Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inside the House: Beginnings

Editor's Note: The is the first edition of Inside the House, a series of columns submitted by state Rep. Rick Watrous of Concord for publication in OurConcord. As always, if you have any interest in submitting material to be posted on this site, please feel free to email me at ourconcord@yahoo.com.

What’s it like to be in the N.H. House of Representatives? What information is important for a New Hampshire resident to know about how the legislature works?

In this column I plan to let you know. I am a first-time legislator, representing Concord’s wards 5, 6, and 7—officially known as Merrimack District 12.

One of my firm beliefs is that a well-informed citizenry is essential for a democracy and good government. I want to let everyone in how our state government works, passing along knowledge that I pick up as I learn the ropes myself.

After the excitement of the campaign and the Nov. 4 election, there was a break in the action until the freshman orientation the third week of November. Of the 400 representatives in the N.H. House, approximately one-third are freshmen like myself. For three days we attended State House seminars and presentations conducted by veteran legislators and staff. It was a nonpartisan affair; in fact to a newcomer it was hard to tell the Republicans from the Democrats—which was fine by me.

The orientation was essential; there is a lot to learn, from the many steps of how a bill becomes a law to simply navigating your way in the maze-like State House. It was my steepest learning curve since my first week in college. Along the way we learned that the bill filing period comes but once a year, in November… and if we wanted to file a bill we had better hustle because the period ended the following week!

This year there was about 1,000 bills filed, down from the 1,200 or so filed last year. From January through June both the House and the Senate will spend most of their time determining the fate of these bills. Historically, most of these bills will be voted “Inexpedient to Legislate” or killed. About a third of bills filed may become law.

On Dec. 3, 2008, Organization Day, the 400 state representatives, old and new, assembled in the grand Representatives Hall to be solemnly sworn in. I have no doubt that everyone was mindful of the enormous challenges facing us in these uncertain economic times. At the same time, it was also a time of optimistic beginnings for us, the state and the nation.

Take a deep breath. Here we go.

--Rep. Rick Watrous


Trish said...

That's a great addition to your website!

Trish D

Anonymous said...

Rick I hear the school board is lobbying very hard against your bill that would give voters a chance to curb the school board's
spending. What do you hear?

Unknown said...

If you are so worried about school funding, how about going after the millions that we spend on unfunded mandates, seems like a great lawsuit to me.