By Matthew Guilbault, Esq.
June 24th marked the beginning of recess for the 2009 New Hampshire legislative session that included long battles over many contentious expenditure, revenue, environmental, workplace and social issues. The most significant issue that cuts across all aspects of the state's business community is the budget that addresses spending levels as well as tax and fee levels.
There were 896 bills introduced for the 2009 session, 696 in the House, 200 in the Senate. Of those introduced, 350 passed and 125 were retained for more legislative action next year. New bills will be introduced for the 2010 session this fall.
Revenue shortfalls plagued New Hampshire as well as the rest of the country this year. A budget shortfall of $500 million on a $10 billion biennial budget was forecast for the biennium that just closed (2008-09) and an operating budget for $11 billion was approved for the next two years. The gap was closed with increases in at least 38 various fees and taxes (rooms and meals tax, cigarette tax, drivers' licenses and car and truck registrations, etc.), as was the “raiding” of an unused medical malpractice fund balance of $110 million. The legality of the last action is being challenged in court. In order to avoid mass layoffs, the state employees labor union agreed to 18 furlough days for each employee over the next two year. This action is expected to save some $25 million over the biennium.
PIANH tracked a number of legislative proposals this session, including:
- HB 199—This bill requires parties to read and sign a warning accompanying documents tendered to settle bodily injury claims which may be subject to uninsured motorist insurance coverage. (Signed into law as Chapter 74, effective Jan. 10, 2010.)
- HB 240—This bill increases the amount an employer pays for burial expenses under workers' compensation. (Signed into law as Chapter 78, effective Jan. 1, 2010.)
- SB 116—This bill repeals the provisions of law prohibiting political contributions by insurance companies and associations. (Signed into law as Chapter 96, effective June 12, 2009.)
- HB 416—This bill clarifies the law relative to conducting insurance examinations, including how reports are to be filed with the Insurance Department. This bill also clarifies the law relating to the regulation of investments by insurers. (Signed into law as Chapter 186, effective Jan. 1, 2010.)
- HB 680—This bill makes certain technical changes in the Insurance Law, including a provision that requires if a policyholder has not requested that new premium-bearing coverage be added to a policy upon renewal, but such coverage, is added because the company is replacing coverage or the company no longer offers the coverage, the company shall provide a printed notice clearly explaining what coverage has been added and how to obtain information concerning premium impact. (Signed into law as Chapter 215. Sections 1, 2 and 3 are effective Jan. 1, 2010; Section 6 effective July 15, 2009, and the remainder taking effect Sept. 13, 2009.)
- HB 330—This bill makes technical changes in the Insurance Law and clarifies the definition of “dependent” for purposes of dependent-care coverage. (Signed into law as Chapter 235, effective Sept. 14, 2009.)
- SB 46—This bill clarifies the definition of group life insurance. (Signed into law as Chapter 243, effective July 1, 2009.)
- HB 34—This bill prohibits writing a text message and using two hands to type on or operate an electronic or telecommunications device while driving. (Signed into law as Chapter 291, effective Jan. 1, 2010.)
- SB 129—This bill gradually raises the limit of employer payment contributions to the unemployment compensation fund; sets the minimum rate of employer contribution to the unemployment contribution fund; makes additional conditions for benefit eligibility; details procedures when benefits charged exceed benefits credited on certain computation dates; and inserts a new schedule of contribution rates. (Signed into law as Chapter 321. Section 2 is effective Jan. 1, 2011; Section 3 effective Jan. 1, 2012, and the remainder taking effect Jan. 1, 2010.) 10/09