While other New England states may have their legislative agenda set for the coming year, things work slightly differently in New Hampshire.
With the third largest legislative body in the world, behind only the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress, the state’s constitution has had to create a unique system for creating bills because of the sheer number of state legislators (400 representatives, 24 senators).
The state has one representative for approximately every 3,300 residents, thereby giving each individual greater access to their state reps but also increasing the number of individual petitions that can be brought before the House.
The state’s legislature also works on a part-time basis, and they receive only a nominal stipend ($100 per year) for their work, thereby cutting down on the amount of time available for creating, writing and processing legislation.
In New Hampshire, both the House and the Senate limit the filing period for proposed legislation, known as legislative service requests, or LSRs, to several weeks in the fall after the election of new members.
Each LSR, when first filed, is presented in an online data base which contains a sentence or two describing the basic outline of the proposed bill.
In the House, the filing period opened on Nov. 14 and closed on Dec. 2. For senators, that period also began after the November election and ended in December, on a date that was to be determined in a December 7 vote.
As of New England Psychologist’s deadline, there have been 303 LSRs submitted by the state’s House members.
One, proposed by Robert Eilliot (R-Salem) is regarding involuntary administration of medication to inmates with mental illnesses.
Another proposed bill, submitted by Robert Renny Cushing (D-Hampton), the co-founder of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, would prohibit the placement of certain people with mental illness in a secure psychiatric unit, establishing a secure psychiatric hospital oversight commission and appropriating funds to develop plans for a secure therapeutic psychiatric hospital facility.
A third LSR, submitted by Kendall Snow (D-Manchester), a former social worker at and VP of Community Relations for the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester (retired), would establish a commission to study current mental health procedures for involuntary commitment.
Another representative-sponsored bill, also submitted by Snow, would extend the suspension of prior authorization requirements for a community mental health program on the drugs that are most often used to treat mental illness.
An LSR has been proposed by Neal Kurk (R-Weare) relative to rules governing the privacy of mental health records.
In the Senate, 19 LSRs had been submitted as of press time. Included in those is a request asking for the establishment of a procedure for the annulment of a mental health record submitted by David Watters (D-Dover).
According to the state’s Senate Clerk’s office and the House Clerk’s office, each LSR will be researched written up under the guidance of attorneys who ascertain that the proposal is legal and is not already being done.
Similar LSRs may also be combined into one bill. The new bills are then assigned numbers after the December deadlines and should be ready to be formally introduced in early January. All LSRs and bills are posted online and searchable through number, topic, sponsor or key words at www.nh.gov.
The New Hampshire Psychological Association was scheduled to meet in December as well to discuss its legislative goals for the coming year.
By Catherine Robertson Souter