The December prior to the start of a new session in the New Hampshire Legislature is a surprisingly busy time of year. It is during this period when State Senators and State Representatives file what are known as “Legislative Service Requests” or “LSRs” for short. An LSR is an initial proposal for a bill submitted by a member of the incoming Legislature.
As you will see HERE from the list of LSRs proposed for the 2019 session, they are simply a bare-bones description of the sponsor’s intent for the bill. It does not provide the detailed bill language or even the committee to which the bill will be referred. All LSRs are finalized with the bill language by early to mid-January. Read the actual bill language for those bills once they are available in January HERE.
Studying the LSRs gives the reader a good sense of which topics will be priorities for the Legislature in the coming session. Based on the Policy Department at the Society for the Protection of NH Forests' (Forest Society) review, listed below are the issue areas being debated of most concern to the environmental protection community:
- Energy. This is a broad area but the Forest Society anticipates it will be one of the most active in 2019. Energy related bills under consideration, introduced to date include: (1) change the process for siting large-scale energy facilities under the NH Site Evaluation Committee statute (RSA 162-H), (2) update to the authority for NH to continue its participation in the nine state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), (3) change how RGGI revenues are allocated, (4) promote greater NH reliance on energy efficiency and clean energy technologies like solar to meet future energy needs, and (5) address ongoing concerns with subsidies to the biomass electric plants.
- Off-highway Recreation Vehicles (OHRVs). The location, management and oversight of NH’s OHRV trails has become a contentious issue in many parts of New Hampshire, especially in the North Country. Several bills, which aim to address these issues, will be debated.
- Protection of groundwater and other water resources. Given the on-going attention to PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) related drinking water contamination in the Merrimack area, as well the contamination of water sources on the Seacoast, the Legislature will take up several bills that relate to the protection of drinking water.
- Wetlands. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is in the process of updating and revising the State’s wetlands rules. While that process is going on, the Legislature will also be considering several bills that also focus on how the State protects our wetlands resources.
Just as importantly, the Legislature and Governor must also approve the State’s operating and capital budget for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. This process begins in earnest when the Governor presents his proposed budget to the Legislature on or before February 15th. It ends (hopefully) by the end of June with the approval of a final budget which goes into effect on July 1st, the start of the State’s fiscal year.
Within the budget, the Forest Society will be watching two priority issues closely:
- LCHIP. The Legislature must approve the budget for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) within the overall state budget. For the years 2018 and 2019, LCHIP received approximately $3.5 million for each of those years. The Forest Society’s goal is to ensure those funding levels are either increased or maintained.
- Fish and Game Department. The Department has asked for an increase in the level of General Funds it receives through the budget. This request is intended to support its law enforcement operations. The Forest Society intends to support this request.
As the budget deliberations move ahead, we will be sending out updates on the status of those issues. Track the progress of these legislative initiatives on our WEBSITE ADVOCACY PAGES.