Legislative Update: Cross Over
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA’s legal services or your municipal attorney.
By the time that you read this legislative update, we’ll have had the opportunity to weigh in on all 400-or-so bills that we began tracking in January and it’ll be (almost) time for “cross over.” Cross over is the period when the House sends over any House bills to the Senate that it passed, and vice versa. Typically, this means that conversations about the important policy topics of the year and, this year, the state budget start heating up.
NHMA has been pleasantly surprised this year by how closely legislators have been working with each other, us, and all of you. We were a bit concerned that the closely divided House would cause even more tension than we saw last session, but a long summer and fall spent meeting new people seems to have inspired everyone to work even harder toward bipartisan solutions to the big issues facing our state.
As we wrote about previously, NHMA has launched a new feature on our website: a live bill tracker. This tracker, run by the software platform FastDemocracy, enables visitors to see what bills NHMA is following and allows visitors to subscribe to daily or weekly (published Fridays) updates on either all the bills that we’re tracking or specific bill topics. (We have organized the bills into topics based on our member-adopted Legislative Policies and Principles.) We know from the flurry of conversations that we’ve had in the hallways of the legislature and over the phone with many of you that this change is a welcome one and has helped spur conversations with legislators both in Concord and at home.
The change ushered in by the bill tracker has allowed us to slim down the Bulletin, focusing on a couple of big issues each week rather than provide updates on procedural movements on a panoply of bills. This has driven member engagement and helped build coalitions around important issues to help ensure that municipalities voices are heard at the legislature.
We also want to thank our members and legislators who attended our legislative update circuit this year. We especially want to thank the host communities for allowing us to hold events at your wonderful municipal buildings. The feedback that we received from everyone who attended was universally positive, and we’ve already heard of some local coalition building to help advance local priorities at the state house. We’ll be looking forward to continuing our grassroots efforts on that front.
As far as specific legislation goes, it’s still too early to tell what will happen with the state budget. We are hearing, however, that legislators are interested in finding funding for water and wastewater infrastructure and paying down the unfunded accrued liability in the state retirement system. Public water and wastewater infrastructure will be critical to allowing municipalities to decrease minimum lot sizes, increasing the ability of developers to build housing, as well as dealing with environmental factors, such as water availability and contaminates, such as PFAS. Additionally, currently, 75% of the employer costs for payments into the retirement system go toward the unfunded accrued liability. State funds for either would decrease the amount of money that must be raised locally, decreasing costs for taxpayers. It is no wonder, then, that legislators are looking for ways to enhance the partnership between the state and municipalities on these particular issues.
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.
We look forward to working with you on those pieces of legislation that have passed to the “other side of the wall” and will be considered by the other body in the legislature in the weeks ahead. We are always eager to hear your perspectives and to have you join us in Concord for committee hearings. Please feel free to reach out to the government affairs team at any time if we can assist you in any way.
Natch Greyes is the Government Affairs Counsel with the New Hampshire Municipal Association. He may be contacted at 603.224.7447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.