CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House voted HB 1207, disclosure of model acts, inexpedient to legislate today. The bill would have simply required model bills to list their origin. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:
“Drafting legislation is the most fundamental act of lobbying, yet New Hampshire has a huge, gaping hole for reporting and disclosure of this lobbying activity. Corporate and other special interests are allowed to write state laws behind closed doors, often without any disclosure or transparency as to who is writing them and why. Knowing who is writing our state laws is an important part of having an open and transparent government. We are disappointed by the House’s decision. Otherwise strong public servants, who rally at length against special interest influence in their campaign speeches, missed a key opportunity to act on those values this week.”
“This law would have applied equally to conservative and liberal groups, to Democrats and Republicans, to partisans and non-partisans. Good government should be a shared democratic value regardless of political party or persuasion, and no one should shy away from identifying who is drafting our state laws and why. We appreciate that the committee that heard this bill agreed, but their recommendation to put this into House rules instead of law means bills originating in the Senate will not have the same disclosure, and House Rules also change with administrations. This policy needs to be law.”
Background on HB 1207:
Right now national cookie-cutter model legislation, designed to promote a particular interest, has no disclosure requirements. This allows special interests to unduly influence laws behind closed doors. In the 2011-2012 session, Granite State Progress identified 30 model bills from one national organization alone, 16 of which became law. Many of the bills had no visible involvement from the entities who designed them meaning, often, legislators and constituents didn’t even know who was originally behind the bill or why – a key part of understanding the intent and potential impact of a policy.
HB 1207 would have simply required bill sponsors to let the Office of Legislative Services know when they were using a model act, and OLS would note that in the bill analysis. To be considered a model act, the legislation has to be national cookie-cutter legislation that is officially voted on and adopted by an organization or corporation, then distributed in more than one state. Home-grown New Hampshire bills would not be impacted. Laws from other states are not formally distributed by those states and, thus, are not considered model acts. Model legislation is not inherently bad, but the special interests promoting it – regardless of political persuasion – should be disclosed as part of an open and transparent legislative process. Granite State Progress supported having this disclosure on all model legislation to lessen the corruption of our legislative process.