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State House Roundup: Fuel oil dealers could have to keep their finances liquid

March 22. 2013 12:53AM

CONCORD - Fuel oil dealers will have to provide financial backup for prepaid heating contracts and register with the Attorney General's Office under a bill approved by the Senate Thursday.

Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Sen. Molly Kelly, D-Keene, would require home heating oil and liquefied petroleum dealers to secure customer prepaid deposits by maintaining futures contracts with suppliers, letter of credits or surety bonds of at least 75 percent of all prepaid balances.

The financial vehicles would be filed naming the Attorney General's Office as beneficiary.

The dealers would also be required to register with the attorney general and to file an annual report on the prepaid program Oct. 31 demonstrating how the company has met its obligation to secure customers' payments.

Originally the bill required dealers to place funds in an escrow account, which was opposed by the dealers who said such an arrangement would be unworkable.

Regulating pre-buy contracts has been before the Legislature for several years when dealers in Concord, Exeter, Laconia and Keene went out of business, costing many pre-buy customers more than $1 million and leaving them without fuel oil.

The Attorney General's Office has received a substantial number of complaints about pre-buy contracts over the years.

The bill now goes to the House.

No more checks

Workers may no longer receive their pay in checks if their employers decide to use payroll cards or direct deposit instead, according to a bill passed by the Senate on a 20-4 vote.

Supporters said the bill, SB 100, will move the state into the 21st century and will save employers money.

But opponents said there are many people in the state who do not have a bank account, or access to money during banking hours. They also said fees are charged with the payroll cards are used more than one time to withdraw a week's pay.

"Technology is overtaking all of our lives.," said Senate Bill 100's prime sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro. "This is a bill that will help small businesses and it becomes a win-win because it also helps employees.

Workers will receive their wages sooner, the cards are PIN protected and cash will be available 24 hours a day he said.

But Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said the bill is a major change of policy for the state.

"This says the employee has no choice and will be paid in whatever medium the employer chooses. ... How is that good for our constituents?" she said.

The bill now goes to the House.

Corporation laws

The Senate approved a bill revising the state's business corporation laws to better reflect the current activity said supporters.

Senate Bill 41 was backed by all 24 senators and is similar to one the Senate approved last year that died when the Senate refused to go along with changes the House made in the bill.

Senators from both sides of the aisle said the laws need updating to improve New Hampshire's business environment and allow the state to better compete with other states.

"New Hampshire's corporate statutes have fallen behind the curve in terms of usability, business friendliness, and how they interact with modern day technologies," said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 41. "This hampers the state's ability to attract good, high-paying jobs. SB 41 will reverse that trend and move the Granite State to the front of the pack nationally."

The bill allows for electronic notification related to corporate governance and meetings, clarifies the management of conflict of interest and business opportunity transactions, expands the ability to convert to a business corporation and provides an objective test for when shareholders must vote on a sale of "substantially all" of the assets of a business.

Quick in-state tuition

CONCORD - All veterans, immediately after establishing residence in the state, would be eligible for in-state tuition rates in the state university system under legislation overwhelmingly passed by the House on Thursday.

Originally, the bill, HB 624, required a veteran to establish residency in the state within one year of separation from service to be eligible for in-state tuition rates.

After passing the House 281-28, the bill now goes to the state Senate.

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