Legislative Update: March 19, 2019
By BOB QUINN
Vice President of Government Affairs
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:
Association health insurance: The good, the bad and the ugly
The good: Senate Bill 228 which permits trade associations, such as NHAR, to offer its members more affordable, comprehensive health insurance than they might otherwise receive on the individual insurance market, passed the Senate last week. You can read more about Association Health Plans (AHP) here.
The bad: The final version of the bill prevents “sole proprietors” from taking advantage of AHPs until the state receives a waiver from the federal government to use Medicaid dollars to shore-up the individual health care market. This provision could delay Realtors’ access to AHP.
The ugly: SB 228 is 20 pages long (in contrast, Vermont’s legislation is all of two paragraphs) and filled with obstacles which will likely make any health insurance product more expensive than it needs to be. Some have argued the hurdles are so high that New Hampshire associations will be unable to overcome the obstacles.
The bill still must make its way through the House. NHAR will continue to work with legislators to craft a final bill which gives a reasonable opportunity for many Realtors to receive comprehensive health insurance at a more reasonable cost.
Housing Appeals Board gets a thumbs up from Senate
The Senate has approved SB 306, which creates a statewide Housing Appeals Board. This new board would give property owners a less expensive alternative than going to Superior Court. NHAR testified in favor of the legislation.
The new board, made up of three professionals with a knowledge of land use law, would have a maximum of 180 days to reach a decision. In contrast, it is not unusual for Superior Court cases to take 18 months or more.
This new housing board would have no more authority and jurisdiction than the Superior Court currently enjoys, which is why the NH Municipal Association is taking no position on the bill. The City of Nashua and other towns are supporting the legislation because they also see the need for cost savings in the appeals process.
The legislation now moves to the House. The Governor has already indicated he will sign the bill if it lands on his desk.
Deed recording fees to increase for LCHIP, but Senate wants to study impact of land conservation
Should New Hampshire towns conserve more land in order to prevent new housing for families? That was the question after the hearing on Senate Bill 74, which would increase the deed recording fee from $25 to $35 to pay for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).
During the hearing, one leading advocate for the fee increase stated, “Trees don’t need to be educated,” arguing that housing developments bring kids, and that leads to higher property taxes. Economists and demographers have repeatedly debunked this myth, however. No kids mean no workers, and if there are no workers that means businesses won’t move or expand in New Hampshire.
After NHAR suggested more state oversight over land conservation, the Senate agreed to amend the bill to create a Committee to Study the Economic Impact of Land Conservation. The committee will analyze the impact of conservation efforts on the affordability of housing as well as examine the current extent of land conservation in municipalities to determine if conservation and development is occurring equitably around the state so as not to place undue development burden on neighboring municipalities.
The bill, with the amendment, will now head to the House of Representatives.
To view the most recent legislative chart, click here. If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2019 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact NHAR Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Quinn at email@example.com or 603-225-5549.
"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."
Ben Cushing, 2023 President, New Hampshire REALTORS