SERVICE OF ALCOHOL AND WINE AT BEVERAGE AND WINE MANUFACTURERS: On a vote of 14-9, the Senate approved a floor amendment to SB 418 that would increase the amount of product beverage and wine manufacturers and nano breweries could serve for consumption on the premises. The House has already passed a similar bill, HB 1725. These bills are the continuing creep of beverage and wine manufacturers wanting to serve more of their product at their facilities without having to make an investment in food service, essentially becoming bars with no (or little) requirement to serve food. These bills would enable beverage manufacturers and nano breweries to serve two pints of beer. Wine manufacturers would go from 2-ounce samples per label to two 5 ounce glasses. This change moves the manufacturers from allowing patrons to “sample” their product to allowing patrons to pull up to the bar and enjoy a couple drinks. NHLRA will continue to oppose these bills.
YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: On a vote of 11-10, the Senate passed SB 318 with amendment. Introduced at the request of NHLRA, the original bill would have repealed employment restrictions for 16 and 17-year olds. Current state law limits the number of hours 16 and 17 year olds can work. Federal Labor law has no such restrictions. As amended, the bill now does a variety of things. It removes the requirement for 16 or 17 year olds that have graduated from high school or obtained a high school equivalency credential from providing an employer proof of permission to work from a parent or legal guardian. It also increases the number of hours 16 or 17 year olds can work in one week. Current law limits it to no more than 6 consecutive days or more than 30 hours a school work week. As amended, the bill keeps the 30 hour limit on school work weeks, but loosens it as follows: no more than 6 consecutive days or more than 40 hours if school is in session for 4 days; no more than 6 consecutive days or more than 48 hours if school is in session from 1 to 4 days; and no more than 6 consecutive days or more than 56 hours during summer vacation or any school vacation week. The bill also limits the NH Department of Labor from doing unannounced inspections to those instances where a complaint is filed. It further makes it clear that employees can purchase company garments beyond any uniform that is purchased for the employee by the employer. Finally, it makes it clear that there will be no penalty for failure of an employer to provide notification to an employee concerning changes to their wage when the minimum wage is increased by statute. The bill now goes to the House.
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE: The House voted 171-162 to pass HB 628 on to the Senate. The bill would establish a paid family and medical leave insurance program for employees taking time away from work because of the birth of a child of the employee; because of a serious health condition of a family member; or because of a serious health condition of the employee. The insurance pool would be funded through a .67% deduction from employee’s wages which employers would remit to the NH Department of Employment Security on a quarterly basis. Employers would provide employees, upon hire, a form prepared by the Department that explains the program and provides an opportunity for employees to opt-out of the program. Employees would be given an opportunity to opt in on January 1 of each year. Participating employees would have to invest into the fund for 6 months prior to taking leave. The benefit would provide a participating employee 60 percent of their average weekly wages in the highest quarter of the year prior to the benefit year payable up to 6 weeks leave. The Senate Commerce Committee will hear the bill soon.
PAYMENT FOR UNUSED VACATION OR PERSONAL TIME: The House voted 169-161 to kill HB 1393. The bill would have required an employer that terminates an employee for any reason to pay that employee no later than the next regular pay period for unused vacation time or personal time. A week ago, the House passed a similar bill, HB 1201. This bill, which is now in the Senate, would require employers to pay employees earned but unused vacation time upon reaching the employee’s date of hire anniversary or the end of annual vacation time accrual period.
LOCAL SURCHARGE ON OCCUPANCY UNDER THE MEALS AND ROOMS TAX: The House voted 178-148 to kill HB 1609. The bill would have allowed cities and towns to add an additional surcharge not to exceed $2 per occupancy per 24-hour period on rentals within that city or town. This surcharge would have been in addition to the state’s 9 percent meals and rooms tax. The licensee would have remitted the surcharge to the state along with the 9 percent state tax. The state would then have sent those funds collected back to the city or town. NHLRA opposed the bill.
CASINO GAMBLING: In a bizarre moment to walk down memory lane, the Senate took SB 586 off the table and debated it and then laid it back on the table. Long-time casino proponent, Senator Lou D’Allesandro announced on the floor that this is the last time he will bring a casino bill forward. He talked about his 20-year effort to authorize casino gambling and his frustration that he could never convince the legislature to pass the bill. By laying the bill back on the table, the Senate effectively killed the bill because it will now need a super-majority to pass it since the deadline to act on Senate bills has passed. This truly could be the last time we see a casino bill in NH.
PROHIBITING SOBRIETY CHECKPOINTS: On Thursday, March 29 at 9:45 a.m. the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear HB 1283, which would prohibit law enforcement agencies in NH from conducting sobriety checkpoints.
HEALTHCARE PURCHASING ALLIANCES: On Thursday, March 29 at 1:45 p.m. the House Commerce Committee will hear SB 546, which would provide that health coverage purchased through a qualified purchasing alliance shall be considered by the NH Insurance Department to be large group coverage. Where health status or experience is currently permitted as a rating factor for large employers, it is prohibited for small employers. This bill would allow health status or experience rating for purchasing alliances. It also would reduce the number of enrollees necessary to form a purchasing alliance from 3000 to 250.
Contact the NHLRA with your legislative questions or concerns at 603-228-9585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.