Since we sent out our last message we have received more information about the budget process and what’s contained in the budget.
Last year SB 306, a bill that originated in the Senate that sought to create a state “Housing Appeals Board”, was destined to fail in the house of representatives. It was then secreted into the budget where it became law. This board (HAB) is comprised of three well-paid developers/realtors and has already overridden a decision made by the planning board in Francestown. To many that is the loss of local control.
This was the first of many upcoming cases. This board, per state statute, has the ability to override zoning and planning decisions and decisions of any other board such as conservation commissions and school boards. So it was very understandable that some of our members became upset when they saw the language in the current budget with regard to planning and zoning. They assumed that the Senate also wanted to include the language that was very similar to that of HB 586, a bill which was laid on the table.
We heard from some of our senators who were upset about the fact that we may have given the impression that they added those items we listed to this current budget. They informed us that these agencies were created 20 years ago and they were simply merging them with another agency in what they call a “housekeeping” action.
Specifically: “The has been absolutely no loss of control to our zoning and planning boards. There is no language reflecting this. What is currently in statue from approximately two decades remains the same. The Bedford Residents Association is referencing the movement of an existing office not the creation of a new office. It appears the BRA thinks this was added to the budget. It was not, this is the move of an existing office from OSI to BEA as part of the creation of the department of energy. These functions are in current statute in RSA 4-C. No changes were made to this office to give them any oversight or authority over local planning and zoning. They provide technical assistance to local planning boards when asked, but this office has no say or veto over any zoning or planning decisions made at the local level.”
Perhaps the agency mentioned in the budget has no oversight or veto authority over local planning and zoning boards, but the HAB certainly does as we already have seen with their very first action and that is likely why our members became alarmed.
Further, we were informed by our Senators that unfortunately they cannot change the budget anymore — they can only vote it up or down. We agree that it contains a lot of good things with regard to taxes that we do not want to lose. They assured us that if we don’t like what we saw with the language concerning those agencies we can request legislation to dissolve them just as we would like to do with the HAB.
Please continue to urge the House and the Senate to dissolve the HAB when the bill comes up again.
Perhaps we should also have them look into stopping the practice of slipping bills into the budget when those billd have already failed to pass in either of the voting bodies. Placing them in the budget after they have failed seems to be a practice that is contradictory to the voice of the people. In our opinion, this never should have been done. Once burned by this situation, it was easy for people to get upset.
We would like to thank the people that alerted us to the language in the budget as well as the Senators who researched the issue for us so that we could clarify what our next actions should be.