A Senate-passed bill to boost the housing supply in New Hampshire got a makeover from the House Municipal & County Government Committee prior to its floor vote this week.
The measure, in its original form, had a bipartisan majority, with 13 of the 24 state senators as co-sponsors and a handful of state representatives from both parties as well.
Supporters of the Senate version decried the committee’s work, claiming the amendment is a “poison pill” that derails the bill aimed at addressing a critical need in New Hampshire – more housing.
“[L]awmakers adopted an amendment that would derail SB 400, the bipartisan Community Toolbox bill that has the backing of a broad coalition of stakeholders,” said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action New Hampshire.
Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) said the GOP majority saved the bill from “certain death” and said the amendment “is more accurately described as a steroid shot,” not a poison pill.
“It is a shame to see anyone unwilling to take advantage of this opportunity to finally reach agreement on reforms that have been shot down already two years in a row,” Osborne added. “This bill was resuscitated by the Republican majority with an amendment to reaffirm three key House positions that had been given short shrift by our friends across the wall.”
The amendment, if adopted, will ensure a Committee of Conference on the measure, which adds in three pieces of legislation that failed in the Senate after passing in the House.
HB1393, relative to the adoption of school budget caps, HB1268, limiting city council bylaw and ordinance authority, and HB1272, limiting the authority of town health officers will all be added to SB400 under the new amendment.
“Members on either side of the aisle should see this as a win-win scenario for everyone,” Osborne said.
Andrew Cline, president of the free-market Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, had mixed feelings about the legislation. “SB400 was a bit of a grab bag of middling housing policy measures that faced understandable opposition in the House,” Cline said. “But it had some incentives to encourage communities to modernize land-use regulations in a really positive way. If the House version passes, the Committee of Conference will have the opportunity to restore some of that language. Given that the median home price in New Hampshire has risen by $130,000 in the last two years, Granite Staters will be looking to the Legislature for some relief.”
And libertarian Free State founder Jason Sorens took issue with the amendments, too.
“It will be hard for New Hampshire Republicans to tell voters they are doing something truly positive for housing,” Sorens tweeted. “One of the amendments kneecaps the workforce housing law by removing it from application to the majority of the state.
“Some of these amendments may or may not have been good policy. That’s not the point. They were put into the bill so that the bill would fail on the floor. It sounds as if pro-housing Republicans on the committee may have been duped.”
As for the amendments, adding House positions to Senate bills is common as is the reverse, a long-time state politico tells NHJournal, saying this type of “horse-trading” and “hostage-taking” is fairly common after crossover. Both bodies will angle to get their policies added to bills from the other side of the wall and then hammer out the differences in a Committee of Conference closer to the end of May as the session wraps up.
House sources tell NHJournal this won’t be the only bill ‘taken hostage’ to attempt to get leverage over the Senate, who killed a number of key House bills.