Legislative Process

Citizens Count Editor

The New Hampshire House (400) and Senate (24) make up the largest state legislature in the U.S. 

Lawmakers are elected biannually and paid $100 per year, plus mileage reimbursement.

Despite the minimal pay, legislators review more than 1,000 bills every legislative session. Representatives were responsible for attending 21 legislative sessions in 2018 - and that doesn't include committee meetings and public hearings.

University of New Hampshire Associate Professor of Political Science Dante Scala said the legislature "often is made up of older residents who have the time and financial standing to serve."

"They really run because they can. Unlike in states with professional legislatures, the barriers to entry are very low in New Hampshire," Scala said.

New Hampshire's revenue constraints make it unlikely that the state will significantly increase the pay for legislators.  However, the Legislature has explored decreasing the time commitment for legislators.

Click here for a primer on the state's legislative process.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

NH should keep its "citizen legislature" as-is.

  • Supporters of New Hampshire's "citizen legislature" argue that the large number of lay-person legislators ensures that citizens have maximum access to the legislative process. 
  • Ideally New Hampshire's legislative model also removes any selfish or monetary motive for running for office.

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

NH should make changes to its "citizen legislature."

  • The low pay and significant time commitment prevents some highly qualified and good-intentioned individuals from running for the Legislature. 
  • The large number of legislators also results in a significant, perhaps excessive, number of bills every year.  Each year, advocates for small, simple government argue that too much regulation passes through the Legislature.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment that allows the Legislature to change their compensation with approval of the Executive Council (current pay is $200 per session).

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment that decreases the size of the state House of Representatives from 400 to 200.

Signed by Governor

Repeals an obsolete mileage provision for Concord legislators.

Killed in the House

Decreases the mileage reimbursement rate for legislators, and prohibits deductions from mileage reimbursements.

Killed in the House

Changes some of the process to call a special election to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives.

In Committee

Requires the Legislature to make a maternity room, where a member can nurse or change a baby, available to legislators on session days.

In Committee

Requires a legislator to identify a private organization responsible for distributing a model act, if that act was then used by the legislator to draft proposed legislation. The bill also requires lobbyists to disclose their affiliation upon contacting a member of the Legislature.

Signed by Governor

Requires the state House of Representatives to live-stream and record every committee meeting for the public. The House amended the bill to instead establish a committee to study the issue of committee recordings.

Signed by Governor

Requires the Statehouse to provide interpreters for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing who wish to consult with their senator or representative.

Killed in the House

Requires that legislators be paid compensation in silver dollar coins. According to the State Treasury, this would amount to roughly $2,900 for each legislator for a two-year term.

Killed in the Senate

Establishes a committee to study the economic challenges of employed persons serving in the New Hampshire Legislature.

Signed by Governor

Establishes an independent human resources professional in the administrative office for the Legislature, responsible for handling complaints involving sexual harassment.  This bill also requires the Legislative Facilities Committee to adopt a sexual harassment policy before each two-year legislative session.

Passed House

Establishes a civil penalty, up to $5,000, for candidates and officials who fail to file the financial disclosure form required by state law. The financial disclosure form is a statement of financial interests intended to ensure officials do not have a conflict of interest while working for the state. The House amended the bill to instead require the Attorney General to notify anyone who fails to file a financial disclosure form, and fine the person $50 if they fail to file within 30 days of that notice.

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to call a recall election for an elected official.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to study mileage reimbursements and compensation of legislators.

Killed in the House

Requires legislator compensation be paid in quarterly installments, every six months.

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment changing the state Legislature to biennial sessions.

Signed by Governor

Revises the personal interest disclosure requirements for legislators, for example removing the requirement to disclose membership in a public body such as a planning board.

Tabled in the House

Requires that legislators be paid compensation in silver dollar coins. The State Treasury notes that although the face value of a silver coin may be one dollar, the spot value varies and was $16.47 on January 4, 2017.

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment that only allows the House of Representatives to draft bills related to taxes.

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment increasing annual compensation for state legislators from $125 to $2,500.

Killed in the House

Provides that legislation can only be proposed in the first year of a legislative session.

Killed in the House

Decreases the mileage reimbursement rate for state legislators.

Tabled in the Senate

Constitutional amendment changing the state legislature to biennial sessions.

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment changing the state legislature to biennial sessions.

Should NH keep its "citizen legislature" as-is?

Comments

TOPH
- Stratham

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 12:00am

The NH State House of Representatives is the largest state legislative body in the United States.  Each of its 400 members represents an average of 3,309 citizens. If the US House (435 members) offered the same ratio of representation as the NH House, it would have nearly 100,000 members.  Instead, there are 435 of them and average of three quarters of a million people each.

Relative to those staggering figures, NH state reps have a good chance to do a great job representing the views of their constituents, don’t you think?  And if someone is willing to give two years of their life (assuming one term), for two six-month legislative sessions, plus countless committee, community, town, and constituent meetings in the “off season”, plus and special sessions, AND get paid only $100 per year with little-to-no staff support…  Oh, and they theoretically have to campaign at some point (now).

Wow, it’s a miracle there are 400 people who want the job! (Note: There are 900 +/- state-level candidates filed for all of the various up-for-grabs offices in the upcoming 2014 NH election.)  How are there this many people who have time to do this?  That’s a ton of time away from families and “day” jobs and businesses and commitments!

Just thinking about it makes me want to know who these people are.  Don’t you want to get to know your reps better?  And the candidates?  If they are willing to make the sacrifice of time and effort and money, shouldn’t we have the decency to get to know who they are and cast an informed, affirmative vote?  And communicate with them so they can represent us effectively?

To all those who serve (and run), I salute you.

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Issue Status

This year, legislators considered two proposals for constitutional amendments that would have altered the shape of NH's "citizen Legislature". One would have allowed legislators to change their compensation with approval of the Executive Council. The other would have decreased the size of the state House of Representatives from 400 to 200.​ Both were killed in the House.

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