Health Care Advocacy

 

 

NH Legislative Process

The NH Legislature is called the "General Court" and is divided into two chambers, the House of Representatives with 400 members and the Senate with 24 members. The Legislature operates on two-year timeframes, called "bienniums". All NH Legislators are elected/re-elected every two years.

The NH Constitution states that laws must be enacted by the Legislature, that is, issues can not be brought directly to statewide ballot by petition of the people.

When a legislator receives a suggestion from a constituent, or recognizes a need for a new law, or a change to an existing law he will bring his idea to the Legislative Services Office at the NH Statehouse. The LSO issues a list of all Legislative Service Requests for the new session which is available to the public at www.nh.gov, generally in October/November of each year.

Attorneys in the LSO will turn the LSRs into Bills by writing in legal language, and determining which portions of existing laws will be affected or changed. Drafts of bills will be returned to the sponsoring legislators to "sign off" their approval, then will go to the printer for final printing. The full text of the bills is generally available to the public on the NH State website in early January. If the sponsoring legislator is a member of the House of Representatives, the bill will begin its journey in the House of Reps; if the sponsoring legislator is a member of the Senate, the bill will begin in the smaller chamber.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate will receive lists of the bills for their respective chambers and will assign each bill to a Committee for further study and for a public hearing. The Chairmen of the Committees will schedule public hearings for each bill. Committee Chairmen are members of the majority party and are appointed by the House Speaker/Senate President. The public must be given 72 hours notice of the schedule of public hearings.

Public hearings are generally held in the Legislative Office Building, across the street from the Statehouse in Concord. Citizens who attend public hearings should sign the roster for the bill and check either "support" or "oppose". Anyone may testify in support or opposition to a bill by indicating this on the roster, or signing an index card which will be delivered to the Committee Chairman. Citizens may also submit written testimony to Committee members if they are not able to attend the public hearing. It is especially important for Committee members to hear opinions from citizens who are constituents in the districts they represent.

After the public hearing the Committee will hold an Executive Session to determine their recommendation for the bill. Executive Sessions are open to the public, but members of the public may not participate unless asked to do so by a Committee member.

The Committee may vote to recommend that the bill Ought to Pass, or they may recommend that the bill is Inexpedient to Legislate (i.e., should not pass).

The bill will then be scheduled for a vote before the full House of Representatives or Senate. First the full body will vote on whether to accept the Committee Report. If the bill survives the first vote, it will be voted on again, by Roll Call or Voice, to determine if it will pass on to the other Chamber. If the bill passes the second vote, it will Cross Over to the other chamber and the process of Committee assignment and public hearings will begin again. The deadline for all bills to cross over from one legislative chamber to the other is generally mid-March.

If a bill passes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, it will be sent to the Governor. He may sign the bill and it will become law, or he may veto the bill. If the Governor does not act on a bill within 5 days it will become law without his signature.

The Legislature may attempt to override the Governor's veto with a 2/3 majority vote in both Chambers.