Back in the days before every game was televised and digital highlights were at your fingertips, barkers at the baseball stadium would shout out, “Get your scorecard here! You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!”

Unless you memorized uniform numbers, it was certainly true. With a scorecard you could distinguish who was in the game and even fill in their box scores when they came to the plate.

Jim Roche

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In state government, scorecards are great for keeping tabs on the performance of legislators. With roughly 1,000 bills introduced each year on everything from speed limits to pasteurized milk, that’s a lot of at-bats. It’s not just about what bills ultimately make it into law, it’s also about legislation that didn’t make it. By keeping a scorecard focused on employer issues, we can keep a tally on how individual lawmakers voted on bills of particular importance to New Hampshire’s business community.

BIA recently published its 15th annual Legislative Scorecard and sixth annual Victories & Defeats for New Hampshire Businesses. You can find this companion publication on our website, BIAofNH.com. The two documents track how Senate and House members (both individually and collectively) voted on legislation of keen interest to the business community and summarizes the outcome of a wide variety of bills in a mix of policy areas.

BIA is a nonpartisan advocate for our members — leading employers, large and small, in every corner of the state. Business-friendly legislation sometimes falls on the political left and sometimes falls on the political right. The 2019 Legislative Scorecard offers an easy-to-read listing of some of the most important publicly recorded roll call votes made during the last session. These include votes on mandatory paid family medical leave, business tax hikes, legislation that would impact the cost of health care, and bills that would increase the cost of electricity in the Granite State.

While BIA’s Legislative Scorecard is a reflection on how lawmakers treated business interests, Victories & Defeats for New Hampshire Businesses reflects how well BIA communicated its positions and influenced the public policy debate. The document runs through more than two dozen key bills that were considered by the House and/or Senate in the 2019 session.

In some cases, lawmakers considered bills that would harm our climate for job creation and economy, and voted them down. These include efforts to change employee leasing practices, require differential pay for overnight shift workers, and restrict siting of liquified natural gas storage facilities. Despite efforts to increase business taxes by freezing and rolling back rate reductions already in law, a bill to do so died on the table.

Other legislation that was rejected or tabled found its way into law through the budget process. Language from these bills were added to the state’s biennial budget trailer bill (a piece of companion legislation that enumerates the dozens and dozens of statute changes necessary to make the line items in the $13 billion spending plan work).

Pro-business measures that passed along with the budget include increases to the New Hampshire Job Training Fund to help employers upskill their current workforce, increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates to help tamp down cost-shifting to the business community, and creation of a state-level administrative housing appeals board for developers to appeal unfair or unconstitutional decisions to block increases in affordable housing stock for working men and women throughout the state.

It’s important to note that while Gov. Sununu vetoed the first budget proposal that came to his desk, BIA did not take a position on the budget one way or another. This has been our practice for some time. A state budget is filled with compromises, so there’s always plenty to love and plenty to hate. Instead, we focus on individual measures we think legislators should be aware of as they put the budget together.

Our Victories & Defeats document lists a great number of bills that would have been marked as “defeats” were it not for vetoes from the governor. In fact, Gov. Sununu vetoed a record 57 bills last session, and many of them pertained to legislation that would have adversely affected businesses.

Among the measures that appropriately fell to the veto pen were prohibitions on using credit history or salary history in employment decisions, mandatory paid family leave, costly changes to the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard, expensive changes to workers’ compensation definitions, and changes to net energy metering policy that would have resulted in cost-shifting to other ratepayers. It’s unfortunate that so many bills with clearly detrimental effects on New Hampshire businesses made it through both chambers, requiring the vetoes in the first place.

Legislators will return to the State House next month, and already some are filing repeat versions of the same bills from last session. Nevertheless, BIA hopes fewer lawmakers will support legislation harmful to New Hampshire’s climate for job creation and economy this time around.

BIA will publish its 2020 scorecard next fall, just in time for the next state election. We hope voters will take the time to check precisely where their local senator and representatives came down on key issues during the 2019 legislative session. Because like at the ballgame, you can’t tell the players apart without a scorecard.

Jim Roche is president and CEO of the Business and Industry Association. The BIA, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce, produces this column monthly exclusively for the Sunday News.

Friday, January 17, 2020