The Legislative Process
The New Hampshire Legislature’s website provides information on the status and the language of specific legislation. Starting at the General Court’s home page, you can find links to the House, the Senate, and information about legislation. The site also features “Find Your Representative/Senator”, leading to other links useful in identifying and contacting members of the legislature. House and Senate committee rosters can also be accessed from this home page, by clicking on the House or Senate links to “Committees.”
To look up a specific bill, several search tools exist. The simplest of these is the “Quick Search” link. Simply enter the bill number, without inserting a space between HB (House Bill) or SB (Senate Bill) and the bill number. (For example, enter SB123.) This Quick Search feature provides access to the text of the bill (for actual bill language, sponsor names and committee referral) and the bill’s docket (for information on hearings, work sessions and actions taken on the bill). “Advanced Bill Search” and “Bill Text Search” functions are also available from the General Court’s home page.
To look at House or Senate Calendars, which list upcoming committee hearings, bills to be voted on in upcoming sessions, and other legislative activities, start at the General Court’s home page and select the link to House or Senate “Calendars and Journals.” The House Calendar contains committee reports with their vote recommendations to the full House (including minority reports in the case of some split votes). The Senate Calendar shows committee votes, without the detailed majority and minority reports shown in the House version.
The House and Senate Journals are a record of actions taken by the full House and Senate, including roll call votes.
Audio of House and Senate debate is available from the General Court website. From the home page, select “Streaming Media” and then the House or Senate audio link to hear live, streamed debate or archived audio files of earlier sessions.
For a thorough overview of the process, see the Understanding the Legislative Process information below. In addition, NHMA has also created How a Bill Becomes a Law, an illustration available for download in PDF format.
For additional questions or legislative concerns, contact the Government Affairs staff at 800.852.3358, ext. 3408, or email@example.com.
Understanding the Legislative Process
Every year, legislators file hundreds of new bills that have the potential to affect New Hampshire municipalities. The following is a summary of the legislative process. For more detailed information, download a copy of NHMA’s publication, A Guide to Legislative Advocacy for Local Officials, or contact the Government Affairs department for a print version.
The legislature operates on a biennial calendar, holding annual sessions, and adopts its own rules of order and operation, setting various deadlines for legislative action. The first deadline is for the introduction of bills. By then, legislators must provide to the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) all the information needed to draft the bills. Once drafted and printed, bills are introduced into the House or Senate and scheduled for hearing. Some hearings are scheduled before the bills are available for review, or with very short notice, which presents problems for the public, including local officials and advocates representing various interests. As a result, NHMA can’t always provide full analysis of a bill prior to its scheduled hearing, so please bear with us in those few instances.
The public hearing scheduled on each bill provides time for testimony by legislators and members of the public. The protocol followed at hearings is for the sponsor(s) of the bill to be recognized first, followed by other legislators, and then members of the public.
For hearings in the House, anyone who wishes to testify must fill out a pink index card (available in each committee room) and submit it to the committee chair. Someone who wants to register an opinion, but does not wish to speak, may register on the blue sign-up sheet as being in support or opposition to the legislation.
Senate hearings use sign-up sheets, whether a person desires to speak, or simply cares to record a position on the bill. Again, after calling on legislators, the committee chair usually calls on witnesses in their order of sign-up.
The next set of session deadlines involves the time by which a bill must be voted out of committee, and the date by which the first full body (House or Senate) must act. Some bills go to a second committee in the same body; for example, bills involving expenditures or appropriations often go to the Finance or Ways and Means Committee.
Both the House and Senate use the same motions for acting on legislation:
- Ought to Pass;
- Ought to Pass with Amendment; or
- Inexpedient to Legislate (a motion to kill the bill).
If the bill passes the originating body, it goes on to the other body and repeats the process. If the House amends a Senate bill or the Senate amends a House bill, the bill goes back to the original body for approval of the amendment. The originating body can approve the amendment, disagree with the amendment and kill the bill, or request a committee of conference to work out differences in the two versions of the legislation.
The committee of conference process can be dramatic, as once a committee of conference issues its report, the only choices for action by each body are to adopt or reject the committee’s report. If the report is not adopted, the bill dies.
When both bodies approve a bill, or adopt a committee of conference report, the bill goes on to the Governor. The Governor can sign the bill, let the bill become law without a signature, or veto the bill. If vetoed, the legislature has one last chance to pass the bill by attempting an override, which requires a two-thirds vote of each body.
For a visual overview of the legislative process, see our illustrative rendition of How a Bill Becomes a Law.