As a full-service law firm, NHLA offers our clients legal advice and information, representation in all of New Hampshire’s state and federal courts and before several state agencies, and advocacy at the New Hampshire Legislature. To read an overview of our 2016 policy advocacy work, click here.
In the legislative forum, we lobby for policies that reduce poverty, promote the well-being of low-income people and senior citizens, and enhance access to justice for all. We target our work toward policy proposals for which NHLA can provide specialized expertise grounded in practical experience representing clients.
Our legislative work includes monitoring proposed legislation and rules, presenting oral and written testimony to administrative agencies and House and Senate committees, and negotiating and collaborating with policy makers and other stakeholders.
NHLA focuses our legislative work on policy and budget proposals that impact basis needs, in areas including housing, health care, subsistence benefits, domestic violence, and energy/utilities. Here we highlight some of our legislative advocacy work. (We also advise and represent residents who receive utility disconnection notices.)
Electric and Gas Assistance Programs:
NHLA was instrumental in the creation of a state-wide low-income Electric Assistance Program which helps low-income families afford their electric bills. The program currently provides households a discount of between 8 and 76 percent off their monthly bill, based on their income in relation to the federal poverty level guidelines.
An NHLA attorney sits on the program’s advisory board which monitors and guides how the program’s funds are distributed. In 2014, around 36,000 households received a discount on their monthly electric bills through this program. This program also funded emergency grants to low-income New Hampshire residents who received disconnection notices this past winter.
Energy efficiency program for low-income NH families to get a boost in funding - NHLA Energy and Utility Justice Project Director Dennis Labbe, September 19, 2016
Making it through a New Hampshire winter takes guts, a good pair of boots, and - if you want to keep a lid on how much it costs to heat and power your home - modern appliances, windows and insulation.
But new windows, better insulation, and other energy-efficient upgrades are often far out of reach for low-income families who struggle to pay the utility bills each month.
Good news: New Hampshire is expanding resources for low-income families looking to improve their homes and save on their energy bills. Click here to read more.
An update on the Electricity Assistance Program for low-income New Hampshire residents - NHLA Energy and Utility Justice Project Director Dennis Labbe for the Keene Sentinel, June 18, 2016
NHLA has also worked collaboratively with natural gas utility companies in encouraging the Public Utilities Commission to authorize a discount rate reducing the monthly natural gas bills of many low income New Hampshire residents. NHLA continues to monitor the outreach efforts of these companies to ensure that eligible households are aware of and receive these discounted gas rates. (For more information about these programs, visit the websites of Until or Liberty Utilities.)
Low-Income Energy Efficiency Programs:
NHLA also regularly advocates for the sincere inclusion of low-income households in energy efficiency programs. In this work, NHLA represents The Way Home, a fellow non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income households obtain and sustain safe, affordable housing throughout the state.
NHLA, on behalf of The Way Home, intervenes in dockets at the Public Utilities Commission that determine the funding and design of energy efficiency programs throughout the state. NHLA and The Way Home advocate for energy efficiency funds to weatherize low-income homes, helping these families use less energy to keep their homes warm and their lights on, thus saving their valuable limited resources for other needs.
In the latest two year plan approved by the Public Utilities Commission, NHLA helped to secure 15.5 percent of the total energy efficiency funds for the low-income "Home Energy Assistance Program", up from a 15 percent allocation in the previous plan. In 2014, approximately 1300 low-income households were served by the Home Energy Assistance Program.
NHLA’s latest energy efficiency project involves representing The Way Home as an intervenor in a case concerning the establishment of an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard in New Hampshire. More than a dozen states nationwide have adopted similar standards, which set targets or goals for energy savings that electric and gas utility companies in the state must meet each year.
NHLA and The Way Home will work to give a voice to the concerns of low-income Granite Staters to ensure that low-income households continue to be included as active participants in energy efficiency projects as New Hampshire looks to ramp up its commitment to reducing energy usage.
In addition to this on-going policy work, NHLA provides testimony at public hearings in the state Legislature to educate and inform lawmakers about the potential impact of energy and utility related legislation on the low-income community. NHLA regularly speaks out in favor of legislation that will assist those low-income ratepayers most in need, and stands up against the raiding of funds dedicated to financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
NHLA policy advocacy in the news
All children should have access to clean air and water and safe housing for a fair chance to grow and thrive. But poor children are more likely than others to be exposed to the negative health effects of environmental hazards like industrial waste, pollution and lead poisoning from paint and water.
The New Hampshire Bar Foundation recently approved $450,000 for a New Hampshire Legal Assistance initiative to prevent and/or mitigate the effects of childhood lead poisoning in low-income New Hampshire communities. This work, funded by part of New Hampshire’s share of a national settlement with Bank of America, will improve living conditions for individual children and their families and promote better housing conditions in the most vulnerable neighborhoods of our state.
N.H. study shows certain groups of students more likely to be kicked out of school - Concord Monitor, October 8, 2016
Mirroring national trends, certain types of students in New Hampshire are getting kicked out of class at much higher rates.
A recent University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy study looked at statewide data from 2010 to 2014 and found that male students, students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, students of color, students with disabilities, and homeless students were much more likely than their peers to experience exclusionary discipline – discipline that sends kids out of school. NHLA's Youth Law Project advocates for individual students, and for policy changes at the state level.
Removing review before employers can switch to biweekly pay puts low-wage and hourly workers at risk - Concord Monitor, May 4, 2016
Thank you to the New Hampshire Senate for tabling a bill that would have helped no one and could have created new and overwhelming difficulties for our state’s low-wage workers.
Bill would give homeowners more notice before foreclosure sales -- NH1 News, Mar. 17, 2015
Former NHLA clients speak to the NH Senate Commerce committee about how more notice would help New Hampshire homeowners benefit from federal programs to avoid foreclosures.
Anti-homelessness advocates slam bill that would raise the threshold for renters -- Concord Monitor, Jan. 29, 2015
Allowing landlords to collect a security deposit and first and last months' rent at the same time will raise barriers to low-income renters, advocates said.