The 2024 Legislative Session

Natch Greyes, Governmental Affairs Counsel

The legislative session has now finished and, once again, municipalities came out ahead. Although there was not much in the way of state surplus, there were a number of policy debates that we were involved in this session. We are happy to report that legislators took our concerns seriously.

For a third-straight year, we fought (and won) a bill (HB 1479) that would have barred the voice of local officials at the legislature. Unfortunately, this bill has seemingly become a perennial bill that requires a significant amount of time and attention. We once again thank all our members who reached out to their representatives to remind them that you, too, have a right to speak to the legislature and that the input of local
officials is critical for good governance.

On a more positive note, in a significant shift, the Right-to-Know Law now contains a local option for some cost recovery for production of records. While this provision does not go as far as our members originally requested, the compromise that was reached with the opposition provides a good solution for dealing with the most burdensome requests.

We also weighed in on a record 500- or-so bills. That means that the small, two-person, full-time government affairs staff spent the last six months having conversations with 424 different people about 500 different issues. (That works out to be around 212,000 conversations!)

Surprisingly, municipalities faired well on land use issues. The legislature’s focus is solidly on the nationwide housing shortage and a significant amount of legislation was filed in an attempt to find a solution. We were happy to support some legislation, such as HB 1359, which was backed by solid data and economic principles, but we opposed a large amount of more speculative legislation. We plan on spending a significant amount of time this summer working with returning legislators to consider possible solutions which preserve local control. (Hint: we’ll be asking for more road, water, and wastewater infrastructure funding in next year’s budget.)

We were also pleased to work with election officials to help policymakers craft bills that would enhance our election processes, as well as resolve some significant liability concerns for municipalities. For example, HB 1264 creates a pilot project to help resolve local liability concerns around accessible voting devices and provide a unified system to ensure that disabled voters are able to vote without issue.

It is too early to say, in most cases, whether most of the bills mentioned above or the other 160-or-so bills of municipal interest that passed both the House and Senate will be signed into law by the Governor, but we are beginning to turn our attention to next year. We have already had a number of requests from legislators asking to partner with us on legislation on various topics, and we encourage legislators (and members) who are interested in filing legislation of municipal interest to reach out sooner rather than later.

Looking to the months ahead, NHMA will continue to advocate for building upon the solid foundation of the state-local partnership to deal with the complex issues that are impacting our members and the citizens they serve. We look forward to continuing to enhance the relationships between our members and the legislature through additional outreach efforts, including additional training and educational opportunities, and building upon existing relationships to strengthen New Hampshire cities and towns and enhance their ability to serve the public.