State of Democracy

NHPR's reporting initiative focused on the impact of politics and public policy on the residents of New Hampshire and beyond. Learn more here.

A proposal to amend the state constitution is stirring debate among lawmakers and legal experts in New Hampshire.

The so-called Marsy’s Law amendment would insert specific rights for crime victims into the state constitution.

As NHPR’s Jason Moon reports, a well-financed campaign has brought the same debate to more than a dozen other states at the same time.

The campaign in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District is among the most crowded and most buzzed-about midterm races in the country. With all that attention comes plenty of money, from both inside and outside the state.

KOMUNews | Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/aDWgGW

This story has been updated with a statement provided by Envision Healthcare.

When Seabrook resident Donna Beckman got a surprise medical bill after a trip to her local emergency room last summer, she eventually learned it was because the doctor who treated her wasn’t part of her insurance network.

But Beckman’s story doesn’t just serve as a cautionary tale about how patients can be unexpectedly “balance billed” for out-of-network services at in-network medical facilities. It also illustrates how little the average patient knows about who’s involved in their medical care.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

Rep. Bob Backus of Manchester said he thought Tuesday morning's anti-harassment training for legislators was worthwhile — even if, he conceded, he might not have absorbed the whole thing.

“I wasn’t fully awake and participating very well,” Backus, a Democrat, said in the hallway after the 8:30 a.m. presentation wrapped up.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Gun laws are always divisive in the Live Free or Die state, but Tuesday, lawmakers are taking up a bill that is dividing a normally united front in the Republican-controlled state house: Gun rights groups.

Flickr/ Anne and Tim (Creative Commons)

In recent days, Gov. Chris Sununu has used the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program as a key talking point in his efforts to publicly pressure New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation to vote in favor of deals to avert a government shutdown. When news broke Monday that such a deal had been reached, Sununu offered a sigh of relief.

Courtesy photo

Joel Storella’s “Cash Only Vintage” is about the last thing visitors to Littleton, New Hampshire expect to find while strolling along Main Street.

The quintessential New England town is known for being home to the world’s longest candy counter and the author of Pollyanna...but vintage Ralph Lauren sweatshirts and highlighter colored ski suits? Not so much. But those are just two of the many 80s and 90s gems you’ll find at Storella’s vintage clothing store.

Courtesy of St. Paul's School's Website

Long before the #MeToo movement took down politicians, movie moguls and powerful media personalities, St. Paul’s School in Concord was grappling with its own history of sexual misconduct.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

For Linda Saunders Paquette and her staff at New Futures, a nearly all-female lobbying team, learning to navigate uncomfortable interactions with legislators in a regular workday at the New Hampshire State House has become almost second nature.

“If we're having a meeting with a particular legislator or even going to a particular event, we use the buddy system,” Saunders Paquette said. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Twelve years ago, a sexual harassment scandal at the New Hampshire State House ended with the institution being forced to pay $85,000 in public funds toward a settlement. It also prompted a broader reckoning about how the Legislature handled misconduct within its ranks.

Related Story: Women Lobbyists, Legislators Describe Coping With Harassment At N.H. State House

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As reported earlier this week, New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper says he's disappointed that roughly one-quarter of his chamber has not signed a form acknowledging they’ve read the official State House sexual harassment policy.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

President Donald Trump was elected last year with a promise to put America first: to renegotiate or possibly scrap trade deals he argues aren’t benefiting the United States.

In northern New Hampshire, where the state bumps against the Canadian border, those policies are now playing out in the lumber industry, leaving loggers and sawmills on both sides of the border adjusting to a new economic landscape.

If you’re looking for the latest information on how to vote in the local elections happening across New Hampshire today, you’d probably turn to the state elections website for the most reliable information.

But as voters across New Hampshire headed to the polls Tuesday, the state’s website included several broken links and blank pages where details on voter registration were supposed to be.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

A handful of Republican lawmakers and one Democrat are expected to square off at a forum in Concord in hopes of becoming the next Speaker of the New Hampshire House.

Governor Chris Sununu has nominated the current Speaker, Shawn Jasper, to be his Commissioner of Agriculture. Jasper has yet to be confirmed by the Executive Council, but in the meantime, a number of his colleagues have been lining up to be his potential replacement.

 

Lauren Chooljian / NHPR

 

George and Maxine Maynard have what you might call a complicated relationship with New Hampshire's state motto.

And when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a controversial free speech case next month, the Maynards' decades-old legal battle over the state’s ubiquitous “Live Free or Die” will be back in the spotlight.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Local economies don’t turn on a dime. When a factory town loses its factories, and workers lose their jobs, it can take decades for a community to get back on its feet.

That’s been the reality in places like Berlin and Gorham: two former paper mill towns in the North Country now trying to reinvent themselves.

Businesses, officials and residents are hoping that ATV tourism can provide a much-needed financial boost. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s participation on President Trump’s election commission has earned him criticism that he’s undercutting his decades of work as New Hampshire’s top elections official. Gardner, for his part, says he’s taking part in the controversial commission “in [his] personal capacity.”

Still, over the past five months since the commission was formed, state workers — including Gardner's staff assistant and attorneys employed by the New Hampshire Secretary of State — have repeatedly been called upon to carry out work related to the commission, apparently on state time.

Allegra Boverman/NHPR

Senate Bill 3, the controversial new bill that changes some of the requirements for newly registered voters, gets its first test Tuesday in a special election in Laconia and Belmont. Gov. Chris Sununu says it will protect the integrity of New Hampshire elections.  State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley says it’s voter suppression.

Here are some basic questions on the new law that is being challenged in court.

What is it?

Logan Shannon / NHPR

A newly released report from the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Department of Safety says a majority of people who used out-of-state IDs to register in last November’s elections haven’t registered vehicles in New Hampshire or gotten in-state drivers licenses in the months since. While this data alone doesn’t provide proof of voter fraud, as NHPR has noted before, it's quickly become fodder in an ongoing debate about New Hampshire’s voting requirements.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

A federal oversight agency’s review of how New Hampshire is spending $18 million in federal election money finds that the state, for the most part, follows the rules. But the back-and-forth within the audit illuminates a larger and long-running tension between the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office and the federal elections officials.

Amanda Loder, StateImpact New Hampshire

Laurie Laizure of Manchester likes to think she’s the kind of parent who’s engaged in what’s happening at her kids' schools.

Which is why she was so surprised to learn, when scrolling through Facebook last month, about a sexual assault that took place at Manchester West High School. In 2015, a 14-year-old student — a classmate of Laizure's daughter — was raped by an older student in a secluded hallway during school hours.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

When New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said he intended to share information from the state’s public voter checklists with a newly launched Trump administration commission, plenty of people were quick to decry the move as an “invasion of privacy.”

Emily Corwin / NHPR

The New Hampshire parole board plays a key role in the state’s criminal justice system. Its nine members decide which inmates get out on parole, and which parolees return to prison. Although parole hearings are open to the public, they take place with little oversight or public scrutiny. And, unlike most legal proceedings, they can be surprisingly unrefined affairs.

Sara Plourde/NHPR

Last week, the Supreme Court said it will hear a case later this year on partisan gerrymandering—a questionably constitutional practice in which legislators draw lines of voting districts in a way that gives their party a built-in electoral advantage. The Supreme Court has never ruled on partisan gerrymandering, and its decision could have a dramatic impact on the way districts are drawn after the 2020 census.

Last week, lawmakers in Concord signed off on a plan to provide state support for full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire. The new law will use revenue from the electronic gambling game keno to give school districts more money for full-day kindergarten.

NHPR reporter Jason Moon recently sat down with NHPR host Sally Hirsch-Dickinson to talk about what this mean for schools and town across New Hampshire. Listen to their conversation here.

NHPR Staff

New Hampshire legislators begin the final stage of the state budget-writing process this week. On Friday, a handful of senators and House members will gather to hammer out a compromise plan for state spending over the next two years.

Billions of dollars are at stake, and NHPR’s newsroom has been keeping an eye on several key policy areas. Here's an overview on where several big-ticket items stand.

Jason Moon for NHPR

With 14,000 students from a huge variety of backgrounds, the Manchester School District is both the largest and most diverse in the state.

But those distinctions come with challenges that sometimes result in stark disparities between schools just a few miles apart.

This story has been updated to make note of the AP's correction to its original story, issued Wednesday.

Last week, the Associated Press — along with other local news outlets — covered Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s visit to New Hampshire to speak at party fundraiser.

The New Hampshire Republican Party took issue with the AP’s decision to report from inside the closed-press event, the accuracy of its brief story and the integrity of the reporter who filed it — and responded with a firestorm of criticism, on social media and elsewhere. 

Casey McDermott, NHPR

New Hampshire's Executive Branch Ethics Committee had a rare moment in the spotlight recently, after it weighed in on a complaint involving Gov. Chris Sununu’s use of his official Twitter account.

If you haven’t heard much about this committee, you’re not alone. While it launched with some degree of fanfare, hailed as a tool to bring more accountability to Concord, the committee has spent much of the last decade maintaining a remarkably low profile.

Last fall, University of New Hampshire student Rachel Berg was one of the more than 3,000 people in Durham who registered to vote on Election Day. And she came prepared.

“I had to bring a few forms of ID, I don’t remember exactly what,” Berg recalled while sitting in a corner of the UNH student center last week. “License, I think. School ID. And maybe my passport, just to be safe.”

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