The New Hampshire Legislative Process
By Amy Manzelli, Esq.
Here is a basic overview of how an idea becomes law in New Hampshire.
1. Idea: Someone has an idea and a lawmaker sponsors it. Ideas come from everywhere and cover everything, from shoreland protection to designating the state fruit.
2. Legislative Service Requests (LSRs): In one sentence, lawmakers reserve bills on a specific topic. An LSR may say something like “To determine the appropriate governance of shorelands.” Each year about 1,000 LSRs are reserved.
3. Written: New ideas are typically written into bills after the LSR is reserved. Bills usually become publicly available from early winter through late winter.
4. Introduction: After a bill is written, it is introduced in the chamber in which the sponsoring member belongs. Every bill is introduced.
5. Referred to Committee: Once introduced, each bill will be referred to a committee of the chamber in which it’s been introduced. A committee is a group of five to twenty lawmakers. The Senate has twelve and the House has about twenty-nine.
6. Public Hearing: Each committee will hold a public hearing on each bill. Any member of the public may testify and/or provide written remarks.
7. Deliberation: Once the public hearing is closed, the committee members discuss amongst themselves before voting on a bill, either immediately or at a later work session. Anyone may attend deliberations and work sessions, but may not speak (unless spoken to).
8. Vote: After public hearing and deliberation, and possibly a work session, the committee votes. The committee will vote that the bill: (a) Ought to Pass; (b) Ought to Pass with Amendment; or (c) is Inexpedient to Legislate.
9. Stuck in Committee: Committees can ask to keep a bill for further study, which could mean more study or could mean the death of the idea.
10. On to the Floor: Every bill gets to the floor where the full chamber votes on it. The full chamber usually adopts the committee’s recommendation. Occasionally, the full chamber’s consideration of the bill is messy and a “floor fight” ensues.
11. Next Committee or End of the Road: After the first chamber vote, if a bill is passed the bill will be referred to either: (a) a different committee in the same chamber; or (b) to the other chamber at cross over.
12. Repeat: Whether a bill is referred to a committee in the same chamber, or if crossing over, the entire process from step 5 to step 11 is repeated.
13. Conference: Sometimes, the House and Senate pass different versions of similar bills. In that case, members from the House and the Senate meet together to develop a common version of the bill.
14. Governor’s Desk: All bills that have been passed go to the Governor, who has three options: (a) sign the bill, in which case it becomes law immediately; (b) allow five days to pass without signing the bill, in which case the bill becomes law after the five days; or (c) veto the bill.
Amy Manzelli is a member attorney of Baldwin & Callen, PLLC who practices environmental and land use law and government relations, including lobbying at the New Hampshire State House and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 225-2585.