The New Hampshire Constitution of 1783 included the establishment of "five councilors, for advising the governor in the executive part of government." This is commonly known as the Executive Council.
The specific powers, duties and responsibilities of the council have been defined over the years by the constitution, amendments, New Hampshire laws, and advisory opinions from the state Supreme Court and Attorney General.
There are five councilors representing five districts, each district encompassing about 247,000 residents. Councilors are paid about $14,341 per year. (The governor's pay is about $109,000.)
Councilors are elected every two years on the same election cycle as the governor, which means all five council seats are up for election in 2012.
The council's duties and responsibilities, as outlined in an Executive Council overview, include:
- Conduct all major executive branch business in public with the press present;
- Approve both the receipt and expenditures of state and federal funds, budgetary transfers within the department and all contracts with a value of $5,000 or more of all state departments and agencies;
- Approve the spending of a major portion of the approximately $3.9 billion dollars appropriated by the legislature each year;
- Oversee the state treasury to insure state departments do not spend more than was authorized by the legislature, nor allocate funds for items or services that the legislature has not sanctioned;
- Approve the appointments for Notary Public, Justice of Peace, Commissioners of Deeds and pardon requests;
- Confirm the governor's appointments to unclassified state positions including commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners, as well as judicial nominations to district, superior and supreme courts, and medical referees and military officers;
- Oversee the state's 10-year highway plan, which is a blueprint for improving the state's transportation infrastructure, in particular roads and bridges;
- Oversee the behavior of those who are appointed to the executive branch of state government, whether commissioners, department heads or citizens members of the various of regulatory boards, agencies and commissions to make sure they are responsible to the citizens of New Hampshire and not to special interests.