Legislature Roundup: House OKs bills dealing with rising sea levels, DES permits
CONCORD - The House Wednesday approved two bills dealing with potential hazards due to rising sea levels and major storms seen in recent years.
Senate Bill 163 establishes a commission to recommend future legislation so coastal communities and the state may better prepare for rising sea levels and other weather-related hazards.
Senate Bill 164 allows coastal and coastal watershed communities to include coastal management provisions in the 10-year updates to their master plans.
House Assistant Republican Whip Andrew Renzullo, R-Hudson, said both bills are based on projected problems not on what is happening today.
"This is not about the here and now; it is about the future (where we have to) deal with theories and projections," Renzullo said. "Don't we have enough the-sky-is-falling (legislation) at the federal level? Now we have to do it here."
He dismissed concerns about global warming, saying Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the coastal areas of New York and New Jersey, should be "taken off the scale" and instead viewed in terms of the history of New England hurricanes, which he outlined for House members.
But supporters of the two bills disagreed, saying the sea level is rising and more and more damage is done each year to seawalls and roads along the coast due to storms.
Rep. Chris Muns, D-Hampton, said the bills are important not only to his town but to all the communities along the seacoast and the people of the state.
There is increasing damage to seawalls and rock barriers, and homes are being flooded, he said. "Waves were going over Hampton seawall yesterday on a clear and sunny day," Muns said, and "we see the water levels rising in the wetlands behind our home."
The House passed SB 163 on a 228-124 vote and SB 164 on a 210-143 vote. Both bills will need to go back to the Senate because of changes the House made.
The House agrees with the Senate in consolidating land development permits from the Department of Environmental Services which supporters say will shorten the state permitting process for proposed developments.
Senate Bill 124 establishes a voluntary process for any project requiring two or more permits from DES.
The integrated permit would cover terrain alteration, wetlands, sewage disposal systems and shoreland protection.
Republicans agreed with the consolidation, but objected because the bill creates two new positions to oversee the integrated permitting process. However, the bill passed on a 218-137 vote.
The bill goes to House Finance Committee for review before a final vote.
The House hopes its second attempt to have the Senate honor Dover suffragist and the first woman to run for governor of the state will be more successful than the first.
The House passed a resolution directing the Joint Legislative Historical Committee to acquire a portrait of Marilla Ricker and have it hung in the State House, but the Senate has refused to take up House resolutions this session.
The Ricker portrait directive was added to Senate Bill 119, which would have the historical committee study restoration and preservation of State House flags. The bill passed on a 284-39 vote.
The House voted 212-120 to approve Senate Bill 194, which would provide access to family planning and preventive health services for families with incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
The bill will allow access to such services as birth control, health counseling and cancer screenings and allow the state to use $4 million in federal funding each year.
The bill goes to Gov. Maggie Hassan's desk.