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Senate passes bill backed by N.H. dealers, opposed by automakers

The state Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation yesterday that is supported by New Hampshire’s auto dealers and opposed by automakers.

On a 21-2 vote, the Senate approved a revision to the existing Dealer Bill of Rights, adding broad new protections for local dealers including a rule that manufacturers can only require their affiliated dealers to renovate facilities every 15 years.

Senate President Peter Bragdon of Milford and Sen. John Reagan of Deerfield, both Republicans, voted against the bill. Sen. Andrew Hosmer, a Laconia Democrat and the general manager of the AutoServ chain of dealerships, didn’t vote to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

“We want to thank the Senate for listening to their local constituents,” said Pete McNamara, president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association, in a statement. “This proposal will stop the unfair pressure and spending mandates passed down to us from manufacturers, and will require basic fairness in the relationship.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a national group representing 12 big automakers, strongly opposed the bill, calling it government intervention in a private business relationship.

Bragdon said he voted against the bill because it would go too far in interfering with current contracts.

The legislation now goes to the House.

Preservation, liquor, businesses

In other action yesterday, the Senate on a voice vote passed a bill expanding an existing tax-incentive program known as RSA 79-E.

The program allows cities and towns to grant property tax breaks for projects in downtown districts. The bill passed yesterday expands the program to include historical buildings located outside a downtown or village center.

The Senate also, on a voice vote, passed a bill requiring the State Liquor Commission to produce a Civil War-themed commemorative liquor bottle. The proceeds from sale of the bottles would be used to help preserve Civil War battle flags displayed at the State House.

And on a 24-0 vote, the Senate passed legislation revising and updating the New Hampshire Business Corporations Act.

“New Hampshire’s corporate statutes have fallen behind the curve in terms of usability, business friendliness and how they interact with modern day technologies,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, in a statement.

Bradley said the bill approved yesterday “will reverse that trend and move the Granite State to the front of the pack nationally.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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