In Case You Missed it

Meghan Hughes forwarded the notes from Lucy Webber’s talk on Having a Say in the State. – Lil

Having a Say in the State

In light of increased interest in New Hampshire legislation, Representative Lucy M. Weber spoke to a gathering of constituents at the Walpole Town Library, February 10th, about participation in the process. She focused on how legislation works, how to track bills and legislators, and how to have input.

Journey from Concept to Law

The New Hampshire General Court — the House and Senate of the state legislature — runs a legislative session from January to May or June. Rep. Weber said ideas for bills are submitted in November, with draft attorneys putting them in proper format. Each bill goes to at least one committee where it gets a public hearing; is studied and revised, if indicated; and is voted on by the entire body. Some bills then repeat the process in a second committee–the Finance Committee if the bill spends money, the Ways and Means Committee if it impacts revenue, the Criminal Justice Committee if it has a penalty, and so on. Bills that pass in either the House or the Senate go on to the opposite body and go through the same process. A conference committee works to resolve differences. It then goes to a vote before both bodies. If it passes with a majority vote in each body, it goes to the governor for approval or veto. (A two-thirds vote in both bodies can override a veto.)

Tracking Bills and Legislators

To find a bill, go to the New Hampshire General Court website. If you know the bill number, you can go to Quick Bill Search. If you don’t know the bill number, go to Advanced Bill search and type in keywords of the bill title. Or you can go to standing committees (in the Senate, in the House) to search for it there. Once you’ve found the bill number and have put that in to Quick Bill Search, it will give you the text, legislative history (docket), and status of the bill.

To find your legislator and track their votes, go to the New Hampshire General Court website, and then to the House of Representatives and Senate Roster. Once you’ve clicked on their name, you can find how they voted and what bills they’ve sponsored.

For more detailed information on navigating the New Hampshire General Court website, Rep. Weber compiled this tutorial.

Having Input

To have input, Rep. Weber noted you have the most impact if you are a New Hampshire resident and are from the same district as the representative you are writing. Additionally, if you have a perspective people haven’t considered, that can carry weight. Testifying about the personal impact of proposed legislation at a public hearing can also be influential.

To write your legislator, simply click on their email address in their description. Legislators don’t have staff, so be aware of that when writing them. If you don’t get a response, Rep. Weber said, then write again. Sometimes periodic swells of emails can drown out yours.

To write committee members who are considering a bill you care about, click on the email address in the committee description and one email will go to all committee members.

Asked how people are to know of bills that might affect them, Rep. Weber said that legislators write op-eds on legislation they’re concerned about. She also credited lobbyists with tracking such legislation, pointing out possible impacts, and informing their interest groups about them (via newsletters, websites, blogs, Facebook pages, or Twitter accounts).

Rep. Weber said New Hampshire is unlike most other legislatures in that all bills have public hearings, a vote in committee, and a vote by the full House or Senate.

The event was sponsored by the Fall Mountain Alliance and the Walpole Town Library and moderated by Sara Kagle.

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