Local Business Leaders Begin the Day with Chamber Forum

State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, sees two major issues facing New Hampshire: “Heroin – and everything else.” The “everything else,” he explained, is how to make New Hampshire prosper.

Bradley, Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, Rep.Robert Introne, R-Londonderry and Rep. Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, were the panelists in the annual Legislative Breakfast held this past Friday by the Greater Derry/Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. Legislators and business leaders packed the dining room at the Londonderry Country Club to hear what was accomplished in 2015-16 and what still needs to be done.

Chamber Director Will Stewart thanked the legislators for coming. “You make the grand sum of $100 per year, the least we can do is give you breakfast,” he said jokingly.

Stewart added that the Chamber is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates. But, he said, “This gives members of the business community an opportunity to interact with Senators and Representatives.”

Stewart asked the panelists to highlight the accomplishments of their committees. Bradley said one of the main accomplishments of 2015 was reforming Workmen’s Compensation.

Energy prices are a concern, he said. “We need to strike a balance in protecting property rights while bringing in the energy we need.”

Health care is also dominant and Bradley was pleased to see Medicaid expansion. “There are 50,000 people who can’t not have health care,” he said. “They get sick like everyone else.”

Business taxes are also a concern and Bradley said that this past Legislature worked hard “To bring one of the most anti-competitive business tax environments into the 21st Century.”

The “Planet Fitness” bill was in opposition to a tax on any “Infusion of cash” into a business. “This is a disincentive to start-ups,” Bradley said, and the tax was removed last week.

Birdsell is Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee and Chair of the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. The Transportation Committee dealt with several issues involving OHRVs including making them easier to regulate and allowing larger vehicles on back roads, she said.

“If I’m on Transportation again, the biggest issue we’ll address is economic development in the state,” she said.

To that end, she recently sponsored a bill to allow businesses to advertise on highway signs.

Introne is a member of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee and said some of the issues they dealt with were wind towers, solar and other alternative forms of energy.

“Net metering” or the amount of solar energy an entity is allowed to sell was another talking point, Introne said. “In 2008 we put a cap on how much people could develop,” he said. With more homeowners getting into solar, the cap was doubled. The Public Utilities Commission is looking into the issue of selling back energy, he said, and will create a tiered system.

Chandler, chair of Public Works and Highways, said the big issues this past year were the capital budget and the 10-Year Highway Plan. The capital budget, which funds all state buildings, is $100 to $120 million, a number Chandler said they fought to keep under control. “It’s real money,” he said. “Sooner or later, you’ve got to pay it back.”

He’s pleased with the Highway Plan, calling it “The best plan ever.” It is fully-funded, Chandler said. “A few years ago people said things like, ‘Oh, we’ll just add this in at the end,’ and the project remained unfunded. That became a problem.”

Stewart noted that the full funding will enable the expansion of I-93 from Salem to Manchester, which will benefit his constituents. Stewart asked the panel if the Legislature will be looking for more energy sources. “Or have you focused on the more vocal minority?” he asked.

Bradley said he believes they have struck a “Reasonable balance” between environmental and energy concerns. He pointed to SB 245, the “Siting law” established in 2014.  The bill adds two members of the public to the Site Evaluation Committee for new energy projects, and has adopted a “Public interest” standard to protect the environment and property values, he said.

Eversource was the main sponsor of the breakfast forum.

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