Your tool kit for for the ’22 legislative session

The New Hampshire General Court is back in business in Concord for 2022, and things look closer to normal in House and Senate than they did last year. Here are some links and information to help you get your pro-life messages across to your representatives. Bookmark this page for reference during the 2022 legislative session.

The basic site, starting with ID’ing your reps

The General Court website (gencourt.state.nh.us) is your guide to keeping up with legislative business in New Hampshire. Spend a few minutes exploring it. It’s been revamped since the beginning of the last session, so it might look different than you’re used to. Same good information, different design.

  • New Hampshire House members page (gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members): you can select your town from a drop-down menu and find out the name and contact information for each of your state representative. Your town or ward might have only one rep or more than a dozen. Make sure you know who they are, regardless of party or voting record. Each and every one of them is accountable to you. Bonus on the House contact page: you can download a complete House roster, if you’re so inclined.
  • New Hampshire Senate members (gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/members/wml.aspx): select your town from the drop-down menu to get your senator’s name and contact information. The full Senate roster is on a separate page.
  • Finding bills: the left side of the General Court homepage will help you look up a bill by its number, a keyword (text), or sponsor’s name.
  • The House standing committees (gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/standingcommittees.aspx) page will give you a link to each policy committee – Education, Judiciary, Health and Human Services, and so on. That’s where to find the names of each committee member.
  • Likewise, the Senate has a committee page (gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/committees/senate_committees.aspx).

Calendars

The House and Senate calendars, published weekly in printable PDF format, list all the public hearings for the coming week. The calendars are usually available online on Thursday evenings. Each chamber (House and Senate) maintains a digital calendar as well.

Hearings: in person and online

[edited to add this information] While you need to attend a hearing in person in order to offer spoken testimony, you can listen to hearings online. Click on the House or Senate digital calendar to find the committee or bill whose hearing you want, and you’ll find a link to the livestream.

Testifying on bills, and the critically-important remote sign-in procedure

One big change from 2020’s pandemic-triggered online procedure: you won’t be able to testify during a hearing remotely this year. If you want to speak to a committee at a hearing, you need to get yourself to Concord. Expect rooms to be set up with some distance between seats. As of early January, masks are optional in the State House and Legislative Office Building, but that policy could change. I’ll keep a mask handy when I head to Concord.

However, one innovation from last year is being continued, and it’s a good thing: you can sign up remotely to register your opinion to committee members on a specific bill. This is a very important development in public participation. During a hearing, the committee clerk will read aloud the tally of sign-ins, pro and con. If a life-issue bill has 600 people registering one way and only 30 registering the other, that’s going to be news.

Remote sign-in on a bill is available as soon as the bill is posted in the calendar, and you should sign in no later than 30 minutes before the scheduled start of a hearing to make sure the committee clerk has your name.

When you fill out the online sign-up form, you should get a confirmation page with instructions for submitting written testimony if you want to indicate more than simply support/oppose.

Anyone – whether testifying in person, signing up remotely, or doing neither – can submit written testimony to any committee on a bill being heard by that committee. If you email the committee at its address (remember those committee pages I mentioned above), the message will automatically go to each committee member. You can also use snail mail sent to a committee or its individual members (remember the postal service?), which nowadays could make your message stand out. Every elected official is flooded with emails, particularly when the topic is a life issue.

Brevity, clarity, charity

Whenever you contact a legislator or committee:

  • Keep it brief. If you’re testifying in person, you’ll probably have no more than three minutes. If you have a relevant personal story, talk about that. Your written testimony can be longer, and it can include documentation or data to augment your spoken testimony. Once a bill gets to the full chamber for a vote and you’re contacting each one of your reps, it’s best to be brief once again. Let them know you’re happy to offer more information, but for the most part, they’ll only have time to read a short message.
  • Keep it clear. Your call to action needs to come first: “please support [bill number].” Don’t say “vote yes” or “vote no” unless you’re absolutely certain on what motion a committee or chamber is voting on; a “yes” vote on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion is a vote to kill a bill. If you want a bill to pass, say “please support this bill.” If you want a bill to be killed, say “please oppose this bill.”
  • Keep it polite. Regardless of your feelings about a particular rep or the rep’s party, you’re talking to a neighbor whenever you communicate about a piece of legislation. Someday, your courteous message might be the one to spark a constructive one-on-one conversation with a rep who is usually not supportive of pro-life policy. That’s how persuasion works. Be courteous, say please, and send a thank-you when a rep gets a vote right.

Take a State House tour – and allow time to find parking

Anyone who has ever heard me talk about the New Hampshire State House knows that I am a raving fan. It is absolutely worth a tour. Our State House is on the small side (especially for a state with 424 legislators), and it could use some tech upgrades, and it is not a modern building. Don’t be put off: it’s a gem. At a minimum, if you’re up there, stop at the Visitor Center on the first floor. The team there can give you a brochure for a self-guided tour, or you can book a tour in advance. Street address: 107 North Main Street, Concord.

If you’re going to a hearing in the Legislative Office Building, it’s across State Street from the rear of the State House. Street address: 33 North State Street, Concord.

There’s a pedestrian tunnel connecting the LOB and the State House, which can be handy if you have business in both places. There’s a cafeteria down there at the State House end.

Parking in Concord near the State House can be a challenge. However much time you think it’ll take to get to Concord, add another ten minutes for finding parking. The city of Concord has a web page dedicated to downtown parking which includes a map of parking areas along with information on the handy Pay by Phone app (requiring a smartphone). If you don’t use the smartphone app, be sure to bring quarters.

Proof that showing up matters

Postscript about the bill repealing New Hampshire’s death penalty: the Governor’s veto was overridden. The margin in the House: one vote. Margin in the Senate: one vote.

At some point, another life issue bill will come up in Concord. Maybe it’ll call for care for children who survive attempted abortion. Maybe it’ll be a stats bill. Maybe it will be something promoting or preventing assisted suicide.

Whenever such legislation comes up, remember: every vote matters. With 400 House members, a legislator – or a constituent, for that matter – might figure that one absence more or less won’t make a difference.

Wrong. Showing up matters.

Maybe we need to be reminded of that now and then.

Go Old-School: Get Some Stamps

In a time when legislators are so inundated with emails that they can’t read them all, what’s old is new again. Go get yourselves some stamps and blank postcards.

I heard this from a state legislator this week as he handed me his card: “Oh, I never check my legislative email.” I hear that all the time, from legislators around the state. A legislative inbox at any given time can have hundreds and even thousands of messages. Any subject line that doesn’t include a hint that the sender is a constituent is likely to yield a quick “delete.”

So spoil your legislators. Write to them. Give them something to read besides bills.

My town has eight at-large state representatives. (One town nearby has 11. I got off easy.) I have their legislative email addresses, and I use them, but I’m planning to use postcards more this term.

I went to my local office supply store and bought a box of plain postcards – the kind that can go through a printer at home. I will be hand-writing messages, but the printer-style postcards are economical. I bought a roll of postcard stamps at the post office. I have the legislators’ home addresses thanks to the state web site. I’m good to go.

Why postcards instead of letters? Because they cost 35 cents to send rather than 55 cents, which is what first-class letter stamps now cost. Also, a postcard forces me to get my message across briefly.

Someone more organized than I would probably think to address a batch of postcards in advance. If that’s you, I salute you.

Phone calls to legislators are always in style, if that’s your preference. Ignoring a call is definitely harder than ignoring an email.

No matter how you reach out to your legislators, remember to keep your message brief, clear, and courteous. If you write it down and put a stamp on it, so much the better.

Today’s civics lesson

Somewhere in Manchester, New Hampshire are a few dozen voters who stayed away from the polls yesterday and could have tipped the mayoral election. Seen on Twitter Tuesday evening:

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Apropos of nothing, challenger Joyce Craig was endorsed by EMILY’s List.

Get to the polls when there’s an election. Your vote counts.

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