Legislative Update: February 20, 2018
By BOB QUINN
Government Affairs Director
Here are a few items being explored in the New Hampshire legislature that are of potential interest to the real estate community and being watched closely by your New Hampshire REALTORS government affairs team:
License Reciprocity Changes Meet Resistance
The Governor’s Regulatory Reform Steering Committee’s effort to alter real estate licensing laws has hit a number of roadblocks. An amendment to House Bill 1104 would have allowed a person holding a valid professional license, including a real estate license, in any state to be automatically licensed to practice in New Hampshire. NHAR is opposed.
That amendment would have allowed the Real Estate Commission to deny reciprocity only if there is a substantial difference between the licensure requirements of another state and that difference would very likely result in a significant risk to the “public health” of New Hampshire citizens. No one is exactly sure what that means.
That amendment violated House rules so it was removed from HB 1104. However, the sponsors have indicated that the license reciprocity language will be added to another bill this session. NHAR has made its opposition known and will be watching closely to see if the language reemerges on another bill.
Arsenic in Water
Some lawmakers in Concord are trying to require the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) to set various water standards on containments at a lower level then required by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One of these bills, House Bill 1592, would have set the state's arsenic standards at the lowest level of any state in the country. DES testified that such a level would have been technically impossible to achieve.
Instead, the bill was amended to require the DES to review the maximum contaminant level for arsenic to determine whether it should be lowered and, if it is determined that it should be lowered, initiate rulemaking. DES has said that if might be technically feasible to drop the current 10 parts per billion standard to 5 parts billion but stopped short of committing to such a rule change.
NHAR is concerned that the state may get away from the current policy of deferring to EPA water standards and begin rulemaking on stricter rules which may not reflect scientific consensus. The Senate will take up the bill this spring.
Health Insurance for Associations
One of the holy grails of trade associations has always been attempting to provide affordable and comprehensive health insurance to its members. Legal and practical barriers have, to this point, made such offerings impossible, but efforts on both the state and federal level could open the door ever-so-slightly to such efforts.
In Concord, Senate Bill 546 lowers the bar for business entities to create a so-called “qualified purchasing alliance” to offer health insurance – but perhaps inadvertently the sponsors eliminated easy qualification requirements for organizations like NHAR to create such a purchasing alliance. NHAR has asked for that language to be put back into the bill. Final Senate action should occur in March.
Meanwhile, NHAR submitted a letter supporting an effort to alter a U.S. Department of Labor rule to provide more affordable health insurance choices for independent contractors by modifying the definition of “employer” to include “working owners.” This is essential to enabling real estate professionals to participate in an AHP in the large group market, rather than being forced to purchase in the more costly and volatile individual insurance market.
For the most recent legislative chart, click here.
For more information, please contact Bob Quinn at 603-225-5549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amidst the sea of change to which the New Hampshire Association of REALTORS has played witness in its 85 years, one thing that has remained constant is the Realtor 'R' and the value we bring to every real estate transaction in which we take part. We are part of a unique community where our familial cooperation transcends our business competition. These are not mere platitudes, but our living ideals, and they are, in fact, the foundation on which we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day affairs.
Dan O'Halloran (at right), 2019 President, New Hampshire REALTORS