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Could NH Restrict How Utilities Pay for Political Activities?

The New Hampshire House joined the Senate this week in getting tougher on public utilities passing costs related to politics and lobbying on to ratepayers. (Creative Commons)
The New Hampshire House joined the Senate this week in getting tougher on public utilities passing costs related to politics and lobbying on to ratepayers. (Creative Commons)
May 9, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. – A proposal to prevent public utilities in New Hampshire from charging their customers for the costs of lobbying and other political activities passed in the House Wednesday on a voice vote.

The legislation would also ban contributions to the inaugural committees of elected officials.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, a Democrat from Concord who is the bill's main sponsor, hailed the vote as a victory for ratepayers in the Granite State.

"Ratepayers should not pay for these activities at all,” he stated. “This should be incurred by the investors of the utilities, not by ratepayers. Rates are already high enough.

“So, it's a really important moment for the State of New Hampshire as a public integrity, public confidence, and I'm glad that the House embraced it in a bipartisan way."

Current Public Utilities Commission regulations already prohibit utilities from charging ratepayers for their political activities, but Feltes said this bill would ensure those protections in the event that the commission reverses the regulation.

The bill comes in part as a response to reports that Gov. Chris Sununu's inaugural committee raised $700,000 and had paid Sununu, his family and advisors more than $165,000 after his first election.

Public utilities made more than $20,000 in contributions to the inaugural committee.

Feltes brought up the controversy as he urged the governor to sign the bill, if it reaches his desk.

"I would encourage Governor Sununu to sign this commonsense campaign finance and public integrity reform,” Feltes stated. “Ratepayers are already paying higher rates. They shouldn't pay for political activities, lobbying fees or inaugural slush funds."

The next step for Senate Bill 206 is back to the Senate, where it already passed unanimously, to take up an amendment to the bill passed by the House.

Kevin Bowe, Public News Service - NH