January 20, 2017
This week, we shifted our focus from energy onto new issues:
Employee Credit Checks (HB 130)
They often say that there is nothing new under the sun, and there are few places which prove the truth of that old adage better than the State House.
On Wednesday, the House Labor Committee held a public hearing on HB 130, a bill that would prohibit employers from conducting credit checks of employees unless the employee’s credit status is substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job. By our count, a similar bill was introduced (and failed to pass) in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Although we can certainly understand the desire to protect employees against overly intrusive checks, there are a couple of problems with the bill that we thought were important when this proposal came up in the past and which once again were brought forward in the testimony that came out in the hearing on Wednesday:
- Whether a credit check is necessary is a decision that is best left to the employer. It seems highly unlikely to us that employers are going to go to the time and expense of having credit checks done unless the employer believes that such a check is legitimately necessary for determining whether that employee is going to be a good employee. As the bill’s sponsor put it in the hearing, the only thing that should matter if you are hiring a plumber is whether the person is a good plumber. We think the sponsor is on to something there, but we think that the best person to make that decision is the person who is making the hiring decision. The employer is not likely to pass up on that hypothetical good plumber if the person is indeed a good plumber, and so logic would dictate that credit checks will be seen as unnecessary in all but those situations where the employer legitimately believes that the check is important in making the hiring decision.
- The second point pertains to the evidence of a problem (or more precisely the lack of such evidence). One of the committee members asked the sponsor if he had any data regarding what goes on in New Hampshire, and he was not able to supply anything there. This is consistent with what emerged when this bill was proposed in other years: there simply is no evidence of any wide-spread problem in this regard and indeed we are not aware that anyone has presented a single instance of a New Hampshire employer abusing credit checks. So this legislation necessarily would be dealing with a hypothetical future situation in New Hampshire (and you know what we think about legislation that does things like that).
The State Budget and Staffing Shortages
One event that happened at the State House this week that did not get much notice may have a more wide- ranging significance than would appear at first glance. On Wednesday, the Governor and Council approved a 15% wage increase for nurses at the state prison. The Department of Corrections asked for this increase because the wages had become inadequate to attract and retain nurses at the prison (a number of slots were vacant). That seems like a prudent move on the part of the state.
Sitting in the background of all this, though, is the wider question of whether the state is going to do the same for the many private businesses who furnish healthcare services for the State, especially in the Medicaid area. The State’s long-standing practice of paying far below cost for these services has led to a severe staffing shortage in a number of these types of settings, and over the course of the summer there were several legislative study committees that were looking at the staffing crisis in nursing homes and in home care, to name just two areas.
The Chamber has been a long- standing advocate of fairness in the way that the state pays private businesses for their services. So we hope that the state budget that is being developed will give private health care providers doing work for the state the same attention that the state has given to its own employees.
We have a couple of big events coming up next week. On Monday, we are conducting our annual Legislative Symposium. It will be taking place at the Courtyard by Marriott from 8 AM to 11 AM, and all members are welcome to join our Senators and Representatives. You can register online at the Chamber website.
On Wednesday, my focus will be on HB 267, a bill to repeal the Rail Transit Authority, which we will oppose.
Did I say that there is nothing new under the sun?