This page provides a comprehensive source for how to track a bill and the process by which a bill may become a law. It is specific for tracking education legislation, but the basic information may be used for any issue.
All bills are posted on the General Court website. This is the main portal for all information on the legislature. There are more links, but these are the primary ones.
Attending committee meetings is one of the biggest ways to make an impact on legislation. All bills are given a hearing at the committee meetings, and this is the opportunity for the public to speak. Committees are usually very friendly when citizens testify.
The House Education Committee meets in room 207 of the Legislative Office Building (LOB, immediately behind the State House), and the Senate Education Committee meets in room 103. Occasionally they relocate to a larger room; if they do, a note will be posted on the door. A table is near the front of the room where you can find that day’s bills and sign-in sheets where you may indicate if you support or oppose the bill, and if you wish to speak. The committees appreciate having written testimony provided, but it is not required.
Even if you are unable to attend the committee meeting, you can still make a difference. Phone calls are most effective, but emails are helpful.
Member lists for the Senate and House Education Committees can be found here. The House Education Committee has a shared email, HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us, but the Senate Education Committee does not and must be contacted individually.
Sometimes committees will have work sessions to further study a single bill or several if they pertain to the same issue. Some work groups allow the public to comment. Lobbyists and representatives of state agencies are there and provide information to legislators. This is another reason why it can be very important to attend and follow the progress of these bills.
When committees complete their meetings, they hold executive sessions. The public may attend, but is not given the opportunity speak. This is the stage when committees finalize discussion of the bills and vote. Amendments may be introduced. An Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) recommendation means that they oppose the bill. An Ought to Pass (OTP) recommendation means they support the bill. Committee recommendations greatly impact a bill’s final outcome when it moves to the full chamber for a vote. Executive sessions are helpful to find out what each legislator thinks about that issue and particular bill. Sometimes this is the only way to get an individual legislator on record because the bill may not have a roll call vote in the chamber.
Typically bills advance to the entire House or Senate the following week for a full vote. This is the stage when it is important to contact your Representative or Senator about the particular bills you are tracking. Legislators often do not hear from constituents so a brief phone call or email can be very effective. Sometimes there is a roll call vote that notes every legislator’s vote on the bill or amendment. This is far more common in the House than the Senate. Roll call votes are very helpful in holding our representatives accountable. A couple different organizations use this information to issue ratings or score cards, a particularly useful tool during elections.
The public may observe the House of Representatives and Senate during session from the upper balconies in each chamber. Both are located in the State House, beneath the golden dome. Sessions are also live streamed and archived.
If a bill passes, it will advance to the other legislative body during “cross over” in March. The process is then repeated. If a bill passes both legislative chambers, they must again vote if amendments were introduced. The chamber may concur with the new version, reject it thus killing the bill, or hold a Committees of Conference which will reconcile any differences in the bill between both bodies. Then it will go before the Governor who may allow it to pass into law with or without his/her signature, or he/she may veto it. The House and Senate may choose to challenge a veto, but they require a two-thirds vote in each body to overturn the veto.
For more information about this process, refer to the state Almanac.