With the 2018 midterm elections passed, the newly elected and returning officials are formulating ideas of their own or those of constituents they may have heard on the campaign trail. The actions of the New Hampshire legislature affect the lives of all state residents, making it critical for persons with disabilities to now advocate for more opportunities to live, work and participate in our communities.
Newly elected members of the General Court, both Representatives and Senators, are now getting organized in their respective chambers – Click here to learn about your current legislators.
The Legislative Pipeline
While the 400 Representatives and 24 Senators get organized, they are taking their ideas to the office of Legislative Services, where all legislation is prepared. Members file a request for a bill to be printed (early January), heard in a hearing and voted upon later in the year. Unlike many other states, every bill in the NH legislature will get a hearing and a vote.
The requests made to Legislative Services are known as LSRs. A LSR is a one-line description of a proposed bill (e.g. “Relative to health and Human Services”). It is not uncommon for there to be as many as 1200 LSRs filed at the beginning of the legislative session. Each LSR will ultimately become a proposed bill. At this early stage in the process, advocates for persons with disabilities review the entire list to determine which LSRs are most likely to affect the disability community. Other interest groups. such as environmental or energy, follow a similar process.
The original Representative or Senator, or the “lead sponsor”, will seek other representatives or Senators to join with them and be a co-sponsor. The deadlines for LSR’s this year are:
- Tuesday, November 13, 2018 – First day for all Representatives to file LSRs with complete information.
- Monday, December 3, 2018 – Last day to file LSRs with complete information.
Once a bill is printed, it is assigned to a particular policy committee, whereby the committee chair will set a time for a public hearing. Most bills that impact the disability community begin in the Health and Human Services, Commerce, Executive Departments, Transportation or Finance Committees. The number of committee members in the House can be as many as 18 representatives, while in the Senate the number can be as few as four. The date for the hearing is printed in the House or Senate Calendar, depending whether the lead sponsor is a member of the House or Senate.
At the hearing, those who want to testify will sign-in and indicate whether they want to speak or simply register to support or oppose the bill. In most cases, the lead sponsor will speak first and introduce the bill, who is then followed by any other speaking member. After the Members have spoken, the Chair will call upon someone in the audience who is an expert on the subject area, typically a state agency official or an outside expert recommended by the lead sponsor. The Chair will then go through the list and call those who have indicated they want to speak. It is recommended that those testifying should avoid repeating what others have already said and instead offer a new perspective or personal story of how the bill will affect their life.
Following the hearing, the Chair will appoint a subcommittee from the policy committee membership to work on the bill should it require rewording or other amendments, which can take several weeks due to scheduling or other complications. Once completed, the proposed amended bill will be brought back to the full committee for a final vote. The choices a committee has are:
- “Ought to Pass”;
- “Inexpedient to Legislate”;
- Or the committee may retain the bill for further work during the second year of the legislative session.
These recommendations are then forwarded to the full membership of the chamber, where the bill starts for a floor debate and vote.
The Senate process is slightly different for those wishing to testify. Cards are filled-out to indicate a Member’s position and desire to speak. In some cases, there may be another committee hearing (i.e. if the subject matter impacts the jurisdiction of another committee or if the bill has a fiscal note (FN)). In these cases, a passed bill after consideration will be referred to the respective committee. In the case of a FN, the bill will automatically be referred to Finance Committee for further action. The second committee or Finance Committee may hold a hearing. Following that Committee work, the bill returns to the original chamber for a final vote.
This entire process of hearings and committee work repeats itself in the other chamber following “cross over day”, the deadline by which all bills must be voted upon in the original chamber and sent to the other. The deadline is typically dated around April 1st.
If the bill passes both chambers Senate and House without any changes, then it is on to the Governor to sign or veto. If there are changes between what passed in the House versus the Senate, a Conference Committee is formed to work out the differences. All members of a Conference must agree to any change and sign-off on the final version. If a member of the committee does not agree, then the bill fails. If the committee does agree, the bill is sent back to each house and then passed on to the Governor. All of this activity concludes by mid-June.
Granite State Independent Living (GSIL) can help guide you through the complex legislative environment. We provide trainings to large groups and to individuals on how to begin the process of creating the change you desire. We partner with other New Hampshire disability rights and senior community organizations to impact current legislation at the both the local and national level. It is important to bring awareness to elected officials about issues affecting people with disabilities and seniors to help ensure full and equal participation for all. Your voice is important and GSIL will help you create opportunities to be heard. We know that you are your strongest advocate, and we believe in the principle of nothing for us, without us.
To learn more about the legislation affecting the disability community, sign up for the GSIL Alerts at firstname.lastname@example.org.