Looking for a Few Good Ideas: NHMA’s 2011-2012 Legislative Policy Process

In April 2010 the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) will begin its Legislative Policy Process for the 2011-2012 biennium. While it is difficult to focus on dates seemingly so far away, now is the time to think of things about your municipal responsibilities that might work better with a legislative change. Consider questions such as these:

•Could you do your job better if a statute were changed?
•Have you received citizen complaints that you couldn’t address because you needed legislative authorization?
•Are there out-dated provisions in the laws that need to be modernized or streamlined?

Please let us know!

Municipal Advocacy Committee and Committee on Government Affairs

The members of the Committee on Government Affairs (CGA), including the Municipal Advocacy Committee (MAC), guide NHMA’s legislative policy development and advocacy efforts. The CGA will hold its Legislative Policy Process organizational meeting on Friday, April 16, 2010. The CGA will divide into three policy committees dealing with: municipal administration issues; general government and revenue issues; and environment and planning issues. Within those committees, CGA members will review policy proposals they have suggested, as well as those submitted by other municipal officials, and formulate policy recommendations for consideration at the NHMA Legislative Policy Conference to be held in September 2010.

If you have policy suggestions, it is not too early to send them in. Policy proposals may be submitted by a board or a local official from a member municipality.

A policy proposal form should accompany each proposed legislative policy. It should include a brief (one or two sentence) policy statement, a statement about the municipal interest served by the proposal, and an explanation that describes the nature of the problem or concern from a municipal perspective and discusses the proposed action that is being advocated to address the problem.

To submit a legislative policy proposal, download the NHMA legislative policy proposal form (a PDF document) from the LGC website and submit it to governmentaffairs@nhlgc.org.

Alternatively, contact the Government Affairs department to request a printed policy proposal form by calling 800.852.3358 ext. 384. Paper forms may be mailed or faxed to: NHMA, Government Affairs Department, PO Box 617, Concord, NH 03302-0617. Fax: 603.224.5406. Policy Proposal forms are due by May 3, 2010.

Legislative Principles

In addition to the established Legislative Policy Positions adopted by the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) membership, the following principles 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, 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 that provide greater authority to more effectively, efficiently and flexibly govern 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.

Do You Know Who Your Legislators Are?

We hope you do, because legislators like to hear from you about municipal issues! If you need to find out who your representative(s) and senator are, or how to contact them, you can go to www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx and click on your town or city to get all the information you need.

It is a good idea to talk with your representative(s) and senator before the session gets too far along to learn how best to contact them. Some like a phone call—cell or home—but be sure to ask how late you can call. Some like to get emails—but make sure you know the best email address to use, as we have heard that some legislators rarely check their legislative email. There may be times when you need to contact your elected representatives in a hurry, so find out now how to do it!

Effective Advocacy

You can be an effective advocate for your community without ever setting foot in the State House or Legislative Office Building. Every representative and senator lives in a town or city—quite a few hold or have held elected or appointed positions in local government. We urge every municipality to establish a relationship with its elected state officials. Many municipalities hold regular meetings with their legislative delegations to review issues of local importance. It is also a good idea to designate one local official as a “legislative liaison” who will take responsibility to ensure that all appropriate local officials receive copies of the Legislative Bulletin, and who will assemble feedback on upcoming hearings and issues and pass along the information to legislators and to NHMA. You can make a difference!