Now Bound to Paper, Lawmaker Financial Disclosures Could Go Digital for 2020
New Hampshire lags behind many other states when it comes to making information about lawmakers' financial interests accessible to the public. But its disclosure system is slated to soon move into the digital era — perhaps in time for lawmakers to file electronically for the 2020 legislative session.
Each year, lawmakers have to disclose their sources of income and any potential conflicts of interest. But now, that's all done on paper and often by hand. The system can be cumbersome for both the lawmakers filing the forms and the State House administrators responsible for sorting them — not to mention members of the public, for whom the disclosures are intended. In some cases, lawmakers’ handwriting is barely legible, making it difficult to discern any meaningful information about where their legislative and financial interests might overlap.
(Read more and review NHPR's searchable database of financial disclosure filings: Even When N.H. Lawmakers File Financial Disclosures, Details Are Spotty)
Rich Lambert, the legislative staffer who has to chase down lawmakers to ensure they file these forms, has been working with the State House’s IT team to move the process online. He says that’s on track to happen this year.
“Our IT department tells me they are very confident the electronic version of the financial disclosure form will be ready for early December,” Lambert told the Legislative Ethics Committee on Friday.
This would not be the first time the Legislature has tried to implement electronic filing. Lambert says the state participated several years ago in a free pilot program offered by a private company looking to promote its products, but that didn’t work as planned. This time around, Lambert says the General Court’s Information Office is designing the digital filing system, which will hopefully make it more suited to the needs of the New Hampshire Legislature.
If the system is up and running by December, lawmakers will be filing their financial disclosures electronically ahead of the 2020 session.
In an effort to make New Hampshire legislators’ financial disclosure information more accessible to the public, NHPR compiled those forms into a searchable database.
We took care to be as accurate as possible in transcribing the information in these records, but that process required manually reviewing hundreds of filings from the legislative ethics committee’s website. If you think we made a mistake, please reach out to us by email. We'll do our best to correct any errors as soon as possible.