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Parking garage

Legislative parking garage OKd, accompanying a watered down housing bill

(Dave Cummings/New Hampshire Bulletin)

“If we don’t move on this, I don’t know where you’re going to park,” Rep. Steven Smith, R-Charlestown, said, urging NH House members to pass a bill that included some of the remnants. tattered. of a major labor housing bill. The House responded by passing House Bill 1661 on a vote of 244-99.

The bill was one of the last bills challenged on the last day of the legislative session, a day when the Senate and House approved or rejected agreements reached by conference committee negotiators last week.

There was virtually no debate about the corporate tax cuts contained in HB 1221. Some Senate Democrats have complained about the reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 7.6 to 7.5 %, but ended up voting for it because it also provided $28 million to municipalities that they hope will be passed on to be used for property tax relief. There was no debate on the measure in the House.

There was also no objection to Senate Bill 401, which provides $70 million to support municipal road and bridge projects as well as $4 million to build a road to support the redevelopment of the Balsams station in Dixville.

The two chambers also approved the agreement on HB 355, extending keno from bars and restaurants to convenience stores, without screens, as well as HB 1503, which provides a regulatory framework for cryptocurrency, without obliging state contractors. to use domestic steel, language that had previously been added to the bill.

And no one opposed SB 271, which means electric taxpayers will subsidize the Burgess BioPower plant in Berlin for another year.

‘Monster of a Bill’

The big kahuna was HB 1661, the 36-page, 80-section omnibus bill that includes legislation covering regional vocational technical schools, lead paint testing, special education grants for schools, the funding for opioid treatment, licensing criteria for recreation camps, rules for releasing defendants pending trial, and most importantly for lawmakers, a new garage for lawmakers’ cars, and laws that will encourage affordable housing.

Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, came out calling the measure a “monster bill” because it merged so many other bills, including what was left of SB 400, the Bill on the Workforce Housing “Community Toolkit”, which developers saw as crucial to encouraging the construction of affordable housing in New Hampshire.

But in order for the House to pass the bill, the Senate removed a number of key tools from the bill. The House managed to get rid of “60 percent” of the SB 400, estimated Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, who negotiated the bill on the conference committee and was one of the few to defend HB 1661 on the floor of the House.

What’s gone include provisions for a “Housing Champions” program that would reward cities that encourage affordable housing, as well as a provision to automatically extend local tax breaks typically provided for commercial development to housing and also extend the term of these tax breaks. Requirements to put labor housing on an equal footing with housing for the elderly have also been watered down.

A few transparency measures remain: Land-use boards will actually have to give a written reason for rejecting a developer’s plans and disclose municipal fees, as well as certain timelines, to speed up the approval process.

Warden particularly took issue with a provision that expanded the term “public use” to allow cities to acquire land, not only for a public service or to remove dilapidated structures, but also for the housing of the workforce ( but in this case not via eminent domain).

“Getting into building apartments is a very bad idea,” Warden said. “Why the hell do they think government is the answer to the housing problem? The government is causing problems in many cases with onerous zoning regulations, unreasonable restrictions on wetlands, requiring expensive fire sprinklers, and a lengthy approval and permitting process.

Warden didn’t mention any provisions in the bill that actually address the local approvals process, but he thought the best solution was the free market.

“’Workforce housing’ is a misnomer. It’s just housing. If high-end, luxury housing is built, high-income tenants will leave noisy, noisy old buildings for chic, stylish new buildings, providing more available and affordable housing in vacated units.

Rep. Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, challenged the lead paint provision — not in Bill SB 400 — that would have removed the requirement for two children’s lead tests to trigger an investigation into whether the accommodation in which the family resides must be remedied.

“Now the assumption is that the apartment has to be reduced. We are going to increase rental prices. Some buildings are going to be taken off the market.

Others attacked the sheer size of the bill, calling it a “smorgasbord,” while others criticized the $9.35 million outlay to demolish the Justice Department building in Concord to make way for a garage estimated at over $35 million, “to save two blocks of walking.

Ladd defended the bill. He argued that the original bill as presented – which he said would double the number of students leaving vocational technical secondary schools – was one of the most important pieces of legislation on education adopted this year.

But overall, it was the garage that was the biggest selling point.

“If we don’t move today, we’ll be without a garage when the one on Storrs Street falls, which will probably happen in the next 10 minutes,” joked Rep. Karen Umberger, R-Kearsarge, who then added, ” the next years. »

“I know I hate it when concrete falls on the hood of my car,” added Smith, the Charlestown rep.

The bill, like the others, now goes to Governor Chris Sununu for his signature.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins