State of Democracy

NHPR's reporting initiative focused on the impact of politics and public policy on the residents of New Hampshire, and the underlying forces that shape political decisions in the state. Learn more here.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

A State House ethics panel says a top House Democrat violated ethics guidelines by testifying and voting on several pieces of legislation that directly intersected with his position as the paid president of a statewide teachers union. 

Legislative Ethics Committee website

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.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

The Legislative Ethics Committee is still weighing how to proceed on a complaint involving one of the top-ranking Democrats at the New Hampshire State House, four months after it first began a “preliminary investigation” into the matter.

Each week in Manchester, in an undisclosed location, a similar scene unfolds. On this particular day, in early September, it goes like this: A few people set up a card table in a shady spot. In front of the table they place a few plastic buckets.

Soon, a woman approaches holding a shopping bag. Inside are several used syringes. She empties the bag into one of the buckets, chats with the people manning the table, then refills the bag with a few boxes of clean syringes.

State offices that oversee elections and motor vehicle laws have declined to explain what implications, if any, New Hampshire’s new residency standards would have on licensing requirements. That’s despite growing confusion over whether the law could require voters to obtain in-state drivers licenses after casting a ballot.   

While the state has not said definitively that people who vote in New Hampshire would have to get a New Hampshire drivers license under the new law, there are ways to measure how many people could be affected if this turns out to be the case.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

New Hampshire is heading into a busy election season, with municipal contests in November, and the first-in-the-nation presidential primary not far behind. This is the first election season since a new law went into effect that redefined the state’s residency standards.

Supporters have said that the law would bring clarity to New Hampshire’s voting rules, but it’s facing a court challenge from the ACLU and the New Hampshire Democratic Party, who say it will discourage otherwise qualified people from voting.

Imagine you are forced to go to a hospital to receive psychiatric treatment that you don’t think you need. What rights would you have?

That’s the question at the heart of a court battle between the state of New Hampshire, the ACLU, and nearly two-dozen hospitals. A ruling in the case could have profound impacts on how New Hampshire treats people who are in a mental health crisis.

Ali Oshinskie / NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu used his veto pen only a handful of times in his first term, when Republicans held a majority in both chambers of the Legislature.

This session, with Democrats now holding majorities in the House and Senate, Sununu has already set a modern record for the number of gubernatorial vetoes in a single year. 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

They can be found shuffling across North State Street on days when the legislative calendar is packed with public hearings. You see them taking notes from the Senate balcony during floor votes, and chatting with lawmakers in the hallways throughout the capitol.

Lobbyists have long been part of the fabric of the New Hampshire State House, helping shape everything from the state budget to the finer points of agritourism policy. But their influence is often hard to measure.

It can be hard to keep track of the details on lobbying spending in New Hampshire. We want to help.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Ever since New Hampshire’s Medicaid work requirement was approved by the Trump administration last November, critics have warned it would be plagued by the same problems that beset another Medicaid work requirement in Arkansas.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Rep. Joe Alexander, a first-term Republican from Goffstown, used to think he was “an expert on time management.”

“Then,” he said, “I joined the Legislature.” 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The Legislative Ethics Committee voted on Monday to pursue a preliminary investigation into a complaint against New Hampshire House Majority Leader Doug Ley, a Democrat from Jaffrey who also leads one of the state’s largest teachers unions.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

As a new work requirement for beneficiaries of New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid program takes effect this month, some in the healthcare industry say early signs are pointing to a bumpy road ahead.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

NHPR reports on the New Hampshire Presidential Primary every four years, but this time around we're trying something a little different.

We're inviting you to weigh in on how we should cover this campaign. 

Josh Rogers, NHPR

House Majority Leader Doug Ley is adamant that he hasn’t broken any ethics rules by engaging in legislative advocacy as president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while serving in the Legislature.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire's Legislative Ethics Committee is reviewing a complaint against House Majority Leader Doug Ley, which alleges he violated ethics guidelines by testifying and voting on legislation that could affect the teachers union that employs him as its president.

New Hampshire Campaign Finance System

Candidates running for office in New Hampshire can run up a tab on all kinds of expenses: lawn signs, postage, snacks for fundraisers, radio ads, print ads, digital ads and more.

But some lawmakers lean on campaign donations to cover other, less obvious expenses that pile up on the campaign trail, or even while they’re in office: things like car repairs, dry cleaning bills and floral arrangements.

When faced with questions earlier this year about the thousands of dollars paid out from his inaugural committee to his sister and top political advisor, Gov. Chris Sununu’s team said those payments followed state and federal regulations, and “the organization’s bylaws and conflict of interest policy.”

But when NHPR asked to see those bylaws and conflict of interest policy, Sununu’s team declined.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

 

For schools across New Hampshire, special education is a growing need and a growing cost. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Manchester, the state’s largest district, where special ed expenditures have nearly tripled in the last twenty years.  

Legislative Ethics Committee website

Back in February, New Hampshire’s Legislative Ethics Committee started its first, and thus far only, meeting of the year with cause for celebration: For the first time since anyone on the committee could remember, all 424 legislators submitted their mandatory financial disclosure forms on time.

But making a deadline is only one part of the equation when it comes to New Hampshire’s financial disclosure process. Making sure that paperwork is filled out correctly and completely — that’s quite another.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire lawmakers only get paid $100 a year — not exactly enough to feed a family — so it’s no surprise that many of them rely on other sources of income to get by.

As a result, state lawmakers end up dealing with all kinds of proposals that can directly impact their family finances, the taxes they pay, the companies where they work, or the boards on which they serve.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Teacher salaries make up a big chunk of school budgets in New Hampshire. Pittsfield has never been able to offer high salaries, but with creative projects in the past few years, it’s attracted good teachers and high praise. With recent state cuts, though, many say that’s become impossible to sustain.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The city of Berlin has been making some tough decisions lately. As state aid for education declines, Berlin is struggling to keep its schools open. And it’s not alone. Some towns have brought lawsuits against the state, claiming it isn’t covering enough education costs. 

Sarah Gibson / NHPR

Last week, the ConVal School District sued the state, claiming that lawmakers are failing to fund an "adequate education" and that local taxpayers are shouldering more than their fair share.

This isn’t the first time New Hampshire has seen an education funding lawsuit. Districts across the state - from Claremont to Pittsfield - made similar arguments in court decades ago. And they won.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Right now, around 50,000 people in New Hampshire get their health insurance through expanded Medicaid. As a creation of the Affordable Care Act, the program is designed to cover people who make too much money to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health insurance.

Beginning later this year, for some of those 50,000 people, there is a new string attached to that health insurance: a requirement they work at least 100 hours each month.

justgrimes / Flickr Creative Commons

Battles over ballot access have been raging for decades at the New Hampshire State House, and this year is no exception.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

When Gov. Chris Sununu outlined his budget proposal to lawmakers at the State House on Thursday, much of the speech centered on health care, including some proposed fixes to issues that have simmered for years.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu will deliver his budget address on Thursday. The address will take place in front of the newly Democratic-controlled New Hampshire House and Senate and will provide clues about where the governor and state lawmakers are likely to find consensus - and conflict - during this budget-building session, set to go through June. 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Once every four years, for a brief moment, it seems the whole world turns its eyes to Dixville Notch.

Since 1960, voters in this tiny Coos County community have been casting their ballots just after the stroke of midnight to mark the official start of the New Hampshire presidential primary.

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