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).
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.
- Read the House remote sign-in directions (printable PDF) and become familiar with the House sign-in form.
- Read the Senate remote sign-in directions (printable PDF) and become familiar with the Senate sign-in form.
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.
New this year: submitting testimony that can be read by the public
This announcement was in the January 28 House calendar, with emphasis added by me: “…please be aware of the new feature on the General Court website where New Hampshire citizens can upload written testimony on bills without the need to appear in person. Legislators are welcome to promote this new tool with your constituents. Legislators should also check the submissions page frequently to review testimony that has been submitted on bills coming before your committee. Testimony submitted online is available for anyone to view so we are encouraging this method of written testimony. The form accepts testimony through the end of the day of each bill’s public hearing.”
This is distinct from emailing the committee, as described in the previous paragraph. That can still be done, and your message will go to each committee member. This new way of submitting testimony will make your message available to the general public, where your personal stories and documentation will reach a larger audience.
Here is the link for submitting your public testimony: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/submitted_testimony.aspx
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.