CONCORD — The House spent nearly two hours Thursday debating the finer points of House rules and constitutional issues over a bill that would have New Hampshire join a national program developed by paint manufacturers to dispose of old paint.
The program established in House Bill 1570 is used by most other New England states and relieves cities and towns of the cost of disposing of old oil-based and latex paints.
But opponents argued the bill amounted to a new tax on paint and should have gone to the House Ways and Means Committee for review before the House voted on it.
Manufacturers fund the program by assessing retail establishments about 75 cents a gallon of paint; opponents said that amounts to a new tax on paint. House leadership said no state tax or fee is involved.
Opponents also said the proposal did not have a public hearing before the House taxing committee and that created a number of parliamentary challenges and maneuvers by Republicans to delay the bill — or kill it — both of which failed.
Supporters said it will save cities and towns money and is more environmentally responsible than the current system, which sends old paint to landfills and incinerators.
Rep. Scott Burns, D-Franklin, argued the program is voluntary for retail establishments and would help cities and towns save on paint disposal costs.
He argued that the bill does not institute a tax, but places a fee on retailers. Others argued that it would still boost the price of paint to consumers.
House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said the bill would increase the costs of home improvements.
“Some proponents may say that sellers could absorb the tax — currently 75 cents per gallon in the three states where the program is in effect. Maybe large box stores, with deep pockets can, but those small town mom-and-pop hardware stores cannot,” said Chandler. “This new tax will no doubt get passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.”
Other opponents argued that the bill creates a monopoly and freezes out manufacturers who do not want to participate in the program.
“Any paint manufacturer not willing to sign on with this program will not be allowed to sell their products in New Hampshire,” said Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry. “This will essentially eliminate the ability for new, small paint companies to enter the New Hampshire market and reduce competition and stifles innovation.”
Nearly down party lines, the bill passed on a 161-142 vote.
The bill goes to the Senate where it is expected to be killed.