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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The State of New Hampshire is a democratic republic, with a form of government similar to that of the United States.

The New Hampshire state capital is Concord. The capital was Portsmouth during colonial times, and Exeter from 1775 to 1808. The Governor's office, some other executive offices, and both legislative chambers, are in the State House (which the historical marker in this photograph atypically calls the Capitol). The Legislative Office Building is behind the State House in this photograph; the state Supreme Court and other agencies are in an office park on the other (east) side of the Merrimack River.


Federal representatives

Like all states, New Hampshire has two senators in the US Senate. Based on U.S. census data, New Hampshire has two members of the House of Representatives.


Congressional districts

Congressional districts since 2003

The 1st Congressional District consists of: Carroll and Strafford Counties; Alton, Barnstead, Belmont, Center Harbor, Gilford, Gilmanton, Laconia, Meredith and New Hampton in Belknap County; Bedford, Goffstown, Manchester and Merrimack in Hillsborough County; Hooksett in Merrimack County; and all of Rockingham County, except Atkinson, Salem and Windham.

The 2nd Congressional District is the remainder of the state, lying to the west and north of the 1st District.

(For historical districts, see here.)


Chamber District Official Party First elected Term expires
U.S. Senate Judd Gregg Republican 1992 2010
U.S. Senate Jeanne Shaheen Democrat 2008 2014
U.S. House 1st Carol Shea-Porter Democrat 2006 --
U.S. House 2nd Paul Hodes Democrat 2006 --

Electoral College

Based on the total number of its Congressional delegation, New Hampshire has four votes in the Electoral College. The state awards its electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.

Governing documents

State constitution

New Hampshire is still governed by its constitution of 1783. The constitution is in two parts, a Bill of Rights and a longer Form of Government. Unlike the United States Constitution, amendments to the New Hampshire Constitution are not set out afterward but edit the text. It is one of the few state constitutions that acknowledge the right of revolution.

The state constitution is one of the few that does not expressly require public schools. However, in 1993, the state Supreme Court ruled in the first "Claremont" suit[1] that a constitutional duty to "cherish the interest of...public schools"[2] required the state to define and fund equal public schools statewide. The legislature complied slowly; in 2008, the Court ended[3] its supervisory role because the original laws had been replaced, but it did not reverse its earlier finding.

The state constitution has many expressions concerning the character of the people and the criteria that should guide their election of officials.[4] It also forbids the legislature from appropriating pensions for longer than the current year,[5] although state employees now do have conventional employment contracts and a retirement system deemed "deferred compensation."

State law

The current codification of state law under the constitution is the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated of 1955.

Several issues of personal liberty are seen as inviolate. New Hampshire is the only state with no law requiring wearing of seat belts nor use of motorcycle helmets. (The law now does make these demands of those under 18.) A driver does not need to have vehicle insurance but must provide "proof of financial responsibility" to the state after an accident. Failure to do so can result in loss of driving privileges until the injured party is paid in full for their loss. Unlike the neighboring states, New Hampshire has no "bottle bill."

New Hampshire had no law against having an open container of alcohol in a car until 1990, though it has since cracked down on alcohol in numerous ways, including a 2008 enactment that makes underage possession of alcohol include possessing it inside one's body.

As of January 1, 2008, civil unions are legal in New Hampshire, giving all the rights associated with marriage in the state to same-sex couples.[6] As of January 1, 2010, same-sex marriage will be legal in New Hampshire, negating the civil union law.

The state retains the death penalty for limited crimes. The last execution was conducted in 1939. In 2008, a jury voted to impose the death penalty for the first time since 1959.[7]

New Hampshire was the last state in the country to require public kindergarten, although as of 2008, all but two dozen communities provided kindergarten, using a variety of types of state funding. The state has mandated that all municipalities provide public kindergarten by fall 2009.[8]

Administrative rules

Rules that agencies issue, as authorized by statute, are collected in the New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules.

Branches of government

Legislative Branch

The legislature is called the General Court. It consists of the House of Representatives (400 members) and the Senate (24 members).

The General Court is the third-largest legislature in the English speaking world, behind only the British Parliament and the United States Congress, respectively; and the New Hampshire House of Representatives is the fourth-largest individual chamber (exceeded in number by the United States House of Representatives, the British House of Commons and the British House of Lords).[9] The legislature at one time grew to 443 members due to population growth, but a 1942 constitutional amendment set its size at from 375 through 400 members.[10] There is one Representative for about every 3,300 residents.[11] In order for the U.S. Congress to have the same representation, there would need to be approximately 93,000 Representatives.

The legislature apportions legislative seats based on the decennial U.S. Census. The problem of allocating 400 legislators to 259 municipalities and ensuring equal representation is solved with floterial districts. For example, a city due more than five representatives but not quite six might elect five representing the city itself, and one more in a floterial district that includes some neighboring towns. (In 2002, the state Supreme Court found that this solution did not provide adequately equal representation and redistricted the state into 88 districts, none of them floterial.[12] The constitution was amended in 2006 to reauthorize floterial districts.[13])

State legislators are paid $200 for their two-year term, plus mileage, effectively making them volunteers. The only other benefits are free use of toll roads and of state-owned resorts. The most typical way to afford the time and cost of being a legislator is to be retired; a 2007 survey found that nearly half the members of the House are retired, with an average age over 60.[14] Other legislators can serve by having a spouse working outside the home.

Executive Branch

The Executive Branch consists of the Governor, Executive Council, and state agencies. The executive branch implements and enforces the laws of the state. The Governor is the supreme executive and is afforded the title of His or Her Excellency, though the Constitution only provides for "His Excellency".

The Governor of New Hampshire is John Lynch (D).

Unlike most other states, the Governor shares executive power with the Executive Council, which the Governor chairs.[15] The Governor and Executive Council must concur on state contracts over $5,000, high-level agency appointments, and pardons. The Governor's veto power and command of the National Guard are not dependent on the Executive Council. The Governor and Councilors are elected to two-year terms. New Hampshire and Vermont are the only states that still elect governors to two-year, rather than four-year, terms. Agency appointments are generally for terms of four or five years, which means that a New Hampshire governor is unable to form a new cabinet when first taking office.

New Hampshire does not have a Lieutenant Governor as most states do. The Senate President serves as Acting Governor whenever the governor is out of the state or otherwise unable to perform the duties of the office. After the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, Secretary of State and State Treasurer are next in line to serve as Acting Governor.

Judicial Branch

The state's highest and the sole appellate court is the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary and, with the other justices of the supreme court, oversees the judicial branch. New Hampshire has three additional courts and one division:

Political parties


The Republican Party and the Democratic Party are the only official parties, for which the state lets a voter register, holds a primary election, and gives a column on the general-election ballot. Minor parties must poll 4% in a statewide or Congressional election to become official parties, and they lose that designation if they cease to poll 4%. The Libertarian Party had official party status from 1990 to 1994.

A voter who is registered in an official political party cannot vote in a different party's primary election. A voter who is registered "independent" can vote in any party's primary, but is automatically registered in the party in which he or she votes. The voter can change registration at the polls after voting, and can also change registration in periodic meetings of a town's Supervisors of the Checklist or at the City Clerk's office. These rules are designed to impede the casting of a cross-over vote for a different party, which may have the goal of sabotaging its nomination. Registering in a party constrains a voter's choice of ballot, but demonstrates support for the chosen party, and is a prerequisite to being a candidate of that party.

Primary elections

The famous New Hampshire Primary is summarized in the article on New Hampshire.

Nominations for all other partisan offices are decided in a separate primary election held in September of election years. In Presidential election cycles, this is the second primary election held in New Hampshire.

Local government

New Hampshire consists of 13 cities and 221 towns, plus 22 unincorporated places,[16] exercising the powers granted to them by state law.[17] Towns govern themselves by Town Meeting. Town Meeting is effectively the municipal legislature, of which every registered voter is a member.

Since 1995, a town may elect to govern itself by Official Ballot Referenda. This procedure is known as SB-2.[18] In such towns, Town Meeting is a "Deliberative" session that decides the wording for the referendum; the binding decision is taken by secret ballot. A 60% majority is required to adopt or to drop the SB-2 procedure.

Some towns, especially larger ones, are governed by a Town Council instead of a Board of Selectmen. Cities are governed by Boards of Aldermen (in Manchester and Nashua) or City Councils (all other cities).


New Hampshire's operating budget is set on a two-year basis, the latest period, July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2009, being FY (Fiscal Year) 2008 and FY2009. The FY2008 summary is as follows:[19]

Category Expenditures
Health and social services $1,878,467,014
Education $1,458,949,429
Transportation $554,362,042
Administration of justice and public protection $497,656,860
General government $489,197,174
Resource protection and development $232,532,423
Total $5,111,164,942
Source Revenue
Federal Funds $1,478,263,227
Other Funds $1,694,862,406
General Fund $1,563,832,988
Highway Funds $276,455,391
Turnpikes Funds $76,575,234
Fish and Game funds $12,364,494
Sweepstakes Funds $8,811,202
Total $5,111,164,942


New Hampshire does not have a general income tax nor a general sales tax like many other U.S. states. It does have the following taxes:[20]

  • Interest & Dividends Tax - 5% income tax[21]
  • Inheritance and Estate Tax
  • Business Profits Tax
  • Business Enterprise Tax - 0.75%[22] - an income tax on sole proprietors
  • Communications Services Tax
  • Electricity Consumption Tax
  • Meals and Rentals Tax - 8% sales tax on meals, vehicle rentals, and hotel rooms[23]
  • Tobacco Tax
  • Real Estate Transfer Tax
  • Timber Tax
  • Gravel Tax
  • State Education Property Tax
  • Utility Property Tax
  • Local Property Tax
  • Fuel Tax

The property tax is the source of nearly all municipal revenue, which is typically allocated by town meeting. In 2002, in response to court-ordered statewide equalization of education funding (see Claremont suits), New Hampshire instituted a statewide property tax. The tax is lower than the amount already assessed by municipalities, it is collected by municipalities, and is basically returned to them, though legislative adjustments create "donor towns" and "recipient towns."

Taxation is one of the more controversial issues in the politics of New Hampshire.

External links

  •, official state website


  1. ^ Claremont School Dist. v. Governor
  2. ^ N.H. Constitution, Part 2, Article 83
  3. ^ Londonderry School District SAU #12 v. State of New Hampshire, October 15, 2008
  4. ^ For a long list, see N.H. Constitution, Part 1, Article 38; also, Part 2, Article 83, which animated the "Claremont" lawsuits, was another such expression.
  5. ^ N.H. Constitution, Part 1, Article 36
  6. ^ Office of the Governor of the State of New Hampshire (2007-05-31). "Governor Signs Law Establishing Civil Unions in New Hampshire". Press release. Retrieved 2007-07-14.  
  7. ^ "Addison Guilty of Capital Murder in Briggs' Death," Manchester Union-Leader, November 13, 2008.
  8. ^ "Hudson takes hard line on kindergarten," Manchester Union-Leader, 22 December 2008
  9. ^ "House Fast Fact", New Hampshire House of Representatives
  10. ^ NH House Facts
  11. ^ Divide 400 into the most recent estimate of state population in the article on New Hampshire.
  12. ^ Burling v. Chandler, 148 NH 143
  13. ^ N.H. Constitution, Part 2, Article 11
  14. ^ Gordon Fraser (December 23, 2007). "N.H. Legislature doesn't mirror population". The Eagle Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-20.  
  15. ^
  16. ^ The count is as appears on on 28 April 2009.
  17. ^ New Hampshire Statutes Title III
  18. ^ SB-2 means "Senate Bill 2" of the 1995 legislature. The term in context is always understood to mean the referendum option for town government. The statute is RSA 40:13.
  19. ^ 1 CategoryTotals.doc
  20. ^
  21. ^ RSA 77. Until 1995, the income tax exempted dividends and interest from institutions within the state (and, reciprocally, from institutions in Vermont). This was found to violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
  22. ^ RSA 77-E
  23. ^ RSA 78-A


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