New Hampshire General Court

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New Hampshire General Court

Seal of New Hampshire.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 7, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Chuck Morse (R)
House Speaker:  Shawn Jasper (R)
Majority Leader:   Jeb Bradley (R) (Senate),
Jack Flanagan (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Jeff Woodburn (D) (Senate),
Stephen Shurtleff (D) (House)
Members:  24 (Senate), 400 (House)
Length of term:   2 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Part Second, New Hampshire Constitution
Salary:   $200/two-year term
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
24 seats (Senate)
400 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
24 seats (Senate)
400 seats (House)
Redistricting:  New Hampshire General Court has control
The General Court of New Hampshire is the bicameral state legislature of New Hampshire. The lower house is the New Hampshire House of Representatives with 400 members. The upper house is the New Hampshire State Senate with 24 members. The General Court is the fourth-largest English-speaking legislative body in the world, behind the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the United States Congress, and the Parliament of India, and has one of the greatest disparities in size between chambers of a bicameral legislature.[1]

On December 6, 2006, the General Court convened its 160th session and certified the results from the State General Election. The General Court meets in the New Hampshire State House in Concord.

As of April 2015, New Hampshire is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: New Hampshire House of Representatives, New Hampshire State Senate, New Hampshire Governor


The Second Part of the New Hampshire Constitution establishes when the General Court is to be in session. Article 3 of the Second Part states that the General Court is to convene annually on the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday in January. Additionally, in even-numbered years, the General Court is to meet on the first Wednesday of December for organizational purposes.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the General Court will be in session from January 7 to July 1 (Projected).

Major issues

Major issues in the 2015 legislative session include taxes, workers’ compensation, filing the $50-million budget gap, minimum wage increases and casinos.[2][3]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the General Court was in session from January 8 through June 13.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included capital punishment, a proposed casino, raising fuel taxes for road improvement, Medicaid expansion, and a return of the state minimum wage.[4][5][6]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the General Court was in session from January 2 to July 1.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included the state's budget deficit, education funding, state pensions, and abortion.[7]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the General Court was in session from January 4 through June 27.

Major issues

Major issues on the agenda included economic development, job creation, same-sex marriage, and gambling.[8]


In 2011, the General Court was in session from January 5 through July 1.[9]

Session highlights

State employee compensation cuts

In June, lawmakers passed a controversial bill that cut benefits and required longer hours for state employees. Sponsored by Senator Jeb Bradley, the bill called for public employees to contribute an extra 2 percent of their wages to the state's retirement system, a cut to retirement benefits for new hires, and mandated extra hours for all employees. Though the plan, which passed the GOP-controlled legislature, was subsequently vetoed by Democratic John Lynch, Republican lawmakers shoehorned it into law by attaching it to the state budget bill.

During a speech pitching his plan, Bradley said that his plan was "tough medicine" that would save the state, which faced a $4.7 billion unfunded liability, about $700 million over the coming decades.[10][11] In response, employees complained that they had gone six years without any step or cost-of-living pay increases.


In 2010, the General Court was in session from January 6 to July 1.[12]

Role in state budget

See also: New Hampshire state budget and finances
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The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[13][14]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in August.
  2. State agencies submit their requests by October 1.
  3. Agency hearings and public hearings are held in November.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the New Hampshire State Legislature by February 15.
  5. The legislature adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.
  6. The biennial budget cycle begins in July.

New Hampshire is one of only six states in which the governor cannot exercise line item veto authority.[14]

In New Hampshire, the governor is required by statute to submit a balanced budget. However, the legislature is not required by law to pass a balanced budget.[14]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. New Hampshire was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[15]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[16] According to the report, New Hampshire received a grade of C+ and a numerical score of 75, indicating that New Hampshire was "middling" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[16]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. New Hampshire was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[17]


The New Hampshire Senate has been meeting since 1784. It consists of 24 members representing Senate districts based on population. Each member represents an average of 54,853 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[18] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 51,491.[19]

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 10
     Republican Party 14
Total 24

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the New Hampshire State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the New Hampshire State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives consists of 400 members coming from 103 districts across the state. Each member represents an average of 3,291 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[18] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 3,089.[19] If the same level of representation were present in Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives would have approximately 99,000 members according to current population estimates.

Unlike in many legislation halls, there is no central "aisle" to cross, since there are four sections with isles between them, with the location put on the legislator's license plate (chairpersons and party leaders in Green, non-chairs in red). Party seating location is not enforced as seating is often based on the personal preference of the legislator (except in the case of the sixth section, which is the speaker's seat at the head of the hall).

Historically, the House was dominated by the Republican Party, which held at the end of the 2004-2006 session a 249–151 majority. However, even with this 98-vote majority, the Republicans were often divided between the more conservative Republican House Alliance and moderates known as the Main Street Republicans, a division of about 141 to 110 respectively. However, in the 2006 election, the Democrats swept control of the chamber and held a wide majority of seats in the House. It is as yet unclear if divisions between the RHA and Main Street Republicans will remain while in the minority. In the 2010 elections, however, the Republicans made a huge comback by capturing a vetoproof majorities in the House and Senate.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 160
     Republican Party 236
     Independent 1
     Vacancy 3
Total 400

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the New Hampshire State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the New Hampshire State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, New Hampshire
Partisan breakdown of the New Hampshire legislature from 1992-2013

New Hampshire State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the New Hampshire State Senate for six years while the Republicans were the majority for 16 years. The final three years of the study depicted a shift in the New Hampshire senate with all three years being Republican.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

New Hampshire State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the New Hampshire State House of Representatives for five years while the Republicans were the majority for 17 years.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire State Senate and the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of New Hampshire state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the New Hampshire state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. New Hampshire experienced both Democratic and Republican trifectas during the years of the study. Two Republican trifectas occurred in the first years of the study, from 1992-1996 and from 2003-2004. The state then shifted and had a Democratic trifecta from 2007-2010. New Hampshire ranked high in the SQLI, finishing in the top-10 every year of the study, and in 1st over half of the years of the study. The state finished 1st during both Democratic and Republican trifectas as well as during years of divided government. Its lowest rankings occurred in the last two years of the study, when the government was divided.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 2.00
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 1.71
  • SQLI average with divided government: 2.20
Chart displaying the partisanship of the New Hampshire government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).


See also: Redistricting in New Hampshire

Redistricting in New Hampshire is handled by the General Court, with the Governor wielding veto power.

2010 census

New Hampshire received its local Census data on March 22, 2011. The state's population increased 6.5 percent, with Coos County being the only county to face a decrease (-0.2 percent). Growth in the larger cities was mild: Manchester grew by 2.4 percent, Nashua decreased by 0.1 percent, Concord grew by 4.9 percent, Derry decreased by 2.7 percent, and Dover grew by 11.5 percent.[20]

At the time of redistricting, Republicans controlled the General Court, and the Democrats controlled the governorship. On March 23, 2012, Gov. John Lynch (D) signed into law a new Senate plan but vetoed the House map, citing a lack of representation in towns that exceed 3,000, which automatically merit their own representative; the Legislature overrode the veto on March 28, 2012. The Department of Justice -- which has the duty of pre-clearing New Hampshire redistricting maps under the Voting Rights Act -- approved the maps in May 2012. On June 19, 2012, several lawsuits regarding the House map were thrown out by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the New Hampshire General Court are paid $200/two-year term. There is no per diem.[21]


New Hampshire does not provide pensions for legislators.[22]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

New Hampshire legislators assume office the month after elections (December).

Joint legislative committee


  • When numbered seats were installed in Representatives Hall, the number thirteen was purposely omitted out of superstition.
  • In 1819, the House of Representatives and Senate moved into their respective chambers in the State House. Both continue to meet in their original chambers, making each house have the oldest chamber in United States still in continuous legislative use.

See also

External links


  1. New Hampshire Government Website, "State Government Overview," accessed June 9, 2014
  2. New Hampshire Business Review, "Taxes, workers’ comp at top of legislative agenda," January 8, 2015
  3. Vermont Public Radio, "New Hampshire Lawmakers Have Their Work Cut Out For Them," January 13, 2015
  4. The Associated Press, "Death, taxes, gambling face NH Legislature in 2014," January 5, 2014. Accessed January 11, 2014
  5. New Hampshire Business Review, "Nearly 300 bills being proposed in Concord could have an impact on business," January 10, 2014. Accessed January 11, 2014
  6. The Associated Press, "N.H. Legislature to convene 2014 session today," January 8, 2014. Accessed January 11, 2014
  7. Sentinel Source, "After a shake-up, N.H. legislators have new issues to tackle.," January 4, 2013
  8. Concord Monitor, "House GOP: Jobs the focus," January 4, 2012
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  10., "Workers grill Sen. Bradley on N.H. pension reform," May 18, 2011
  11., "States overhaul pensions but pass on 401(k)-style plans," June 21, 2011
  12. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 session dates for New Hampshire legislature," accessed June 9, 2014
  13. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  15. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  17. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1, "Census 2000 PHC-T-2. Ranking Tables for States: 1990 and 2000," accessed May 15, 2014
  20. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers New Hampshire's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," accessed June 9, 2014
  21., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  22. USA Today, "State-by-state: Benefits available to state legislators," September 23, 2011