. I had a little glich and didn’t get any article in for last week.

This is a continuation on with the new laws from bills passed. As you can see from these articles, there were some very good legislative accomplishments this past term, working in the best interest of the people of New Hampshire.

Protecting Local and County Property Taxpayers:

SB-1

- A new law eliminating the “evergreen” requirement that all communities continue public employee contracts after they expire.

HB-337

- The new education funding formula guaranteeing that all communities will have stability in education aid funding for the next two years by ensuring that they will maintain the same levels as last year.

SB-196

- Teachers will now wait five (5) years, instead of three (3), before receiving tenure, giving schools additional time to evaluate their performance to ensure that students will get high quality instruction in classrooms.

HB-382

- Removes the mandate that cities and towns have fences around public cemeteries.

The legislature also lifted a number of restrictions on communities and counties, including: (1) Making it easier to transfer funds. (2) Strengthen collective bargaining rights for cities and towns. (3) Allowing counties more investment opportunities. (4) Removing permit application waiting periods for town road work if it meets best practice standards. (5) Limiting local liability for dog bites. (6) Providing more flexibility for communities to appoint members to volunteer boards. (7) Giving communities a chance to adjust their school and municipal budgets based on education funding changes at the state level.

Strengthening Property Rights:

HB-648

- Establishes a commission to: (1) Investigate procedural rights of landowners when a petition is presented to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by a utility seeking eminent domain. (2) Develop a framework for the state to provide use rights to transmission developers on state owned rights-of-way. (3) Develop policies to encourage burying such lines where practicable. (4) Establish a structure for payment.

HB-1233

- Establishes a statute of limitations on wetlands filling and dredging.

HB-1541

- Blocks Conservation Commissions from entering private land without permission.

HB-574

- Blocks taking of personal property during a state of emergency.

HB-1207

- Clarifies rules for liability of timber tax.

HB-1346

- Allows property owners to hire outside contractors for power line work on their property.

HB-1551

- Protects landowners from lawsuits of those on their property for recreational purposes such as hunting or snowmobiling.

HB-1721

- Makes property owners of small lots exempt from NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) approval for replacing or modifying sewage systems.

SB-19

- Requires municipalities notify all property owners if the community wants to designate lands as “prime wetlands”.

SB-241

- Extends alteration of terrain permits.

SB-266

- Requires a property owner’s consent to install smart meter gateway devices on their property.

SB-359

- Allows property owners to sue for legal fees when they survive frivolous accessibility lawsuits.

SB-382

- Allows for pro-rating of abatement for buildings that are heavily damaged.

Let me take a minute to tell you that the State Budget revenue estimates for the end of the year, June 30th, under the great leadership of Rep. Norm Major, that I have spoken about before, although not correctly reported by all the media, did excellent. As the state Department of Administrative Services just released, the state added an additional $17.7M in revenue for the fiscal year. In all, the report shows that the revenue figures missed projections by only $8.9M, or 0.4% of the total revenues, based on the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET) missing targets of $24.5M. Regardless of how the MET shakes out, we will still be within 1% of our predicted revenue, which in itself is a remarkable accomplishment.

We added roughly $18M in added revenue, and if MET figures improve before the final audited financials, we will do even better.

One thing that really worked, although the Democrats strongly opposed it, was the tobacco tax cut, which was expected to come in at $102.8M, and actually came in at $102.8M, right on target. This just goes to show you that tobacco users from bordering states realize that our prices are lower, and they come to buy tobacco, but while here, also buy other items, helping our local small businesses.

When the Republicans eliminated the Democrats’ auto registration surcharge, we saw a spike in registrations over estimates by nearly $3M, or a 4% increase.

In addition, the Legislative Branch returned over $1.6M back to the General Fund. If you remember when I said previously talking about this budget, that for the first time in history the budget required that lapsed, unspent funds be returned. The budget planners, at that time, projected about $350K, they actually came in at more than $640K. Another provision in the budget required an initial $1M of the Legislative Branch budget be given back to the General Fund for each year of the 2011-12 budget, which gives us the $1.7M.

I want to personally say “Thank You” to Rep. Norm Major, for all his hard work, and ask when you see him to thank him also.