We are quickly approaching the mid-point of the 2012 NH Legislative Session. Legislators plan on wrapping up their business by early June. Here are some of the issues that affect our industry and are still alive and in play in the legislature:
LIQUOR IN GROCERY STORES: The House Republican Leadership is working hard to try to pass legislation to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell liquor alongside the beer and wine already they are already able to sell. The House Commerce Committee recently deadlocked on a vote of 9-9 on a recommendation to approve an amendment that would have allowed the private stores to sell liquor. They voted instead to set up a committee to study the issue. Leadership is expected to try and convince the 400-member House to turn down the committee's recommendation to study the issue, and instead pass the bill to put liquor in the grocery stores. The full House will vote on the bill on March 7. If the bill passes the House, it will have a much tougher time passing the Senate.
EMPLOYEE LUNCH PERIOD: The House is scheduled to vote on a bill on March 7 that would increase from 5 to 6 the hours an employee may be required to work before being granted a half hour lunch period. The House Labor Committee voted 11-4 to recommend the bill's passage.
DRINKING GAMES: The State Senate is considering legislation to add "drinking games" to the prohibited list of activities that licensees may not allow on their premises. Under RSA 179:19, VI, licenses may not allow gambling or wagering on their premises. The bill was brought forward by the Dover "Youth to Youth" organization, which is a teenage drug and alcohol prevention program. NHLRA strongly believes that this bill is a solution looking for a problem. Even the Enforcement Division of the NH Liquor Commission admitted at the public hearing on the bill that drinking games have not been a problem they've seen at licensed establishments. The full Senate will vote on the bill sometime in March.
CASINO GAMBLING: The House will vote on casino gambling one more time on March 7. The House Ways & Means Committee is recommending that four casino licenses be issued. Two of the licenses would authorize facilities with 5000 slot machines and 150 table games. The other two would be more like slot parlors, with 2000 slots machines and 60 table games. The bill would establish a new cocktail lounge license for these facilities, which would allow for alcoholic drinks to be served 24 hours a day whether or not food is being served. Governor Lynch has vowed to veto the bill, and neither the House nor Senate has the supermajorities to override a veto.
SWIMMING POOL LIFTS: U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen contacted NHLRA recently to find out what she could do to help our industry fight back new federal regulations that will require lodging properties to install permanent lifts in pools and spas for persons with disabilities. Shaheen is working with the American Hotel & Lodging Association to put pressure federal regulators to delay the March 15 implementation date and reconsider whether portable lifts could meet the ADA requirements.