One of the most consequential laws of the 2022 legislative session received next to no media coverage. But thanks to its passage, you might get to keep seeing your doctor, or have a nurse the next time you go to the hospital.

During the pandemic, health care facilities found themselves with sudden, critical shortages of providers. But by law they couldn’t bring out-of-state providers here to fill the gaps. Those providers lacked New Hampshire licenses.

New Hampshire does not automatically recognize out-of-state professional licenses. So the state had to tell hospitals and other employers that they couldn’t fill their staffing needs with qualified, licensed health care professionals because those professionals had licenses issued by the wrong state.

Gov. Chris Sununu responded quickly by issuing emergency orders that let these providers come to New Hampshire under an emergency license. Thousands did.

But here’s the problem with emergency licenses. They end when the emergency ends.

An emergency license is like a life raft that deflates when the storm ends.

Even if you Haven’t reached shore, that raft is gone. Now what?

New Hampshire issued emergency licenses to 22,328 health care professionals during the pandemic. Those licenses were set to expire in March.

What’s the big deal; those are just temporary helpers, right?

The 22,328 emergency license holders total 26% of all licensed health care providers in the state. They included 951 mental health counselors, 1,064 social workers, 1,114 psychologists, 2,104 Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, and 14,920 physicians.

Emergency license holders represent 36% of licensed alcohol and drug counselors, 39% of licensed advanced practice registered nurses, 44% of licensed independent clinical social workers, 45% of licensed clinical mental health counselors, 47% of licensed marriage and family therapists, 63% of licensed psychologists and 65% of licensed physicians.

To prevent a sudden and massive reduction in access to providers, the state needed to prevent the expiration of those licenses.

The solution was Senate Bill 277, which made those emergency licenses permanent. It also restored the Office of Professional Licensure’s authority to issue emergency licenses, and created an option for issuing emergency licenses going forward.

The bill preserved Granite Staters’ access to thousands of providers who had been offering care safety in the state for two years. But its long-term impact is even more important.

By granting permanent licenses to out-of-state providers, the bill undermines the argument, often made by industry trade associations, that out-of-state occupational licenses are inherently inferior and must not be recognized by New Hampshire.

In one fell swoop, the state just granted permanent licenses to more than 22,000 health care professionals licensed by other states. During two years in which those professionals practiced in New Hampshire, the Office of Professional Licensure recorded no serious health or safety violations from those practitioners.

Unfortunately, the state didn’t follow through to the obvious logical conclusion and simply grant automatic license reciprocity for practitioners licensed in other states. Legislators were not quite ready to go that far.

New Hampshire’s experience with emergency health care licenses during the pandemic showed that universal recognition of occupational licenses is a safe and effective way to increase access to medical care for Granite Staters. Why wouldn’t it also be a safe and effective way to increase access to all licensed professionals?

If relief from burdensome regulations could be measured in pint glasses, this year’s relief for New Hampshire’s beer industry wouldn’t fill a 2 oz flight glass. 

New Hampshire alcohol laws are a twisted knot of post-Prohibition restrictions pocked with favoritism and special protections for incumbent players. Reforms come slowly and gradually. This year, Granite State brewers got just a shot of relief.

Craft breweries that survive the start-up process face enormous obstacles to success. Think of the shelf space in the beer aisle at your local grocery or convenience store. It’s mostly national brands and larger regional breweries. 

To get on a retailer’s shelf requires negotiating that space with the retailer (who has to clear space already occupied by an existing brand), lining up distribution to the retailer, ensuring a steady supply of ingredients and packaging (including cans and bottles), and keeping production steady and consistent.

Many small-scale manufacturers don’t *have to* navigate such hazards because they have the option of opening their own retail outlets. If you make T-shirts or cupcakes, you can open your own branded stores and sell directly to the public. 

But not if you make beer.

Brewers classified as “beverage manufacturers” (as opposed to brew pubs or nano breweries) have long been restricted to selling their beer on-site or at a licensed retailer. The state prohibited them from opening  their own retail store in a location separate from their brewery.

Legislators not long ago created a separate legal entity called a “beverage manufacturer retail outlet,” but the law described such outlets as places where beverage manufacturing took place. So brewers were technically not allowed to open their own stores unless they also brewed there. 

This year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Sununu signed House Bill 1039, which fixed that mistake and finally let beer manufacturers open a stand-alone retail outlet not connected to the brewing operation.

“This beverage manufacturer retail outlet allows a brewery such as ourselves to open a separate location that’s basically just a tasting room that doesn’t have to have a manufacturing facility,” Kirsten Neves of Tuckerman Brewery said in an interview.

There’s a catch, though. The law allows beer manufacturers to open a single retail outlet.

If you make beer in the North Country, you’re limited to opening one and only one branded retail outlet below the notches. If you want to create a series of branded outlets to provide customers a consistent retail and beer-tasting experience in Manchester, Nashua, Salem, Londonderry, Keene and Portsmouth, well, tough. You have to pick one. 

One is a big improvement over zero. But the public safety justification for limiting brewers to a single self-operated retail outlet is a mystery considering that the state is covered in licensed retailers. What possible public safety danger is created by a brewer operating a retail outlet instead of delivering product to a third-party retailer like a grocer or convenience store?

Though state beer regulations impose pretty severe burdens on brewers, the only other legislative change this year was a bill by Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Derry, to allow dogs on brewpub patios. 

Some towns had been allowing people to bring their dogs when seated outdoors at a brewpub, but the state Department of Health and Human Services cracked down on the practice, saying it wasn’t allowed by statute.

So legislators actually had to pass a law to allow towns to allow dogs in outdoor seating areas. Birdsell’s Senate Bill 17 originally covered only brew pubs but was amended to cover all restaurants.  

To illustrate just how long it can take to make a small and reasonable change such as letting dogs sit on restaurant patios, the bill passed the Senate in February of 2021, but took almost another year before passing the House. Gov. Chris Sununu signed it into law this past February.

Until 2017, New Hampshire had a concealed carry law similar to New York’s, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional last week. 

And until last year, the state, like Maine, did not explicitly allow recipients of town tuitioning dollars or other school choice grants to spend their education aid at a religious school. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Maine’s law as unconstitutional last week.

How did New Hampshire manage to anticipate by a few years two upcoming U.S. Supreme Court rulings on significant constitutional issues?

New Hampshire did it the way the framers of the Constitution intended: By getting the details right, crafting strong arguments, and focusing on persuasion.

There’s a serious policy lesson to be had here, no matter where one stands on the particular issues.

In each case, the winning side started out as the losing side. The prevailing law held up the left-of-center position. Gun owners had to get a government official’s permission before carrying a concealed firearm in public, and school choice programs excluded religious schools.

Changing those laws took years’ worth of legal scholarship and serious policy work. Both times, advocates knew they couldn’t win by making a purely moral or philosophical case. They needed hard data and sound legal reasoning.

On concealed carry, proponents studied the laws of other states, researched crime statistics, and worked with lawyers and legal scholars to show that their position was well within the legal mainstream and was consistent with sound constitutional scholarship. 

School choice and religious freedom advocates did the same when working to prevent the state from discriminating on the basis of religion in school choice programs.

Last year, advocates succeeded in removing the prohibition on purchasing educational services at religious schools. They did it by coming to the Legislature armed with extensive histories of education funding, and with legal arguments and case law that detailed how the Supreme Court had come to treat such laws as violations of the First Amendment right to free expression. 

In short, the winning sides did their homework. Sure, they made moral and philosophical arguments too. But their cases didn’t rest on those abstract ideas. They rested on thoroughly researched, well-reasoned arguments crafted to persuade the mind, not enflame the passion. 

Emotional appeals still work in politics, of course. But coming to a policy debate armed with nothing more than passion is like bringing a karaoke machine to a gunfight. 

New Hampshire was able to get ahead of the Supreme Court on these issues because smart and savvy legislators and activists spent years crafting policies that were aligned with a growing consensus in these areas of constitutional law.

Ranting and venting can be useful for signaling displeasure. But They’re generally no substitute for a well-reasoned, heavily researched, carefully prepared argument. The framers of the Constitution would be gratified. 

High energy prices are a major concern of voters, so naturally the political party that controls Congress and the White House has offered a set of serious policy proposals to lower prices as quickly as possible. 

Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

In reality, voters are being sold a container ship full of malarky about energy prices.

On June 15th, President Biden bizarrely blamed both Vladimir Putin and oil refiners for high gas prices and urged refiners to increase production. It was bizarre because the claims had been debunked just days before by the federal government’s own Energy Information Administration. 

The EIA published an analysis on June 10th, five days before Biden’s letter to oil refiners, that dated the surge in oil and gas prices to 2020, not to the war in Ukraine that started four months ago. And the analysis estimated that refinery capacity would hover between 94% and 96% all summer. 

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has proposed doubling the taxes of any oil company that manages to enjoy profits of 10% or more. 

That’s slightly lower than the average profit margin of all industrial sectors in the S&P 500, and just 1.7 percentage points higher than the average for the energy sector, Yahoo Finance columnist Rick Newman reported in April. 

The tech, pharmaceutical, real estate and financial sectors all posted average profit margins last year of more than double the level Sen. Wyden has set for triggering oil company punishments. 

In New Hampshire, Democratic politicians are blaming the Legislature and the governor for high energy prices, claiming that Republicans failed to pass a slate of renewable energy bills to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

But they haven’t cited a single bill that would have lowered gas, oil or electricity prices this summer. 

A story about supposed “legislative inaction” on clean energy published in the New Hampshire Bulletin listed eight bills that were supposed to help deliver us from our current reliance on fossil fuels. Five of the featured bills have passed, which is not something customarily associated with “inaction.”

Not one of the five would have had any effect on current energy prices. One actually delays the reduction of Eversource electricity rates for a year and keeps the ratepayer-subsidized Burgess Biomass plant open. The plant buys wood pulp at above-market rates and has already cost Eversource ratepayers an extra $150 million for electricity.

The three other cited bills were to buy electric buses and electric state vehicles, and to accept federal money for electric vehicle infrastructure. They would have had zero effect on prices this summer.

Voters are being asked to believe that our “reliance on fossil fuels” has caused the recent energy price increases, and therefore anything that begins to shift the energy mix away from fossil fuels will help lower prices.

That is nonsense. The price increases have all been caused by a shortage in the supply of fuels relative to demand. 

Simply put, demand for energy surged in 2020 as the economy roared back to life earlier than expected, and supply has remained far short of demand ever since. 

What about renewables? In New England, gas comprises 53% of the energy mix, and nuclear another 27%, according to regional grid operator ISO New England. Renewables are up to 12%.

State subsidies for wind and solar power would have made no noticeable dent in the region’s reliance on fossil fuels for two primary reasons.

  1. Even if we could build renewable generation capacity on a massive scale in just a few years, wind and solar still rely on wind and sunshine. They aren’t yet capable of replacing gas or nuclear as a reliable source of baseload power.
  2. Renewable energy is not inherently cheaper or more reliable than natural gas. It’s become more competitive, and soon it might become a significantly cheaper source of energy. And if that happens, it won’t need subsidies or government “investments,” because the market will respond on its own.

What could have made a difference? Fewer government interventions to direct investments to satisfy the interests of politicians rather than consumers. 

When the government intervened to block pipelines, prohibit fracking, subsidize U.S. shipbuilders, divert resources to more costly “green” energy, and decommission functional, nuclear power plants, consumers suffered. 

“Under wholesale markets, private companies have carried the risks of uneconomic investments, not utilities and their customers, ISO New England concluded. “Consumers have benefited from this least-cost resource mix created through competitive markets.” 

A competitive market focuses on providing energy at the lowest cost. It will do this absent government interventions, just as markets for food, clothing, power tools and doughnuts do.

Government interventions that prevented investors from pursuing lower costs, and instead attempted to steer money to higher-cost alternatives, made energy markets less efficient, raised costs, and crimped supplies.

Repeal of the protectionist Jones Act alone would drop gas prices by 10 cents a gallon, according to a JP Morgan analysis.

To assert that the solution for high energy prices is more government interventions to further hamstring oil and gas companies would be like saying that the solution for the Boston Celtics’ scoring woes is to put more Golden State Warriors on the court. 

The answer is not more government manipulation of the market. The answer is to lift restrictions that interfere with the market’s natural pursuit of a “least-cost resource mix.” 

While the state was accumulating a record budget surplus this year, legislators were busy finding ways to raise more money from people who don’t mind handing cash to the state. Those would be gamblers.

How to raise more money from people who like to bet? Give them more opportunities to bet.

Until last week, charitable gaming venues were allowed to operate only from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Senate Bill 318, sponsored by Sen. Harold French, expanded that to 20 hours a day, and Gov Chris Sununu signed the bill last week. It took effect immediately.

Now, poker rooms can run from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. 

None of the 18 poker rooms in the state has switched to the new hours yet. But almost all of them stay open until 1 every night of the week. (Some close earlier on weekdays.) So it’s a safe bet that they’ll continue operating for as long as the law allows, provided they can find staff to work the extra hours.

During the Senate hearing on the bill, no one testified in opposition. Among the few questions was one from Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, who asked why, if the state is OK allowing operations for 20 hours a day, it bothers to set any limits at all?

That’s the right question. Under the new law, poker rooms are forced by the state to close for just four hours a day. Why? What’s the public health or safety benefit in closing them for about the same time it takes to watch half of the Ocean’s 11 movies?

Heavy regulations on gambling businesses are designed to protect the public from whatever spillover crime there might be and from the ravages of addiction. If those externalities are easily manageable, or are less costly than believed, then the case for such heavy regulation diminishes. 

Legislators seem to have decided that the pros (revenue) far outweigh the cons. But there remain understandable residual cultural reservations about the effects of gambling on the population, and this creates a reluctance to throw the doors wide open.

So the state moves mostly in the direction of maximizing revenues while holding onto a shred of the appearance of concern about ill effects. 

The same dynamic played out in the Keno debate this year. 

Keno brings in a lot more money ($47.9 million last year vs. 7.1 million for charitable gaming and simulcast horse racing). Keno has always been limited to places that have liquor licenses, but House Bill 335, sponsored by Rep. Tim Lang, expands Keno to any vendor that has a license to sell lottery tickets (provided the community has approved Keno sales).

The bill passed the Legislature and has yet to see action from the governor. 

These moves to expand gambling options are good evidence that the number of legislators deeply concerned about the potential ill effects of gambling is shrinking.

Two groups that favor gambling expansion are growing. One consists of those who want additional revenue. The other consists of those who think adults should be free to wager on games of chance if they want to.

A fun test of the strength of these factions could come next year. All someone would have to do is introduce a bill to let poker rooms operate 24/7.

CONCORD — Josiah Bartlett Center President Drew Cline has been tapped to host a new morning news/talk show on Manchester radio station WFEA, the flagship news/talk station of Manchester Radio Group.

“WFEA Morning Update,” airing from 6-9 a.m. weekdays, will launch on Monday, June 20th, filling a huge void in New Hampshire’s talk-radio market by offering the only politically right-of-center show airing in the state during the crucial morning drive-time slot.

“It has been too long since New Hampshire has had a strong, thought-proving morning talk show,” said Lucy Lange, Vice President and General Manager of Manchester Radio Group. “We look forward to bringing an insightful, local, conservative talk show to greater Manchester and the surrounding areas, including the state capital.”

With this change, WFEA is doubling the size of its local news effort to further serve the community.

Drew Cline has been president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, New Hampshire’s free-market think tank, since 2017. Before that, he was the long-time editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader, a freelance columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., and a reporter and editor for the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh.

A USA Today contributor, he has written for more than 100 newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, National Review, The Washington Post, Politico, The Boston Globe, The Weekly Standard, and The American Spectator. He has served as chairman of the state Board of Education since 2017.

Cline has also co-hosted for years an alternative rock show on WBNH-LP FM in Bedford, for which he won a Granite Mike Air Personality of the Year Merit Award from the New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters in 2017.

“I’m happy to be joining the great team at WFEA,” Cline said. “They’re committed to creating a top-quality news show while letting us have some fun with the format. The WFEA Morning Update will be unlike any other show in New Hampshire, so tune in and give it a try.”

Cline will continue as president of the Josiah Bartlett Center. The WFEA Morning Update is a product of WFEA and is not a Bartlett Center initiative. As the Morning Update will be a general news/talk show, the views expressed on the show will not necessarily be representative of the Josiah Bartlett Center.

For those outside the greater Manchester market, the WFEA Morning Update can be streamed live online at https://1370wfea.com.

In 1970, Manchester had more than enough rentals for all who needed one. Over the course of the next half century, the city created its own housing shortage. 

It’s a story repeated in many communities throughout New Hampshire. Manchester offers a case study based on Census figures.

Manchester had 36,024 total housing units in 1970, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. In 2020, the city had 49,445 housing units. That’s an increase of 37% in 50 years. 

By comparison:

  • Salem’s housing units grew from 6.795 in 1970 to 12,005 in 2020, an increase of 76%. 
  • Nashua’s housing units grew from 20,984 in 1970 to 37,933 in 2020, an increase of 80%.
  • Derry’s housing units grew from 4,279 in 1970 to 13,539 in 2020, an increase of 216%.
  • Total statewide housing units increased from 280,962 in 1970 to 638354 in 2020, an increase of more than 127%.

Those are total units, not just rentals. But you can see the rental shortage in the vacancy rate. Manchester’s rental vacancy rate fell from 5.4% in 1970 to below 1% today. 

(New Hampshire suffers from a similarly low vacancy rate, also caused by a shortage of rentals. Local planners in many communities have preferred to approve single-family homes rather than rentals.)

Because Manchester did not allow the construction of enough housing, the city’s population growth rate lagged the rates in some other municipalities. 

From 1970-2020, Manchester’s population grew by 32%. During the same period, Nashua’s population grew by 64%, Derry’s by 95%, and Salem’s by 342%. New Hampshire’s population grew by 87%. 

Because city officials chose to limit growth, Manchester’s population and economy have grown at a slower rate than the rest of the state as a whole. Artificially limiting the city’s housing supply created a drag on the city’s economic growth and cultural life.

If city leaders want to stimulate Manchester’s economy, revitalize its public schools, increase its tax base, and enhance its cultural life, goal No. 1 should be to approve a lot more housing, with an immediate emphasis on rentals. 

Granite Staters support building affordable housing in their communities, and even in their neighborhoods, a new poll from the Center for Ethics in Society at St. Anselm College has found.

The results upend the traditional view that residents don’t want new housing built close to them. That view has been used for decades to justify local regulations that limit the construction of homes and apartments. The new poll suggests that Granite Staters are much more open to change than previously assumed. 

Granite Staters expressed in the poll strong support for building affordable housing in people’s own communities, changing local regulations to allow more housing, and limiting local planning and zoning regulations.   

Among the findings:

BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING 

  • By a 69%-29% margin, New Hampshire voters said “my community needs more affordable housing to be built.” This represents a 9% increase from last year’s survey. 
  • For the first time, the center asked a subset of voters about building affordable housing in their “neighborhood” instead of their “community.” While “community” might refer to a whole town or city, “neighborhood” sounds like a much smaller context to most people. Respondents still endorse building more affordable housing in their own neighborhood by a 7-point margin (50-43%). 

CHANGING LAWS AND REGULATIONS 

  • By a 52-40% margin, New Hampshire voters support changing town and city zoning regulations to allow more housing to be built.
  • By a 70-21% margin, respondents endorse setting a “hard limit” on how long local planning and zoning boards can take to review permits to build housing.
  • By a 38-35% margin, Granite State voters endorse the concept of a bill that failed this session, which would have allowed property owners to build up to four housing units on any residentially zoned lot served by municipal water and sewer.

REEXAMINING WHERE HOUSING IS BUILT

  • By a 61-37% margin, N.H. voters oppose the idea that multifamily housing should only be built in cities, not in suburbs and rural areas.
  • By a 53-42% margin, voters oppose the state “doing more to prevent housing development and keep the state the way it is.” The poll’s data shows young people under 35 and retirees are generally the most supportive of building more homes and changing state and local laws to allow that to happen. As expected, non-homeowners are more likely than homeowners to endorse building affordable and multifamily housing. It also shows that while conservatives are less likely to endorse the concept of affordable housing, they are more likely than liberals to endorse having the state set a hard limit on municipal permit review timelines. 

“Legislators have yet to address the acute housing shortage caused by local overregulation in this session, but these poll results show that Granite State voters don’t want to wait,” Jason Sorens, director of the Center for Ethics in Society, told the Josiah Bartlett Center. “They want their own towns to change the rules to allow more homes to be built, and they want state government to get involved by setting a hard limit on permit review times and maybe even directly preempting local zoning rules. Going full ostrich on the housing issue could hurt the legislative majority if the problem continues to go unaddressed.”

Though Gov. Chris Sununu championed housing reform at the start of the year, the Legislature killed most reform efforts. The biggest housing bill of the year (Senate Bill 400) passed the Senate, but stalled in the House over concerns about the political costs of limiting local governments’ ability to restrict new development.

The bill would have slightly curtailed the power of local boards to limit where residential housing is built, and it would have allocated more state funding to municipalities that allowed more housing. 

The House removed those provisions and amended others, severely weakening the bill. 

Last week, both chambers incorporated a watered down version of SB 400 into another bill, HB 1661. It requires local boards to include written, specific findings of fact when rejecting a housing application. It requires zoning boards to begin formal consideration of received applications within 90 days of receiving them, and planning boards within 65 days.

A requirement for municipalities to grant workforce housing the same regulatory allowances made for senior housing was changed from a “shall” to a “may.” And a provision forbidding local boards from putting age restrictions on workforce housing was removed. 

Legislators also killed a bill to allow duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes on any single-family lot, one to forbid minimum lot sizes of more than half an acre unless it’s to accommodate a septic system, another to forbid minimum lot sizes of more than 10,000 square feet (excluding those with septic systems), and one forbidding proscriptions on workforce housing. 

Legislators did pass a bill to create a commission to study barriers to housing construction.  

A report published by the Josiah Bartlett Center last October, and written by the Center for Ethics in Society’s Sorens, detailed how local land use regulations have reduced the state’s housing supply and driven up prices.

The study found that residential land use regulations are associated with growing socioeconomic segregation and slowing population growth.

As housing becomes more expensive, fewer people are moving to New Hampshire, especially to those towns that are most expensive. Those who stay are disproportionately wealthy and college-educated, while middle- and lower-income families leave because they cannot find affordable housing. Costly housing in towns with better schools also limits families’ access to educational opportunity. Finally, the sprawl caused by anti-density policies such as minimum lot sizes increases drive times and road maintenance costs and worsens air and water quality.

 

 

As Republicans in Washington fight Democratic efforts to forgive federal student loans, GOP legislators in New Hampshire are promoting $1 million in tax-funded student loan forgiveness for graduates in one high-tech industry — human organ manufacturing.

In 2018, legislators passed a package of subsidies and tax breaks sought by the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, a Manchester organization founded to develop synthetic human organs in partnership with other companies, including new local startups. 

That package, Senate Bill 564, granted companies engaged in advanced regenerative manufacturing a 10-year exemption from state business taxes. At the time, ARMI was the only organization that qualified for the tax exemption. The Department of Revenue Administration’s most recent annual tax expenditure report states that multiple companies have filed paperwork to be deemed eligible for the credit, but there are so few that disclosing details of the filings would violate their privacy under state tax information disclosure laws. 

Included in the law was a Regenerative Manufacturing Workforce Development Program, through which the state would finance the repayment or forgiveness of student loans for qualified graduates. To be eligible, the graduates would have to work for a qualifying manufacturer in New Hampshire for at least five years. 

In the four years since its authorization, the Regenerative Manufacturing Workforce Development Program has never been funded. Lawmakers tasked the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority (NHBFA) with designing and administering the program, but made no appropriation. 

Legislators learned of the program’s unfunded status earlier in the legislative session, and Republican leaders took steps to find money for it. A $1 million appropriation was attached to House Bill 1256, a bill dealing with the Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services. 

In the HB 1256 conference committee last Wednesday, the funding drew bipartisan support, with legislators noting that the $1 million was a fraction of what had been intended for the program. 

“This is a test run to see how much they actually need for this,’ Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said.

Need is an interesting choice of words. ARMI initially received an $80 million Department of Defense grant for its regenerative manufacturing work and $214 million in other investment, according to a DOD press release from 2016. It has attracted other companies to Manchester’s Millyard, where work on human tissue generation is expanding — without the student loan subsidy.

It is not known how much of an employee’s student loans the program would repay or forgive, as the program has been on hold pending funding. A draft proposal the NHBFA gave to legislators in 2019, assuming full funding, stated that employees would have their student loans entirely paid off over five years. 

In general, loan repayments are considered taxable income unless otherwise exempted from taxation by law (as is the case with many federal student loan repayment and forgiveness programs). The NHBFA’s draft proposal stated that under federal income tax laws as of 2019, the forgiveness “would result in taxable income” to the employee.

The local forgiveness for regenerative manufacturing employees is supposed to help keep the industry in New Hampshire and facilitate hiring. But such favoritism hurts other employers who compete for the same workforce, and it transfers wealth from some businesses to others, based purely on which ones are politically favored.

And such subsidies clearly aren’t needed in an industry that has proven capable of raising hundreds of millions of dollars in startup capital.

In Washington, Republicans are moving in the opposite direction. U.S. Senate Republicans in April introduced the “Stop Reckless Student Loans Action Act” to end the Biden administration’s pause on student loan repayments and block future loan forgiveness. 

One stated reason for opposing federal student loan forgiveness is that most Americans don’t have college degrees, and they would wind up subsidizing the degrees of the roughly one third of Americans who graduated from college.

In New Hampshire, 35.4% of men and 38.4% of women have a bachelor’s degree, according to a state report issued in 2019. 

For years, Republicans in Concord have been divided on the issue of student loan forgiveness.

Earlier in the session, legislators blocked a Sununu administration effort to create a larger-scale loan forgiveness program. The Joint Fiscal Committee tabled a proposal to use $17 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to forgive the loans of students who agreed to work for at least four years in New Hampshire after graduating college. 

Gov. Sununu in 2019 proposed a $32 million student loan assistance program to be financed with revenue from the state’s 529 college savings program. Legislators rejected the idea in favor a smaller Graduate Retention Incentive Program. 

That program offers free job postings and marketing for companies that agree to give a $1,000 bonus or student debt payment to employees who agree to workin the state for four years.

New Hampshire has an established loan repayment program for medical professionals who agree to work in underserved areas of the state. It cost $766,783 in the current budget.

Companies have been working for years on new ways to recycle plastics, and they think they have a breakthrough concept: chemical, or “advanced,” recycling. If the technology is perfected, it has the potential to increase plastics recycling and decrease solid waste. 

Naturally, environmental activist groups hate it. 

In the Legislature this year, a popular, bipartisan bill to speed the development of advanced recycling in New Hampshire drew little opposition — except from some green activists.

Why? They prefer to abolish the production of single-use plastics. It’s a classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

A General Accounting Office report last fall concluded that advanced recycling created tremendous new opportunities for:

  • Resource conservation. Chemical recycling can produce raw materials of virgin quality, thereby decreasing demand for fossil fuels and other natural resources.

  • Reduced landfill use. A significant amount of plastic waste ends up in landfills. New technologies could reduce the need for landfills, which may reduce the release of harmful chemicals into the environment.

  • New markets. Developing advanced recycling technologies could promote domestic business and employment. Chemical recycling creates a market for plastic waste and a new way to reuse some plastics.”

A New York recycling investment fund last year concluded that the technology had real promise for investors and as a recycling technology. 

A McKinsey study out this week concluded that advanced recycling “could satisfy 4 to 8 percent of total polymer demand by 2030….”

Obviously, there are no guarantees. Some advanced recycling plants have struggled to make a profit and have closed within a few years of opening. It might never achieve its stated goals, as is true of any expensive new technology.

Among its obstacles are state regulations, which tend to classify such facilities as solid waste disposal operations.

Senate Bill 367 classifies advanced recycling facilities as manufacturing, subjecting them to laws and regulations that apply to manufacturers rather than to solid waste disposal centers. 

The Department of Environmental Services supported the bill and testified in favor of it. 

At the request of the department, the bill authorizes state inspectors to “enter and inspect any advanced recycling facility to ensure compliance with all applicable statutes and departmental rules relative to air, water, waste, and land use and take any enforcement actions necessary.” 

The bill received a unanimous 4-0 “ought to pass” recommendation from the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee and passed the Senate unanimously on a voice vote.

Sen. David Waters, a passionate environmentalist from Dover, co-sponsored the bill along with Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua. Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, also was a co-sponsor. 

In the House, however, opposition appeared. The House Environment and Agriculture Committee split on the bill, voting 4-3 in favor. The House passed it by 70-vote margin, but still 128 members voted against it. 

Some environmentalists worry that the new recycling process could cause unforeseen environmental problems. They don’t want it allowed until exhaustive testing and research can be done to guarantee safety. 

But that would delay the development of a promising new recycling technology indefinitely, and possibly smother it in the cradle. 

And that is exactly the point, for some activists. The Conservation Law Foundation opposed the bill, saying in a statement that it “disguises burning plastic as recycling and will spread toxic pollution into New Hampshire’s communities while keeping single-use plastic in production.”

The group’s stated goal is to end the production of single-use plastic. Making more of it recyclable is seen as an obstacle to achieving the end goal. 

As with natural gas power generation, some activists are hoping to block an incremental improvement to speed the arrival of a hypothetically perfect outcome. 

A GAO analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data from 2018 found that 75% of plastics wind up in landfills. Advanced recycling might have the potential to decrease that percentage substantially. But it can’t do that if environmentalists block it with a web of regulations.

Advanced recycling might not live up to its promise. But it definitely won’t if it’s never allowed to start.