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Kathy Sullivan: How to keep track of your representatives

By Kathy Sullivan
March 05. 2018 6:12PM




DO YOU KNOW how your state representative is voting?

Probably not. Given the number of state representatives — 400 — the media cannot cover every vote on every bill. And unfortunately, the state’s web site makes it hard to locate the information.

Given the Legislature’s power over our lives, this lack of knowledge is not a good thing. You cannot assume that the friendly legislator you run into at the bank or church shares your views.

How do you find out?

Go to www.gencourt.state.nh.us and click on “House of Representatives.” This will bring you to the House home page. If do not know your legislator, click “Find a Legislator.” A map of the state pops up. Click your county; a county map appears, showing the towns and cities. Click on the town or city, and a list of districts, with the representatives from that district, pops up.

In 2018, there is no reason for the Legislature to make identifying your representatives that hard. On the Manchester City Clerk’s website, you can find your ward, polling location, and alderman just by inserting your address. The state of New Hampshire should make finding legislators that easy.

Once you find your legislator, then what? Let’s use Manchester’s Ward 9. Using “Find A Legislator,” we learn Ward 9’s representatives are Barbara Shaw and Victoria Sullivan. Ward 9 also shares two at-large representatives, Mark McLean and Mark Proulx, with Ward 8 and Litchfield.

Now that you know who they are, you can learn more about them. Tap a representative’s name; a page appears with some basic information. McLean is a second-term Republican who once served in the Royal Canadian Artillery, and has two chemical engineering degrees. Proulx is a third-term Republican, a member of the NRA, and a West High graduate.

Shaw is a Democrat with two degrees in education, serving her 9th term. Sullivan, a Republican, is originally from Massachusetts and in her second term.

What else can you find? Each legislator’s page has a link to that person’s roll call voting record. There are a lot of roll calls, but you can scroll through the bills by title to see how your legislator voted.

This is another place where the state’s web site needs work. You should be able to click on a bill title to obtain the bill text. Instead, you need to note the bill number and look the bill up elsewhere on the site. But the title at least gives you an idea of the topic and the policy under consideration.

For example, HB 1542 was a bill about carrying pistols and revolvers on property of the University System of New Hampshire and New Hampshire community colleges. Look up the bill text and you see the bill would have allowed carrying on campus.

The bill was well publicized, but how did your representative vote? The House voted 231 to 110 that the bill was “ITL”.

ITL means inexpedient to legislate. Representatives voting yes opposed carrying on campus; those voting no would have permitted carrying on campus. Confusing? Yes. There should be an explanation of “ITL” somewhere on the site, but I could not find it.

McLean, Proulx and Sullivan voted no, meaning they supported allowing carrying pistols and revolvers on campus. Barbara Shaw was excused and did not vote.

Take a lesser known bill such as SB 247, relating to preventing lead poisoning in children from paint and water. It requires blood testing for lead in young children unless the parents or guardians refuse consent, and more notification with respect to possible lead paint in residences. The bill easily passed with bipartisan support, 266 to 87.

How did Ward 9’s representatives vote? Shaw and Proulx voted for the bill. McLean and Sullivan were two of the few who voted no.

There are many roll call votes, and not many of us have time to examine all of them. But if you look at some, you will get an idea of whether you agree with the policies your representative favors. It also will give you something to think about the next time you vote for state representative. It even may make you think about running yourself.

And that is a good thing.

Manchester’s Kathy Sullivan is the former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.


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