New Hampshire Article 31/32 Redress Petitions are Constituency Bills
The following is a description of the New Hampshire Petitions Process based on the evidence obtained through the Senate and House Journals at the Secretary of State Archives on Fruit street in Concord.
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Redress is mentioned in Article 10, but our right to use Redress and Remonstrance petitions for the correction of the laws and accountability of Oaths of Office is secured at Articles 31 & 32 of the New Hampshire Bill of Rights.
Records indicate that Redress and Remonstrance petitions were effectively heard by the executive council, the governor and the legislature from the 1650’s to as recently as the 1950’s. The 2917 page Petitioners Index, compiled by the Secretary of State’s office contains only the names of petitioners up to and including the early 1820’s. The names of the petitioners from the 1820’s to the 1950’s have yet to be indexed. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of petitioners were heard during the 300 years in which we enjoyed a responsive government.
Petitions are constituency bills which are filed with the General Court Clerk (presently Karen Wadsworth). Once received by the General Court Clerk, these legislative actions, aka Constituency Bills, are then scheduled by the clerk for a hearing on the House floor before a convention of the legislature. The Senate and the House of Representatives not only meet in convention for the hearing of Public Petitions, they also meet in convention for such things as electing the Treasurer, the Secretary of State etc… During these joint sessions (in convention) the House Clerk assumes the office of General Court Clerk.
Once the legislature has met in convention for the hearing of public petitions, multiple petitions may be heard. After the hearings are complete for the day, the convention rises and the Senate returns to their chamber.
The House then discusses the merits of these constituency bills and votes to either pass, kill or ITL them. (ITL = inexpedient to legislate)
There are two typical ways of passing these petitions. – 1) Simple petitions such as those seeking damages or other compensation from the legislature are usually passed “with leave to bring in a bill” – 2) Complex petitions such as those that seek to correct the laws or those that may otherwise affect the judiciary and/or executive branches are usually passed with a recommendation for a “committee to consider the petition of _____ _____ and report thereon”. Either way, these petitions are immediately sent to the Senate for concurrence and petitions are typically processed through both houses of the legislature on the same day if time will allow.
Those constituency bills that are assigned to a committee may or may not be scheduled for public hearings depending on the nature of the petition. Once study and consideration is complete, the committee recommendations are returned to the House for deliberation, debate and a final vote and then to the Senate for concurrence.
These Constituency Bills differ greatly from Senate or House Bills in that they are not subject to Senate or House rules nor do they require sponsorship to be heard before the legislature, therefore, they do not begin as LSRs (Legislative Services Recommendations) and they do not go through a lengthy and intentionally frustrating process of committee hearings before being heard on the House and Senate floor. As mentioned above, Constituency Bills begin in the General Court Clerk’s office where they are immediately scheduled for a hearing before a joint session of the legislature (in convention).