The Bulletin Board

House committee recommends more study on license reciprocity for foreign workers

By: - April 26, 2022 1:38 pm
The State House dome between tree branches

Lawmakers in the House Transportation Committee said too many questions remained unanswered on Senate Bill 308 to move it forward. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A proposal to create driver license reciprocity for foreign agricultural workers looks unlikely to pass the House this session, after a House committee voted against moving the bill forward. Instead, committee members said the bill needs additional study.

Senate Bill 308 would have granted license reciprocity to foreign agricultural workers legally entering the state through the H-2A worker visa program that allows people from other countries to enter the state each year to work on a temporary basis. The bill would have allowed workers who have a driver license issued by another country to drive a car in New Hampshire. 

The bill would affect between 100 and 200 foreign workers who come to New Hampshire each year through the program, according to Rob Johnson, director of the NH Farm Bureau Federation. And the legislation would have an impact on employers as well, who depend on workers to drive farm equipment. 

But lawmakers in the House Transportation Committee said too many questions remained unanswered on the bill to move it forward.

“Of all the bills we have here, I have to be honest, this is the one we worked on the hardest. We had meetings with the Department of Motor Vehicles, with the senator, with the Farm Bureau, and I think there is something we can get to that does give some relief to them,” said Rep. Thomas Walsh, a Hooksett Republican and the committee chair. “But it seems every time we got an answer on one issue, we came up with a question on another.”

Rep. George Sykes, a Lebanon Democrat who had co-sponsored the legislation, agreed to send the bill to interim study. “Because I have great respect for the chair and his vice chair and take their word that this will be a legitimate interim study, even though I’ve been a co-sponsor of this bill, I would urge my colleagues to support the interim study motion,” he said.

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee recommended interim study on SB 308 – a reversal from the bipartisan support the bill had gained in the Senate, where it received a unanimous recommendation it pass out of committee and then passed the Senate floor on a voice vote in February.

The bill will now head to the House floor for a vote on the committee’s recommendation.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.