2022 NHMA Legislative Bulletin 15


House Supports State Retirement Contribution

Yesterday, the House again voted to overturn an Inexpedient to Legislate committee recommendation on HB 1417, reinstating a portion (7.5 percent) of the state contribution to the employer’s share of the New Hampshire Retirement System contribution for teachers, police, and firefighters beginning on July 1, 2023. 

The passionate floor speeches outlined the history of the state contribution; the effects of its demise on New Hampshire cities, towns, and taxpayers; and the expected savings for a number of municipalities throughout the state. The fiscal note states municipalities will see a reduction in expenditures amounting to $27.7 million in fiscal year 2023, and $28.47 million in fiscal year 2024.  Just as the elimination of the state contribution increased property taxes, restoration of a portion of that state contribution will provide some level of property tax relief across the state. 

Yesterday’s vote was the second time this session that the House voted to support reinstating a portion of the state contribution to the employer’s share of the New Hampshire Retirement System. On March 16, the House voted to overturn the Executive Departments & Administration Committee’s recommendation of Inexpedient to Legislate, as we wrote about in Bulletin #9.  The bill now heads to the Senate. 

Please take the time to thank your representatives who voted for passage of the bill in the roll call vote, and contact your Senator to ask for his or her support for the bill in the Senate.

April 7 Hearing on Short-Term Rentals Bill

The House committee hearing on SB 249, the bill that prohibits a municipality from banning short-term rentals, has been scheduled for next Thursday, April 7, at 11:30 a.m., in LOB Rooms 301-03. The hearing is before the Municipal and County Government Committee. Please plan to attend and speak against this bill.

We have written about this bill before. (See Bulletin #4, Bulletin #7.) As we have explained, it would prohibit a municipality’s legislative body from restricting the use of any building or structure as a “vacation rental or short-term rental.” No ordinance could prohibit the use of any house, barn, garage, or shed as a vacation/party destination for any number of people. 

This violates New Hampshire’s long tradition of local control over land use matters. Other than “the tilling of soil and the growing and harvesting of crops,” there is no other form of land use that is exempt from local zoning. Not farms, not churches, not hospitals, not even single-family homes. And yet, while towns have authority, and still would, to prohibit single-family homes in some areas, under SB 249 they could not prohibit the conversion of a single-family home, anywhere, to a rental property for tourists and vacationers. 

The bill also contradicts basic principles of zoning under New Hampshire law. RSA 674:16, which grants zoning authority to cities and towns, states that a zoning ordinance may be adopted or amended for the “purpose of promoting the health, safety, or general welfare of the community.” To that end, the statute further states that a zoning ordinance “shall be designed to regulate and restrict” among other things, “The location and use of buildings, structures and land used for business, industrial, residential, or other purposes.” 

Therefore, the question SB 249 presents is why should this one use of property, above all others, be exempt from zoning? Supporters have presented a variety of arguments, most recently in a newspaper op-ed. 

One such argument is that the bill “grants municipalities new authority to require a registration process while also allowing towns to inspect the property for certain minimum health and safety requirements.” As such, it has been touted as a compromise. 

But this is not new authority. Cities (RSA 47:17, XIX) and towns (RSA 41:11-c) already have express authority to “establish regulations relative to businesses obtaining municipal permits,” and at least a few municipalities are exercising this authority by requiring a registration process for short-term rental businesses. Municipalities also have authority to require health and safety inspections as a condition to granting a special exception or conditional use permit; and again, some municipalities already do this. Similarly, the section of the bill that allows municipalities to regulate noise, parking, health, sanitation, and enforce other town regulations merely restates authority cities and towns already possess. 

Next, the argument for exempting short-term rentals from zoning regulation always brings up the example of a homeowner struggling to pay his property taxes. The op-ed mentioned above stated, “Removing their ability to rent could, in fact, force them out of their primary residences.” 

This is a red herring. We know of no zoning ordinance in any municipality that imposes significant restrictions on a homeowner’s ability to rent a room or two in the owner’s primary residence. Indeed, in an editorial written by a group of concerned local officials, our members explained, “We are not seeking ‘bans’ on short-term rentals, but we are seeking appropriate ways to incorporate them into our communities, rather than allowing them to overrun our communities.” To do so, these municipalities have “used various measures, such as limiting where short-term rentals are allowed; limiting them to owner-occupied houses in some areas; limiting how many days a year a house may be rented; requiring registration with the town; requiring safety inspections; and imposing limits on occupancy and parking.” 

But SB 249 makes no distinction between the rental of owner-occupied homes and the proliferation of investor-owned rentals, and it does not allow municipalities to take into account the effects of this use on the greater community. As such, SB 249 will enable investors to make money by buying houses and using them exclusively as vacation rentals, regardless of what the residents in that community want.  

We have also mentioned previously that the widespread conversion of homes into vacation rentals constricts the supply of housing available for permanent residents. New Hampshire is already experiencing a housing crisis that can only be described as dire, and SB 249 would make it worse. Our members continue to ask us why this issue is not a bigger part of the discussion about short-term rentals. 

The answer we have heard is that primary residences and short-term rental properties “exist in different markets.” We’re not sure what that means, although it does belie the claim that that this has anything to do with homeowners renting space in their primary residences. The point, apparently, is that short-term rental properties are not marketed to residents looking for a place to live. But isn’t that, in fact, the point? 

Finally, a recurring argument against local control—especially favored by out-of-state businesses—on all kinds of issues is that a “patchwork of local regulations” is too burdensome, and only statewide standards can work. Predictably, that argument has been made repeatedly in support of SB 249. 

A patchwork of regulations is exactly what local zoning is. Every town has its own ordinance, and while there are plenty of similarities, there are plenty of differences, too. This reflects the basic philosophy that each municipality should determine what best suits its own needs. As our members wrote, “Local government officials are properly situated to respond to the concerns of citizens and balance the many nuances of the short-term rental business industry through local regulation, including zoning, just as they do with other uses of property.” 

We continue to hear from both local officials and New Hampshire residents who are deeply concerned and opposed to SB 249. New Hampshire laws should be made to protect and benefit New Hampshire residents; therefore, any legislation relative to short-term rentals must preserve zoning authority and the ability of municipalities to regulate short-term rentals of residential properties, including licensing requirements and health and safety protections. 

We urge individuals concerned about this bill to attend the hearing on April 7; contact members of the Municipal and County Government Committee; and talk to your own representatives and urge them to oppose SB 249 when it goes to the House for a vote.

A Full Day of Hearings in Municipal & County Government Committee

On Thursday, April 7, the Municipal & County Government Committee will hear testimony on a number of bills of municipal interest in LOB 301-303

At 10:00 a.m., the committee will hear SB 239, which adds a requirement that municipalities provide the DRA with copy of the municipal audit upon its completion. Current law requires that municipalities complete an audit within one year of the fiscal year closing and publish the findings in their annual reports. The concerning part of the bill is that it would allow DRA to assess a fine of up to $250 per day for every day of noncompliance. This fine would commence 90 days after the DRA has provided the municipality written notice of the intent to levy such fine. NHMA opposes any such fine.  

At 11:00 a.m., the committee will hear SB 246, a bill that defines and regulates “qualified private communities.” The bill defines “qualified private community” as a condominium or homeowners association consisting of at least four units, where the residents do not receive any tax abatement or tax exemption related to its construction. The issue the bill is trying to address is that homeowners in a “qualified private community” pay the same tax rate, but do not receive road repair and maintenance services. The bill would require developers of a “qualified private community” to place funds into an escrow account to be used for future road repair and maintenance. 

At 11:30 a.m., the committee will hear SB 249, the bill that prohibits a municipality from banning short-term rentals. Please see the above article for more information on this bill.  

At 1:30 p.m., the committee will hear SB 273, which would amend RSA 31:5, I(a) to permit towns to authorize broadband infrastructure bonds at special meetings without court approval. This bill is meant to compliment SB 445,  legislation that  would create a broadband infrastructure matching grant program for municipalities. The purpose is to allow projects to proceed in an expeditious manner without having to wait for the next annual meeting process. This is particularly timely, with more than $200 million in federal funds being awarded to New Hampshire for broadband expansion projects over the next five years and the 25 percent local match requirements proposed in SB 445. The availability of these funds could significantly reduce the bonded debt municipalities would have to issue, making a special meeting reasonable given the scope of these projects and the timeline available to complete them. 

At: 2:00 p.m., the committee will hear SB 312, which provides that the assessors and selectmen shall, as part of creating an annual revised inventory of taxable property, correct any errors in existing appraisals. NHMA supports SB 312 as it allows errors in assessments to be corrected on an annual basis rather than requiring the town to wait for the 5-year reappraisal, rectifying the effect of the recent New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in Merrimack Premium Outlets, et al. v. Town of Merrimack

At 2:30 p.m., the committee will hear SB 317, a NHMA Policy Bill that would reduce the interest rate for abatements of property taxes from six percent to four percent. This reduction reflects the proportional adjustments that the legislature made to the late property tax bill interest rate in 2018. 

At 4:00 p.m., the committee will hear SB 400, the omnibus housing bill, which we wrote about in Bulletin #4 and Bulletin #9. This bill seeks to incentivize municipalities to undertake policy changes to address housing shortages. Our members recognize the need for diverse and affordable housing in New Hampshire and the responsibility of each municipality to afford reasonable opportunities for the development of diverse and affordable housing. They also believe that municipalities should have discretion—not statewide zoning mandates—in how to satisfy this responsibility and support legislation that enables municipalities to find innovative ways to ensure an adequate supply of housing.   

Remote Meetings Legislation Goes to the House

Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 344 by a 13-11 vote with a floor amendment. As amended, the bill now adds new paragraph IV to RSA 91-A:2, creating a local option for allowing remote meeting participation where less than a quorum of a public body is physically present. The new authority must be adopted by the legislative body before it can be used, and it has a variety of safeguards, including requiring at least one quarter of the body to be present at the physical location, adjourning the meeting if the public cannot access the virtual platform, and taking all votes by roll call. 

The bill does not affect existing authority that authorizes a public body to allow remote participation where a quorum is physically present or to allow remote participation where a quorum is not physically present when there is an emergency. 

When the bill comes up for its hearing in the House, it will be crucial for local officials who would wish to exercise this authority to testify about how this local option can be used effectively and for the benefit of their community.

State Revenue Surplus Generates Property Tax Relief Proposal

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed SB 401, a bill focused on property tax relief. SB 401, as amended, completely replaced the original version of the bill and creates significant one-time property tax relief. Using state general fund surplus generated in fiscal year 2022, this bill proposes to appropriate $36 million in municipal bridge aid, $30 million in municipal highway block grants, and $1 million toward the body worn and dashboard camera fund. 

Municipal Bridge Aid. Currently, there are 222 municipally-owned, red-listed bridges, and the current biennium budget appropriates $6.8 million each year in municipal bridge aid. With an estimated 10-year wait for red listed bridge funding, $36 million in additional aid would significantly increase the bridge projects that   can be completed. The most updated list of red-listed bridges can be found here

Highway Block Grants. SB 401 would also appropriate an additional $30 million in municipal highway block grants. Due to concerns about state revenue, the legislature appropriated $2.8 million less in highway block funds in the current biennium budget. In fiscal year 2022, $34.3 million was appropriated and in $35.4 million in fiscal year 2023. This legislation will almost double the highway block grant allocations in fiscal year 2023. 

Under RSA 235:23, highway block grants funds can only be used for construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of each municipality’s Class IV and V roads.  It can also be used as the match for a project in the bridge aid program.  Equipment purchases for maintaining local roads are also an eligible use of funds. For allocation purposes, this bill identifies the “Apportionment A” formula. Therefore, funds will be distributed among the municipalities based on their population in proportion to the entire state’s population and the other half is disbursed based on a municipality’s Class IV and V road mileage in proportion to the total statewide Class IV and V mileage. 

Body & Dash Cameras. The body-worn and dashboard camera fund allows local law enforcement agencies to apply for grants for the purchase and use of body-worn and dashboard cameras. Municipalities can be reimbursed up to $50,000 for the purchase of body-worn or dashboard cameras, software maintenance for the cameras, and maintenance and storage of data related to the cameras. SB 401 would appropriate $1 million dollars toward this fund. 

A separate bill, SB 420, establishes “extraordinary need grants” for schools within the education funding adequacy formula. Although NHMA does not usually write about legislation involving education funding or policy, it is worth noting that in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, this bill would provide $25 million in property tax relief to towns with a low property tax base. The calculation is based on a municipality’s equalized valuation and the number of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. On March 24, this bill passed the Senate on a 21-1 bipartisan vote and is now in the House Education Committee. The municipalities that are anticipated to receive funds, along with the estimated allocation, are listed in the fiscal note of the bill.

Moving Away from Telecommunications & Toward Broadband

On Tuesday, March 29, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on HB 1328, which would allow the New Hampshire Department of Energy to relieve a utility  of its “carrier of last resort” (COLR) obligations. 

Eliminating COLR obligations of incumbent telephone companies would potentially leave residents in rural areas without access to 911 or without any telephone service at all.  In some areas, competitive phone services, cell phone coverage, or alternative services—such as broadband—are not yet available to all households within a municipality. As such, NHMA opposed this bill. 

Under current state law, the telephone company, as carrier of last resort, is required to provide and maintain phone service to all households. If HB 1328 passed, a telephone carrier could petition the New Hampshire Department of Energy on a town-by-town basis to be relieved of its COLR obligations if 95 percent of the households are covered by a telephone company other than the incumbent COLR telephone company and a cell phone service covers 97 percent of the households in the municipality. 

Telephone companies across the U.S. are lobbying to have these obligations lifted as cell coverage and broadband becomes more readily available. If done without proper planning to ensure all residents are 100 percent served by some form of telephone, cellular, or broadband, households in some rural areas could be entirely cut off from accessing emergency services. 

If you are concerned that your municipality currently has no competitive phone service and is unserved or underserved by a cellular carrier or broadband options, leaving 3 to 5 percent households without 911 access, please contact the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and your Senator

Speaking of broadband, yesterday the Senate unanimously passed  SB 445. This bill would appropriate $122 million for broadband matching grants using American Rescue Plan Act funds dedicated through the Capital Projects Fund. This bill would allow any broadband provider, municipality, or communications district to apply for a grant of up to 75 percent of the total eligible costs of the project. Using federal funding, the state is actively working to address last mile broadband service and cellular coverage. This work includes the comprehensive mapping of broadband access state-wide. Detailed mapping information will provide the state and municipalities the data needed to deploy broadband in unserved and underserved areas. Mapping will also highlight areas where a disparity in traditional telephone and 911 service would exist if HB 1328 allows telephone companies to be relieved of their carrier of last resort obligations and broadband or cellular services are not available to households.

House Calendar





10:00 a.m.

SB 223, relative to requirements for recovery houses.

10:30 a.m.

SB 398, relative to building code and fire code enforcement.



FINANCE, Room 210-211, LOB

10:00 a.m.

SB 227-FN, relative to death benefits for first responders who die from suicide.

10:30 a.m.

SB 409, relative to disaster relief loans.




9:30 a.m.

SB 275, relative to the opioid abatement trust fund.




11:00 a.m.

SB 259, relative to the definition of “municipal host” for purposes of limited electrical energy producers.

1:30 p.m.

SB 261-FN, relative to net metering participation.

2:30 p.m.

SB 262, relative to customer generators of electric energy.



WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202-204, LOB

11:00 a.m.

SB 343, establishing a committee to study room occupancy tax revenues and fees and the formula for distribution to municipalities.






EDUCATION, Room 205-207, LOB

1:30 p.m.

SB 410, relative to public comment periods at school district meetings and meetings of the state board of education.



ELECTION LAW, Room 306-308, LOB

9:30 a.m.

SB 242, relative to the disqualification of certain persons from performing the duties of an election official.

9:45 a.m.

SB 328, relative to the date of the state primary election.

10:00 a.m.

SB 364, relative to the use of electronic poll books.

10:30 a.m.

SB 365, relative to absentee ballot outer envelopes.

10:45 a.m.

SB 366-FN, requiring an audit of ballots cast in the 2022 primary and general election.

11:15 a.m.

SB 405-FN, relative to fines and penalties for election law violations.

11:30 a.m.

SB 427-FN, modifying the absentee voter registration process, absentee ballot application, and absentee ballot voting process.



JUDICIARY, Room 206-208, LOB

10:30 a.m.

SB 301-FN-L, relative to the procedure for violations under the right to know law.




9:00 a.m.

SB 257, enabling municipalities to incorporate sewage disposal systems as part of their stormwater utility.





JUDICIARY, Room 206-208, LOB

1:00 p.m.

SB 302-FN, establishing the personal privacy protection act.




10:00 a.m.

SB 239-FN, relative to noncompliance with municipal audit requirements.

10:30 a.m.

SB 245, establishing a committee to study agreements between developers and municipalities on municipal trash removal fees paid by condominium owners and renters.

11:00 a.m.

SB 246, relative to qualified private communities.

11:30 a.m.

SB 249, prohibiting planning and zoning ordinances that prohibit short-term rentals.

1:00 p.m.

SB 251, relative to the advisory board of a tax increment financing district.

1:30 p.m.

SB 273-A, relative to broadband infrastructure funding.

2:00 p.m.

SB 312, relative to adjusted assessments of taxable property.

2:30 p.m.

SB 317-L, reducing the interest rate for abatements of paid property taxes.

3:00 p.m.

SB 329, establishing a commission to study barriers to housing development in New Hampshire, including workforce and middle-income housing.

3:30 p.m.

SB 334-L, establishing a committee to study property blight in New Hampshire cities and towns.

4:00 p.m.

SB 400-FN, relative to training and procedures for zoning and planning boards and relative to financial investments and incentives for affordable housing development.



MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2022




1:00 p.m.

SB 395, relative to the broadband matching grant initiative.







11:15 a.m.

SB 383-FN, relative to land surveying services.

Senate Calendar




1:00 p.m.

HB 1153, relative to absentee ballot requests.

1:15 p.m.

HB 1157, relative to electronic ballot counting devices.

1:30 p.m.

HB 1203-FN, relative to domicile residency, voter registration, and investigation of voter verification letters.

1:45 p.m.

HB 1457-FN, relative to chain of custody of ballot boxes after an election.

2:00 p.m.

HB 1527-FN, relative to vote returns.

2:15 p.m.

HB 1467-FN, requiring partial audits of additional offices on ballots involved in recounts.






COMMERCE, Room 100, SH

9:30 a.m.

HB 1282, relative to the records of communication common carriers.




9:00 a.m.

HB 1454-FN, relative to permits for the siting of new landfills.




2:00 p.m.

HB 1614-FN, requiring the recording and storing of digital video in all state-funded juvenile detention facilities.

2:30 p.m.

HB 1296-FN, relative to the forfeiture of items used in connection with a drug offense.




1:30 p.m.

HB 1188, establishing a commission to study OHRV use in the state.






10:30 a.m.

HB 1375, relative to the definition of veteran.




11:20 a.m.

HB 1495-FN, prohibiting the state from requiring businesses to require vaccine or documentation related to vaccination or immunity status.







9:00 a.m.

HB 169, establishing a commission to study the removal of unused utility poles following the transition of equipment, lines, and cables to new utility poles.

9:15 a.m.

HB 410, establishing a commission to study the assessing of power generation and utility transmission.

House Floor Action

Thursday, March 31, 2022 

HB 1064-FN, requiring the use of hand-marked, durable paper ballots in elections. Laid on Table. 

HB 1155, relative to persons elected to a local board serving on another board. Interim Study. 

HB 1302-FN, relative to the weighing of vehicles. Passed. 

HB 1339, relative to the Winnipesaukee River basin control replacement fund. Passed. 

HB 1417-FN-LOCAL, relative to payment by the state of a portion of retirement system contributions of political subdivision employers. Passed. NHMA Policy. 

HB 1473-FN, authorizing a forensic audit of the November 3, 2020 election results in Merrimack county for president, governor, and United States senate races. Laid on Table. 

HB 1496-FN, requiring political subdivisions to make voter checklists available in spreadsheet form to any resident. Passed. 

HB 1535-FN, relative to cost of living adjustments for retirees in the state retirement system. Passed with Amendment. 

HB 1547-FN, setting maximum contaminant levels for perfluorochemicals in the soil. Passed. 

HB 1552-FN, establishing a board for the certification of assessors. Passed. 

HB 1598-FN, legalizing the possession and use of cannabis. Passed with Amendment. 

HB 1665-FN-A-LOCAL, establishing a municipal road and bridge disaster relief fund. Interim Study. 

HB 1682-FN-A, establishing the law enforcement conduct review committee in the New Hampshire police standards and training council and making an appropriation therefor. Passed with Amendment.

Senate Floor Action

Thursday, March 31, 2022 

HB 536-FN, relative to death benefits for public works employees killed in the line of duty, and relative to workers’ compensation offsets for certain retirement system benefits. Passed. 

HB 1020, relative to additional lights on emergency vehicles. Tabled. 

HB 1026, relative to budget information provided to a budget committee. Inexpedient to Legislate. 

HB 1040, establishing a commission to study revenue alternatives to the road toll for the funding of improvements to the state’s highways and bridges and their resulting improvements to the environment. Passed with Amendment. 

HB 1318-FN-L, relative to penalties for employer noncompliance with retirement system requirements. Passed with Amendment. 

HB 1497-FN, relative to optional allowances in the retirement system. Passed. 

HB 1553-FN, relative to roadside memorials. Inexpedient to Legislate. 

HB 1681-FN, relative to the state building code and the state fire code. Passed with Amendment.

 SB 267-FN-A, establishing the upland invasive species program, program fund, and program coordinator in the department of agriculture, markets, and food. Passed with Amendment. 

SB 344, relative to the quorum requirements under the right to know law of meetings open to the public. Passed with Amendment. 

SB 376-FN, establishing a committee to study the creation of a board to study mental health incidents among law enforcement officers. Passed with Amendment. 

SB 379-FN, establishing the solid waste management fund and establishing a solid waste disposal surcharge. Passed. 

SB 401-FN, (New Title) making appropriations to the department of transportation for local highway aid and to the body-worn and dashboard camera fund and permitting the department of transportation to operate dash cameras in fleet vehicles. Passed with Amendment. 

SB 402-FN, granting disaster relief for two presidentially declared disasters in response to July-August 2021 flood damage sustained by communities in Cheshire and Sullivan counties. Passed with Amendment. 

SB 418-FN, relative to verification of voter affidavits. Passed with Amendment. 

SB 425-FN, relative to the establishment of an election information portal. Passed. 

SB 434-FN, relative to the reduction in the calculation of state retirement annuities at age 65. Interim Study. 

SB 438-FN-L, establishing state procurement policies intended to promote the use of American materials. Passed. 

SB 443-FN, relative to municipal authority regarding the state building code. Passed. 

SB 445, (New Title) relative to the broadband matching grant initiative. Passed with Amendment.

NHMA Upcoming Events

Apr. 4

Webinar: Legislative Half-Time – 12:00 – 1:00

Apr. 5

2022 Local Officials Workshop (Virtual) – 9:00 – 4:00

Apr. 13

Webinar: ZBA Basics– 11:30 – 1:00

Apr. 28

2022 Right-to-Know Law Workshop (Hybrid) – 9:00 – 1:00

May 5

2022 A Hard Road to Travel Workshop (Hybrid) – 9:00 – 12:30

May 17

2022 Local Officials Workshop (Virtual) – 9:00 – 4:00

May 18

Webinar: Investigations 101 – 12:00 – 1:00

Please visit www.nhmunicipal.org for the most up-to-date information regarding our upcoming events. Click on the Events and Training tab to view the calendar.

For more information, please call NHMA’s Workshop registration line: (603) 230-3350.

2022 NHMA Legislative Bulletin 15

April 1, 2022


Margaret M.L. Byrnes
Executive Director

Natch Greyes
Government Affairs Counsel

Katherine Heck
Government Finance Advisor

Timothy W. Fortier
Communications Coordinator

Pam Valley
Administrative Assistant

25 Triangle Park Drive
Concord NH 03301