by NH State Rep Tim Lang |
I sit on the JLCAR committee at the NH State House. This committee is supposed to listen to State Agencies and the public about proposed Agency rules, and then vote to object or approve the rule.
Last Friday, the New Hampshire DES (Department of Environmental Services) Administrator ‘took the stand’ to introduce a controversial policy regarding water contaminants. Senator Feltes immediately, before the Director even got to say a word, moved to approve the policy, which was seconded by Sen Watters. Then for all intents and purposes, public comments were closed.
The room was full of people wishing to testify. The committee chair and Senator Feltes took a shortcut on the controversial rule and shutdown public comment. No one else was able to take the stand to speak in opposition to the policy due to the motion. Public comment was effectively quashed.
I was, as a committee member, able to ask the Directory of DES, a couple of questions, but then was shut down by the chair, who started to answer the questions for the DES Administrator.
With the few questions I was able to ask the Director, I learned that the proposed State standards exceed that of federal recommended standards. That these standards will cost local towns, municipalities and condo associations or anyone who provides water, millions of dollars to comply. I ALSO learned that there is no money attached to the DES policy nor the State budget to assist these towns and municipalities to pay for compliance.
I felt it was unconscionable to use parliamentary procedure to halt public comment on such an important issue. it was irresponsible for anyone to vote for a policy, which we know will cost towns potentially millions of dollars, having not even a wild guess as to cost.
When your local tax bills go through the roof due to this policy (and they will), Just remember,
- Sen Feltes didn’t want to hear about it.
- He didn’t want t help you fund it.
- He just wanted the good press for passing ‘cleaner water standards’ and did not care that you are covering the huge price tag. for it.
PS: I opposed the motion. The public should have been heard. The cost of compliance should have been known. And if the state is gonna change these standards it needs to share or pay the price to meet the new rule, and not downshift the costs to towns who already are having local property tax problems.
[NOTE: Senators Feltes and Watters decided that the NH Constitution is just mere toilet paper with regards to Article 28-A which prohibits the State from passing unfunded mandates down to the towns and cities -Skip]