Legislative Process

LFDA Editor

In Brief: 

  • With 424 members, the NH Legislature, made of the House and Senate, is the fourth-largest English speaking legislative body in the world.
  • NH lawmakers are paid $100 per year plus mileage expenses.
  • The legislature has previously considered decreasing the time commitment for legislators and/or increasing their pay.
  • Pro: Removing potential monetary motives for running for office means representatives are more likely to be laypeople instead of career politicians.
  • Con: The low pay and significant time commitment prevents some highly qualified and good-intentioned individuals from running for the legislature.

Issue Facts: 

The New Hampshire House (400) and Senate (24) make up the largest state legislature in the U.S. and the fourth-largest English-speaking legislative body in the world, after the UK and Indian parliaments and the U.S. Congress.

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 between January and June of 2010 - and that doesn't include special sessions, committee meetings and public hearings, reports Foster's Daily Democrat.

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," UNH associate professor of political science Dante Scala told Foster's.

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 LFDA Editor

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

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 changing the state Legislature to biennial sessions.

Passed Senate

Revises the personal interest disclosure requirements for legislators, for example removing verbal disclosure.

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 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

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

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?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

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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

The House addressed 3 relevant bills in the 2016 session:

HCACR 18 is a constitutional amendment increasing annual compensation for state legislators from $125 to $2,500.

HCACR 25 is a constitutional amendment that only allows the House of Representatives to draft bills related to taxes.

HB 1326 provides that legislation can only be proposed in the first year of a legislative session.

All were killed. 

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