Bills Approved to Address Housing Crisis in the State

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Rep. Carry Spier, D-Nashua, speaks against House Bill 1291, which would allow two Auxiliary Dwelling Units on a single-family lot Thursday on the House Floor.


CONCORD — The House Thursday approved two bills that supporters say will be a step forward to addressing the state’s housing crisis, but critics called it top down zoning from the state.

The House also approved a bill to expand safe zones for mothers to leave unwanted babies, as well as requiring communities to vote to allow casino gambling in their town as they do for Keno.

The two housing bills are the work of the Special Committee on Housing and would require cities and towns to allow up to two auxiliary dwelling units on single-family lots.

The bills were characterized as a restoration of property rights while opponents characterized them as the state negating local control over zoning which has always been the purview of cities and towns to decide.

House Bill 1291 would allow an attached ADU and an unattached ADU on a lot with an existing single-family home.

The bill is needed, said supporters because some communities have stopped homeowners from exercising their right to build one ADU on their property with such things as parking requirements and setbacks so the bill would restore property rights to homeowners while expanding available and often affordable living space.

Rep. Joe Alexander, R-Goffstown, said the expansion of ADUs is the “gentlest” way to begin adding the 60,000 or more units needed to satisfy the state’s housing needs.

But others said the bills would upend neighborhoods, pressure water and sewer systems, police and fire departments, and have the state impose a one-size-fits all approach to communities that are all different.

“Politicians in Concord do not understand the needs or wants of municipalities,” said Rep. Len Turcotte, R-Barrington. “To believe we know better is simply wrong. Do not infringe on municipalities’ role in zoning.”
The bill passed on a 220-143 vote.

House Bill 1399 would allow two-unit buildings in single family zones of two acres or less and in most other zones except for overlay zones.

Supporters said the bill would help fill in middle housing that has all but disappeared, but opponents said the bill would amount to spot zoning which is illegal.

The bill passed on a 220-140 vote.

Both bills are headed to the Senate.

Safe Haven

A bill that would expand the time for a mother to voluntarily surrender a newborn baby from seven to 61 days, was approved by the House, but a provision to exclude evidence against the parents for abuse or mistreatment for both civil and criminal charges was rejected by three votes.

While supporters of House Bill 1607 said the exclusionary clause is key to convincing mothers in bad situations to voluntarily surrender their child and would likely save the child’s life, others objected to the provision calling it a clarion call to abusers.

The House Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs had originally sought to send the bill to interim study, but the House Republican leadership sought to pass the bill instead.

Under current law, mothers can surrender their babies at safe havens such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations, or other places open 24-hours a day.

The bill would expand the use of anonymous baby boxes which 16 states use for mothers to surrender their babies.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said the most troubling part of the bill was the evidence exclusionary section, noting a mother at the depth of her life could abuse a child for 60 days and then put the comatose baby in the anonymous box and escape criminal prosecution.

“Imagine the howls from our constituents if that happens,” Weber warned, noting there is the issue of liability as well.

“What would be better than a warm handoff,” she said “a  place people might offer support, comfort, help and prevent a parent in a moment of despair from doing something they will regret for the rest of their lives.”

But supporters said the exclusionary clause does not say a mother cannot be charged with abuse, but tells law enforcement to find another tool other than safe havens to build their case.

Most of the bill was approved on a 372-1 vote, but the section with the exclusionary clause was defeated on a 188-185 vote. 

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Local Option

House Bill 1223 would require a community to vote to allow a charitable gaming facility in its town much as they do with Keno gambling run by the Lottery Commission.

Rep. David Rochefort, R-Littleton, said the bill has nothing to do with gambling, is similar to the Keno law, would not hurt charity gaming and the timing is good with a moratorium on new casinos about to end in July.

But opponents said it amounts to a statewide ban on new casinos for charity gaming unless a town goes through the warrant process to approve a new facility.

Rep. David Paige, D-Conway, says his community has repeatedly turned down having Keno in town, the last vote with 75 percent opposed, but does not have the same opportunity to decide if a casino can open in towns as is going to happen soon.

“This is not winding back the clock,” he said, “this will ensure other towns are given the courtesy of choice.”
The bill was approved on a voice vote and now goes to the Senate.

10-Year Highway Plan

The House made quick work on the new version of the state’s 10-Year Highway Improvement Plan.

House Bill 2024 passed on a voice vote after an amendment to have the state retain ownership of Continental Boulevard instead of turning it over to Merrimack failed on a 195-172 vote.

The plan would spend $5.1 billion over the next 10 years, but as most of the past few plans have been, it is fiscally constrained by lower road tolls and gasoline tax revenue and debt that comes due in the second year to begin paying down the bonds for the I-93 expansion from Salem to Manchester.

The bill goes to the Senate.


The House approved a bill intended to involve high school students in the voting process as part of the state’s civics curriculum with actual voter registration at high schools and other locations convenient to students eligible to vote.

However the bill was amended to give freshmen in high school copies of the state constitution and voting statutes.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

On a 187-184 vote, the House voted to prohibit school boards from adopting mandatory mask mandates in the future.

Opponents said the emotions from the worst of the pandemic should not cloud judgment about what could happen in the future if such a provision were approved.

“This outright ban is a step too far,” said Rep. Hope Damon, D-Sunapee. “Let locally elected school boards respond to emergencies and give the communities flexibility for addressing an unknown future.”
But supporters of the bill said children were harmed academically and emotionally with the mask mandates imposed by the governor during the height of the pandemic.

And they said school boards are not really qualified to make decisions like mask mandates.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

AI Politics

Without debate, the House approved a bill that would require political advertising using Artificial Intelligence be disclosed that would allow a political candidate whose appearance, action, or speech is depicted through the use of a deceptive and fraudulent deepfake, to seek legal action to stop the advertisement and to seek damages including attorney fees and costs.

House Bill 1596 would largely exempt social media, television, radio and newspapers from being liable for the deepfake if they published or broadcast it.

The bill also defines what constitutes violations of the law and would apply to advertising within 90 days of an election when the candidate’s name appears on a ballot.

The bill, if it passes the Senate, and is signed by the governor, would be in place for the state primary and general election.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Retirement System

The House approved House Bill 1179, which would reestablish a 7.5 percent state subsidy to cities, towns and counties for their state retirement system costs.

The House Finance Committee recommended killing the bill, but supporters said the state promised to help pay when the statewide system was established, but reneged on its promise in 2011during the great recession when state revenues plummeted.

Supporters said the bill would be a beginning to restoring the state’s share which was long 35 percent.

When the state decided to stop the subsidy, local property taxes went up substantially in many communities.

Mental Health

The House also approved House Bill 1711 which allows the state to report mental health data for firearms background check to the federal National Instant Background Check System for gun purchases.

The bill also establishes the purposes and processes for confiscation of firearms following certain mental health-related court proceedings and for relief from mental health-related firearms disabilities.

The bill also establishes a system for removing a name from the list if the person is no longer dangerous to him or herself or to others. 

The genesis of the bill was the murder of Bradley Haas, a former Franklin Police Chief, who was working as a security guard at New Hampshire Hospital. 

He was killed by a former patient at the hospital who at one time had his gun confiscated due to mental illness.

The bills now goes to the Senate.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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