Legislative Process - Issue Summary

Is New Hampshire's citizen legislature obsolete?

legislative processBy: LFDA Editor

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 (UK, India and 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.

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.

However, 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.

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.

2015 Legislation

Rep. Richard Marple is the primary sponsor of HB 400, a 2015 bill that decreases the mileage reimbursement rate for state legislators.

Previous Legislation

CACR 33, calling for biennial legislative sessions, was tabled in the Senate on March 28, 2012. On March 8, the House killed its own resolution that sought to do the same thing, CACR 20.

Does New Hampshire need to change its legislative process?

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If you are interested in the legislative process in NH and want to take action here are some choices:

  • If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on How to Take Action.

  • Contact one of the organizations listed in Learn More. These groups represent the pro or con positions of issues.

  • Contact a government official as follows:

1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate

2. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan

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Do you think the NH citizen legislature is obsolete? Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

Rep. Richard Marple is the primary sponsor of HB 400, a 2015 bill that decreases the mileage reimbursement rate for state legislators.