“Article 60. There shall be biennially elected, by ballot, five councilors, for advising the governor in the executive part of government.”
The quote above is of interest in itself. Part the First is our Bill of Rights. It is over four times the number of articles as are contained in our federal Bill of Rights. Part the Second of our constitution is The Form of Government.
Contrary to how the federal constitution is constructed, our wise founding fathers created our state constitution by enumerating our Bill of Rights first in Part the First and then constructed a form of government in Part the Second in 1784 to facilitate those protections. The federal constitution three years later (1787) created government first and had to be cajoled by Jefferson and others to amend the established constitution with the first 10 amendments establishing the federal Bill of Rights.
Now, to the portion of government established by Article 60 above: Constituents have asked me, “What is the difference between the Governor’s Council and the Executive Council?” There is no difference; they are one and the same. Our constitution refers to that council only as “The Council”.
Why the different names? The name “Governor’s Council” comes from colonial days. The English king had a royal council of noblemen to advise him on governing his kingdom. Likewise, our royal Governor Wentworth established a royal council to help him govern the king’s colony of New Hampshire. When we became a country, our founding fathers also established a council. But here it would be popularly elected.
It is also called the “Executive Council” because the NH governor must share executive power with the council. Only two states established such councils
that have last until today – Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The Massachusetts legislature long ago took away any power their council had and, although it still exists, that council is toothless.
The New Hampshire council is the only council that has retained power and has major functions. One function is to approve the appointments of judges, commissioners, notaries public, justices of peace, commissioners of deeds and hears pardon requests.
Next, all state departments and agencies must seek approval of both receipt and expenditures of state and federal funds, budgetary transfers within the department and all contracts with a value of $10,000 or more. The Executive Council approves the spending of a major portion of the approximately $5.2 billion that is appropriated annually by the legislature. They ensure the executive branch of state government is fiscally conservative and above reproach.
Like the governor and the two legislative bodies, the council is elected every two years. This gives the citizens of this state a “built in recall system” for replacing elected officials who do not perform as expected.
It is because the governor shares his power with an elected body within the executive branch that our governor is considered a “weak” governor. That does not refer to the person. It refers to the structure of the executive branch and it serves the people well.
Top of this page
Rep. Winters' Archives
Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")