By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu signed 30 bills into law Tuesday from the recently concluded 2021 legislative session ranging from environmental changes to making church essential services during a state of emergency.
The governor signed a number of omnibus bills the Senate crafted to reduce the time needed for public hearings and Senate meetings during the pandemic.
The bills included administrative changes to state agencies, as well as environmental protections, education and criminal law changes.
Other bills included changes to tax law, a broadband expansion program as well as encouraging the use of electric vehicles.
Business Profits Tax
Senate Bill 101 increases the threshold for paying the business profits tax from $50,000 in gross receipts to $92,000.
The change to the $92,00 threshold is intended to account for inflation since the floor was set at $50,000. The law also adds a provision to automatically adjust the threshold to the rate of inflation every two years as the Department of Revenue Administration does for the Business Enterprise Tax.
The change went into effect July 1 and the first inflation adjustment would be in 2023.
The bill was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, who said it will eliminate unnecessary paperwork and costs for many small businesses.
“SB 101 represents a huge win for New Hampshire small businesses, particularly during a time when many are struggling to rebuild in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Soucy said after the bill was signed into law. “By increasing the business income threshold at which businesses need to file a business profits tax return, we have eliminated unnecessary financial and administrative burdens for our small business community.”
The Senate approved the bill on a 24-0 vote and the House approved it on a voice vote.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said the bill will help small businesses and coupled with the business profits tax rate reduction will make a big difference to businesses throughout the state.
“We want our small Main Street business owners to keep more of their hard-earned money because they are the heart and soul of our communities and the backbone of our economy,” said Bradley, a co-sponsor of the bill.
According to the Department of Revenue Administration, raising the threshold to $92,000 will reduce revenues by $2.6 million.
Sununu also signed Senate Bill 88, which helps communities expand broadband by simplifying the planning and regulatory process.
Prime sponsor of the omnibus legislation, Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, said the bill is part of the bipartisan effort to expand broadband across the state, particularly in rural areas.
“This legislation will accelerate the timeline in which cities and towns can establish communications district planning committees, which will speed up the process for broadband stakeholders working toward broadband expansion to begin their work, including planning projects and gaining pole access rights,” he said.
The pandemic and the switch to remote learning and work highlighted the need for broadband service in many areas of the state, he said.
Bradley said the bill will help expand broadband in rural areas like Carroll County where he lives.
“The companion bill I sponsored, Senate Bill 85, creates much needed grant funding that cities and towns may utilize to fund these broadband projects,” Bradley said. “Together, these pieces of legislation will have a tremendous impact.”
The matching grant fund uses money from the CARES Act designated to expand broadband that was not spent due to the time constraints.
Sununu signed two omnibus environmental bills into law Tuesday.
Senate Bill 146 would reduce ocean plastic pollution and establish the New Hampshire Coastal Program.
Senate Bill 131 encourages the use of electric vehicles, clarifies municipal water maintenance certificates, as well as nondriver’s picture identification, and firefighter and emergency medical services decals.
Senate Bill 147 allows the Department of Education to determine if a new teacher has ever had a criminal abuse finding by accessing that information through the Division of Children Youth and Families.
Senate Bill 148 requires school districts to update their emergency action plans for student-athlete injuries to improve response time and quality of care.
The new law also sets guidelines for access to defibrillators, establishes heat stroke policies and determines when an athlete is cleared to return to play.
Other New Laws:
House Bill 542 requires church services and activities to be essential services during a state or emergency;
House Bill 278, gives charter schools the right of first refusal for unused school district facilities;
House Bill 413 establishes a solid waste management planning working group, encourages composting, and establishes a statewide solid waste disposal reduction goal;
Senate bill 129 requires minimizing environmental impacts on the habitats of endangered or threatened species;
House Bill 326 requires town and city clerks to make electronic lists of persons who applied for absentee ballots available to candidates;
And House Bill 605 which allows out-of-state residents to purchase therapeutic cannabis at state centers with the proper credentials.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.