Evading politics while working in Concord is no easy feat – the other day I had to shoo away a presidential exploratory committee before I could get into my car – but newsroom colleagues can attest that I’m pretty good at it.
Yet, even a government-phobe like me has to admit that some intellectually stimulating wheat can be found amid the chaff of politics. With that in mind, I hereby present my annual list of proposed New Hampshire bills that are of interest to the sort of people who read a column called Granite Geek.
Most of these will go nowhere or will get changed out of recognition during the law-making process, but the fact they’ve been proposed by at least one of the gazillion elected officials roaming the State House halls is notable, I think.
SB216 Establishing an automated vehicle testing and deployment commission and an automated vehicle testing pilot program, and providing requirements for automated vehicle deployment.
This issue came up last year when the Legislature approved a bill allowing private companies to test driverless cars in the state. Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed it, citing safety concerns.
HB567 would move us into the Atlantic Time Zone and do away with daylight savings time – as long as Maine and Massachusetts do it, too.
This idea has come up a few times in recent years. It brings out droves of daylight-savings haters but tends to fall flat when businesses start thinking about the reality of being out of sync with New York City.
HB603 would let algorithms that “perform the optimization process” draw political boundaries, trying to side-step partisan wrangling over deciding which voters get clumped into which districts.
A similar bill died last year.
It is one of several bills looking to change the process by which these boundaries are drawn, although it’s the only one that hands much of the job over to math.
HB132 is a “net neutrality” law that would set up rules for the state to certify that an internet provider being neutral in its handling of all information packets rather than favoring one over another, and says state contracts won’t be awarded to companies that fail to get certified.
The bill says the state has to take this action because the federal FCC’s “light-touch” regulatory approach towards congressional goals of promoting broadband deployment and infrastructure investment “is unlikely to achieve the intended results in New Hampshire.” It says the FCC approach “does little, if anything, to overcome the financial challenges of bringing broadband service to hard-to-reach locations with low population density. However, it may result in degraded internet quality or service.”
One concern: It might run afoul of U.S. rules about net neutrality, since telecommunication tends to be a federal rather than state issue.
HB161 and HB577 take aim, directly or indirectly, at telephone number “spoofing,” although they don’t use the term.
Spoofing is the tech term for presenting misleading information about who you are. You’ve seen it when your phone says that a call is coming from a certain number, yet it’s actually from somebody else – usually a scammer or less reputable form of telemarketer.
HB161 specifically forbids the use of “any method, including per-call blocking or per-line blocking, to prevent caller identification information from being received” and says that information “shall contain a telephone number at which the telephone solicitor may receive telephone calls and shall not contain misleading, inaccurate, or deceptive information.”
HB577 does roughly the same thing, but specifically when its used for telemarketing.
A number of states have put anti-spoofing laws into effect but they have usually run afoul of court rulings that say states can’t go beyond the federal law, which has so many loopholes that it’s largely toothless. I’m not sure how New Hampshire would solve that issue.
HB470 would allow state agencies to accept cryptocurrencies as payment.
Bitcoin! Need I say more?
If you don’t like that, there’s always HB190, which would “allow the use of gold and silver as lawful mediums of exchange in any transaction in this state.” Alas, it wouldn’t let us use those two-ton stone wheels that served as money on the Pacific island of Yap.
HB200 and HB490. These two bills would mandate differing levels of notice to patients that negative results on some Lyme tests don’t automatically mean you haven’t got Lyme disease.
HB200 would add a cautionary note to state rules that provide guidance to health care providers but are rarely seen by patients. HB490 goes much further; it would require that patents be given a paragraph-long statement that says you might have Lyme disease even if a serological test is negative and you shouldn’t be shy about demanding more treatment if you think your symptoms require it. A similar bill was rejected last year.
These are the latest step in years-long efforts by Lyme advocates who think doctors underestimate the prevalence of the disease.
Similar efforts have failed in the past partly because the medical establishment say they are either unnecessary or downright misleading, and partly because legislators are leery about being seen as practicing medicine from the State House.
HB536 would add biometric information to the consumer protection act.
New Hampshire legislators have a history of being skittish about technology that imposes on privacy – we don’t allow police to have license-plate readers, for example – so it’s no surprise that vein pattern recognition raises some hackles.
Vein recognition, which says people can be uniquely identified by the pattern of certain blood veins, is one of a number of “biometric information” systems that would be added to the state’s consumer protection act by this bill.
It also takes aim at “imagery of the iris, retina, fingerprint, face, hand, palm and vein patterns, and voice recordings, from which an identifier template, such as a face-print, a minutiae template, or a voiceprint, can be extracted.” And then there’s “keystroke patterns or rhythms, gait patterns or rhythms, and sleep, health or exercise data that contain identifying information” – those would be covered, too.
The bill would fine companies found to be “obtaining, using, disclosing or retaining biometric information about an individual with whom the person is engaged in trade or commerce for any purpose other than that which the individual reasonably expects.”
HB307 wants to require certain outdoor lighting to be a certain color (3,000 degrees Kelvin or less) “to better enable communities to conserve energy consumed by outdoor lighting and carry out dark sky policies.”
SB2785 would require all the vehicles owned by state government to be “zero-emission vehicles” by 2039.
SB218 would give the state transportation commission control over “small unmanned aircraft” – i.e., drones.