Legislators can sponsor has many bills as they want, on any topics. Often they recruit other legislators to co-sponsor bills along with them. Every bill starts in one of the two legislative chambers – the House or the Senate – depending on which chamber its main sponsor belongs to. The first stop for a bill is a House or Senate “policy committee.” A policy committee is a group of legislators who focus on a particular topic, such as health or the environment. The policy committee schedules a public hearing, where it hears testimony from the bill sponsor, experts from the government, private, and nonprofit sectors, lobbyists, and members of the public. After the public hearing, the policy committee makes a recommendation to the full House or the full Senate. The policy committee can make many different kinds of recommendations, including “ought to pass” (which means the policy committee thinks the bill should become law) and “inexpedient to legislate” (which means the policy committee thinks the bill should die). The policy committee can also recommend changes to the bill, called “amendments.”
After getting a recommendation from the policy committee, the bill moves to the full House or the full Senate, where all of the members of the chamber vote on it. New Hampshire is unusual in that during each two-year period, every single bill will get a vote by the full House or the full Senate. There’s no such thing as a bill getting stuck in committee in New Hampshire.
If a bill passes the full House or the full Senate, it either “crosses over” to the other chamber, or it goes to another policy committee in the same chamber. Any bill that spends state money also has to go to the House Finance Committee or Senate Finance Committee, which analyzes its financial impact. These are the same powerful committees that write the state’s budget every two years. Eventually, every single bill will either die in the first chamber or cross over to the second chamber.
If a bill crosses over, it starts the whole committee process all over again in the second chamber. If it manages to pass the second chamber, it heads to the Governor. The Governor can sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. It’s a long road to the Governor’s signature and most bills die along the way, but every year many bills manage to cross the finish line. Some become law right away, and others have an effective date in the future.
There are lots of ways to keep up with what’s going on at the New Hampshire Legislature. You can find a wealth of information on the Legislature’s comprehensive website. Most major local media outlets regularly report about what’s going on in Concord. Here at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, we’ll be updating our website and social media platforms with news about legislation we’re following and opportunities to get involved. Make sure to sign up for our email list and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If want to speak up about bills but not you’re not sure where to start, check our comprehensive Advocacy Toolkit. It can help you find your legislators, speak at a public hearing, write a great letter to the editor, and more. Your voice matters. Use it!