As lawmakers prepare for the opening of the 2023 legislative session on Wednesday, one local legislator is putting forth a bill to take on the state’s aging demographic and give municipalities a tool to help them revitalize their communities.
While New Hampshire offers property tax relief to seniors, state Rep. Matt Simon, R-Littleton, who is entering his second term in the Legislature, has filed a bill allowing municipalities to offer property tax credits to people with young children.
“It allows municipalities to attract young families if they’re one of the towns in the state that is struggling with demographics if they’re aging out,” he said. “It gives them a tool that they can use to attract younger families.”
New England as a whole is losing population, a trend that, if it continues, will have several impacts, including the strength of regional and local economies.
States are dealing with it in different ways.
Vermont, for instance, launched a relocation incentive program that reimburses people for up to $7,500 if they move there to take a job.
“Obviously, we are an aging demographic,” said Simon. “This legislation is enabling in nature. No one has to do it. It’s not forcing municipalities to do anything. For those that think it would be helpful, we just want to make it available to them.”
While many towns in New Hampshire are seeing aging populations, some in northern Grafton County, like Bethlehem and Littleton, are seeing a slight increase in younger residents.
Others, including towns in Coos County, are not.
“Littleton and Bethlehem are not the towns that are likely to take advantage of that particular method, at least in the short run,” said Simon. “But there are other towns that could really use this kind of legislation to help them out. A lot of it is the communities you don’t hear a whole lot about. Partly because of their aging population, they’re not the movers and shakers in the state of New Hampshire. They’re the ones that are kind of stagnating. So providing the tools for them to be able to revitalize themselves as they move forward is important.”
Currently, the bill does not carry a tax credit dollar amount per child.
“At the moment, it would be left to the discretion of the municipality,” said Simon. “I’m sure it will come up during committee deliberations.”
As the 20th annual remembrance of the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch nears, House Bill 96 seeks to observe May 3 of each year as Old Man of the Mountain Day.
Under the legislation, which is sponsored by state Rep. John Potucek, R-Derry, and co-sponsored by New Hampshire House and Senate leaders, the governor shall issue an annual proclamation calling for the proper observance of May 3 as Old Man of the Mountain Day in honor of the iconic rock formation that collapsed.
After cracking apart for years and having to be reinforced, the stone formation that resembled a human profile completely broke apart in the early morning hours of May 3, 2003.
Today, a memorial to the Old Man stands at the shore of Profile Lake below the mountain.
Nearly 80 years ago, the Old Man became the state emblem of New Hampshire.
Across the Notch to the east is Little Haystack Mountain, a 4,760-foot peak along the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains, south of Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln and along a popular hiking trail.
State Rep. Sherry Dutzy, D-Nashua, seeks to rename Little Haystack Mt. Kosciuszko.
Tadeusz Kosciuszko was a Polish military leader who moved to North America, where he fought in the Revolutionary War as a member of the Continental Army and supported human rights, including freedom for enslaved African-Americans.
“The bill really comes at the request of a constituent,” Dutzy said on Friday. “He and his son are history buffs and they thought it would be in keeping with the naming system of the Presidential Range if it were named after General Kosciuszko … When you think about someone who came here on a ship to assist the patriots in their Revolutionary War, it’s really humbling.”
Another outdoor-related piece of legislation is House Bill 141, which seeks to allow dogs off-leash on certain hiking trails in state parks.
Sponsored by state Rep. Michael Harrington, R-Strafford, the legislation would allow dogs off-leash on hiking trails where motor vehicles are prohibited, provided the dogs are under the verbal or physical control of their owner or handler, who must restrain and control the dog if necessary.
Leashes are required for dogs on hiking trails when the trail crosses into a picnic or camping area, parking lot, or near a restroom, and on certain trails, the state designates as having high pedestrian traffic.
Signage will be posted on trails indicating where dogs must be leashed.