"Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions …. will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to DuPont de Nemours, 1816
"WHAT’S GOING ON? You said you were for something but you voted against it. Why?" This question, which arises frequently, gives me the opportunity to explain why a member sometimes appears to be voting against his stated intent. This can get a bit confusing but hang with me here and I’ll try to make the explanation clear.
Each bill filed in the NH House is assigned to a committee for public hearings and the committee cannot kill a bill. Unlike most other states, the committee can only recommend action to the full body.
When the hearings finish, the committee holds an executive session where the committee members vote for a recommendation on the bill.
If the committee favors the bill, it will recommend "Ought to Pass" (OTP). If the committee does not want the bill to pass, it will recommend "Inexpedient to Legislate" (ITL) or "kill this bill". In some cases, the committee may also decide to retain the bill for further study. The bill will be studied in depth during the off-session and brought back the second year. Each committee member must vote yes or no on the recommendation. No abstentions are permitted. If one recommendation fails to get a majority, a different recommendation is put forward.
Thus, when the bill reaches the floor, the full body does not vote on the bill itself but on the recommendation from the committee. That is why votes result in some confusion to the electorate and sometimes even to new House members.
If a member is in favor of a particular bill but the committee that held the hearing sends the bill to the House floor with a recommendation of "Inexpedient to Legislate" (kill), the member votes NO because he or she is voting AGAINST the committee recommendation. If the member is against the bill, he or she votes YES because the member SUPPORTS the committee recommendation of "Inexpedient to Legislate" and the member is voting to defeat the bill.
If the member understands the reasoning behind what the vote truly represents, there is no problem. If the member knows that the vote is actually on the committee’s recommendation and not on the bill itself, that member can look at the recommendation to see if he or she supports that position or not. The vote then becomes procedurally easy.
If the committee recommendation is defeated by the full body on the floor, the same process takes place as in committee. If the committee recommendation fails in the full body, someone will immediately jump up to the microphone to propose the opposite recommendation from the floor.
All roll call and division votes are electronic and are mandatory. No abstentions are allowed.
Being fully informed is a full time job in this part time legislature. But, what the heck, that’s why you pay us that $100 per year, right?
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Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")