New Hampshire Municipal Association
New Hampshire Municipal Association

Advocacy Services

The New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) has represented the interests of cities and towns before the New Hampshire General Court (House and Senate) and various state agencies since its founding in 1941. Municipal advocacy remains a central element of NHMA’s mission.

NHMA’s Legislative Policy Positions and guiding Legislative Principles are established at a biennial legislative policy conference, where every member municipality has an equal voice. These policies and principles serve to guide the Government Affairs staff in its advocacy activities. During and between legislative sessions, the staff works closely with the NHMA Board to ensure that NHMA’s legislative policies and principles are promoted consistently and aggressively before the legislature.

Legislative Advocacy

Members of the NHMA Government Affairs staff follow several hundred bills of interest to municipalities during each legislative session. They draft legislation to carry out NHMA’s legislative policies, monitor legislative hearings, testify on bills when appropriate, and work individually with legislators and local officials throughout the process. The staff also follows numerous study committees, commissions, boards, and state administrative agencies, commenting on and assisting in the development of proposed agency rules. On occasion, staff members also work with New Hampshire’s U.S. congressional delegation on federal legislation affecting municipalities.

Every Friday during the legislative session, the Government Affairs staff publishes the Legislative Bulletin, which notifies local officials of upcoming hearings, votes on important issues, and details of legislative activity during the past week, along with methods of contacting legislators on bills of municipal importance. Contact the Government Affairs department to add your name to our Legislative Bulletin distribution list.

Assisting Local Officials with Advocacy Initiatives

Although members of the Government Affairs staff testify and work with legislators on many bills, it is always more compelling when local officials participate directly in the advocacy process. Hearing from local officials reminds legislators that the staff is representing the interests of "real people." This is especially true when legislators hear from officials in their own districts. There is also a continuing need for local officials to serve with legislators and state agency representatives on various state policy boards and commissions.

NHMA strongly encourages local officials to contact their legislators and state regulators on matters of importance to their municipalities, and testify before them when possible. Staff members are available to facilitate this process.

The NHMA publication A Guide to Legislative Advocacy for Local Officials provides a thorough look at the legislative process and how you can participate. A limited number of print publications are available; members may contact NHMA staff to request a copy while supplies last.

Legislative Principles

In addition to the established Legislative Policy positions adopted by the New Hampshire Municipal Association membership, the following principles should guide staff in setting priorities during any legislative biennium:

  1. Consider unfunded mandate issues that violate Part 1, Article 28-a of the New Hampshire Constitution to be paramount. Identify them and oppose them.
  2. Work to maintain existing revenue streams to municipalities, (i.e. revenue sharing, meals and rooms tax, highway, and other state aid). Be especially watchful of proposals to reduce local aid in order to meet other funding commitments.
  3. Advocate to maintain existing local authority.
  4. Support issues which provide greater authority to govern more effectively, efficiently and flexibly at the local level, including local option legislation. If the legislature is considering adopting a program that is particularly controversial at the local level, support a requirement that a local legislative body vote is necessary before full implementation of the measure.
  5. Support bills proposed by individual municipal members, except when they conflict with these principles or other NHMA policies. Staff should prioritize time and resources when there are competing demands in order to focus on NHMA's broad agenda first.
  6. Encourage exemptions from state taxes rather than local property taxes when legislative intent is to preserve statewide resources.
  7. Advocate for municipal representation on all state boards, commissions, and study committees which affect municipal government and have non-legislative members.
  8. Work cooperatively with other groups and associations to support efforts to improve the delivery of services at the local level.
  9. Support municipal efforts toward effective regional cooperation and delivery of municipal services.
  10. Support efforts to develop a statewide technology network that fosters increased communication and greater compatibility among levels of government and within and between agencies in all levels of government.

NHMA Policy Setting Process

NHMA’s legislative policies originate with its members and its legislative policy committees. These committees consist of elected and appointed local officials who represent all regions of the state, and all sizes of towns and cities.

In the spring before each new legislative biennium, NHMA solicits legislative policy proposals from member municipalities. The three policy committees review these proposals and make recommendations to NHMA’s Legislative Policy Conference, held during the fall of the same year. The governing body of any member municipality may also submit a floor policy for consideration at the conference.

The Legislative Policy Conference is held in September of even-numbered years at the NHMA offices (25 Triangle Park Drive, Concord). Every NHMA member, regardless of size, is entitled to one vote at the conference.

Legislative Policies adopted at the Conference guide the actions of the Government Affairs staff in addressing legislation during the ensuing legislative biennium. For the highest-priority policies—identified by the Legislative Policy Conference as action policies—the Government Affairs staff will draft legislation to implement the policies, identify and work with sponsors to introduce the bills, and support them through the legislative process.

NHMA also uses a set of guiding Legislative Principles, which are reviewed and reaffirmed as appropriate by the Legislative Policy Conference, to develop positions on legislation that has not been expressly addressed in the adopted Policy Positions. Examples of legislative principles include: opposing unfunded mandates; working to maintain existing revenue streams to municipalities; and advocating to maintain existing local authority.

During the legislative session, the Government Affairs staff regularly reports to the NHMA Board on legislative developments. During any legislative session, new issues may arise which were not contemplated by the current Policy Positions. The Board has the authority to establish legislative policy positions between Legislative Policy Conferences, in order to provide timely, continuing guidance to the Government Affairs staff.

For more information, please read the 2015-2016 NHMA Legislative Policy Process Questions and Answers.

2015-2016 Legislative Policy Positions

To view the 2015-2016 Legislative Policy Positions, click here.

Ongoing Topics

Along with the "hot topics" that appear weekly during the legislative session in the NHMA Legislative Bulletin, Government Affairs staff members diligently track a number of other perennial topics of interest to cities and towns. Among these are the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS), the biennial state budget and state aid to cities and towns.

The following pages contain topic updates as well as documents, reports and links to more information:

Legislative Bulletin

The Legislative Bulletin is published each Friday during the legislative session, highlighting NHMA policy bills and other bills of municipal interest as they move through the legislative process. Each Legislative Bulletin contains a brief analysis of key legislative developments during the past week, a legislative calendar listing municipal bills to be heard in the next week or two, a call to action on scheduled hearings when municipal viewpoints need to be heard, and updates on federal issues of interest to municipalities. NHMA publishes the Final Legislative Bulletin at the close of the legislative session, providing a synopsis of bills of municipal interest.

To view all of the 2013 and 2014 Legislative Bulletins, visit our Legislative Bulletin Archive.

Statutory Limitations

New Hampshire law (RSA 31:8-a) permits cities and towns to belong to NHMA provided that the Association does not take positions on “matters which do not directly affect New Hampshire towns and cities, nor engage in partisan political activity by endorsing, or otherwise supporting, any political party or candidate.” NHMA strictly adheres to those limitations. It never supports, financially or otherwise, any candidate or party, nor does it take positions on legislation not directly affecting municipalities.

NHMA also does not lobby on behalf of specific municipalities, although it will support or oppose legislation of concern to a specific municipality so long as it is of interest to members generally. NHMA is careful not to take positions on legislation in the absence of clear, member-adopted policy positions or legislative principles.