Municipal Watchdog Group Says SB 458 Sets Dangerous Precedent

Courtesy of the New Hampshire Municipal Association

Concord — May 11, 2004 — A law exempting “private driving instruction and exhibition facilities” from town regulatory authority over race tracks pursuant to RSA 31:41-a became effective Tuesday May 4th. SB 458 first came to our attention Wednesday, the day after it became effective. While the bill went through the full schedule of notice and public hearings, it certainly remained under the radar screen for many with concerns and moved through the system with unusual speed, signed by the Governor on March 5th and becoming Chapter 4 of the 2004 session laws.

Although the bill was advocated by representatives of the proposed Tamworth race track and has the most immediate impact there, it removes the ability of any municipality to apply RSA 31:41-a or RSA 31:42 to “exhibition facilities,” which are defined in the bill as containing a paved roadway two or miles in length and used for, among other things, the exhibition, maintenance, and operation of vintage or specialty motor vehicles and the conducting of supervised amateur competitions.

The bill was apparently touted as not taking away local control, but it exempts certain activities from existing local regulatory authority—the specific authority the Tamworth residents just happened to exercise in their March 2004 town meeting. We believe it sets a dangerous precedent for seeking legislative relief from local regulation in pending cases where existing municipal and state appeal processes should be used to resolve disagreements.

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