2024 Legislative Preview

state house

This past session was very positive for municipalities. Municipalities will receive $145 million more than the last budget, building upon the year prior’s non-budget year record-breaking $100 million in direct aid sent to municipalities and almost $150 million in funding for additional grant and loan programs. While we expect that the non-budget year appropriations will be less in 2024 than in 2022 (because the surplus is smaller), the recent court decisions on education funding may change the entire calculus of future state appropriations. In short, one of the recent decisions found that “the base adequacy cost can be no less than $7,356.01 per pupil per year,” which is more than the currently allocated $4,100 per pupil per year.

One of NHMA’s major concerns is where the state will look to find any additional monies during the prelude to the 2025 budget cycle (as well as during that budget cycle). Although the court’s decision will be appealed, it is possible that we will see a Supreme Court decision before January 2025.

Meanwhile, we already know that our Government Affairs Department will be tracking, advocating on, and asking you to reach out to your legislators on more than 424 of the 1,217 bills that made it through to filing as of this writing. That means almost 35% of all bills filed have a municipal component (if we count filed but withdrawn, the percentage is over 35%). That’s more than we’ve seen in prior years. At least half of those 424 bills will have a hearing within the first three weeks of the legislative session starting.

It’s difficult to pick out highlights from the long list of bills that we’re working on, but there are a few worth mentioning:

This year we’re seeing a return of the anti-lobbying bill and the immunity repeal bill, despite both being defeated last year in the House. Please make sure to talk with your House members about those bills (again) and pay attention to the Legislative Bulletin for updates as those get scheduled for hearings. (Also, if you haven’t already talked to us about the letters we are collecting in opposition to the bill, please reach out.)

On the positive side, we’re working with other stakeholders to resolve the longstanding liability concern for municipalities relative to accessible voting. We are hopeful that we can come to a resolution that eliminates the significant liability concerns for municipalities. We are also hopeful that a couple of different bills will help alleviate some of the costs associated with the Right-to-Know law. One looks at the issue of large requests and another looks to have the state provide an online platform for municipal records that the municipality wishes to make public (and provides a bit of an incentive for municipalities that decide to send records there). We’re also hoping to help secure more one-time money for road and bridge projects, but we’ll see what surplus is available.

On the interesting front, motor vehicle collisions with covered bridges have been such a concern for our members that there are two separate bills looking to help reduce those incidents. Also, the legislature is considering what to do with state-owned dams, so you should expect to hear more from us on that issue.

On the housing and daycare fronts, two subjects that legislators are extraordinarily interested in passing legislation on this session, there are several dozen bills. Many seek to increase the number of allowable units in a given area (or, in the case of childcare, the number of children). Some, however, look to technical areas to decrease building costs such as with timing for driveway permitting by the Department of Transportation or refinements to existing legal doctrine on who qualifies as an abutter and may appeal local land use board decisions. Many of these technical updates, which do not impact local land use authority, appear likely to drive some decrease in housing costs by lower administrative or other cost barriers.

Our legislative preview webinar is scheduled for Friday, January 5. We look forward to seeing you there and working with you through this legislative session.

natch greyes  Natch Greyes is the Government Affairs Counsel with the New Hampshire Municipal Association. He may be contacted at 603.224.7447 or at governmentaffairs@nhmunicipal.org.