"N.H. House rule change shuts out the public," by Michael McCord is from Sea Coast Online.
A vote Wednesday to change rules in the state House of Representatives has left at least two Seacoast lawmakers puzzled.
Both Democratic and Republican House leaders supported a rules change to allow only elected lawmakers serve on short-term House study committees starting this session. Previously, state agency personnel or outside experts could serve on panels, which are established by law precisely to take a closer a look at an issue or potential law — such as the current death penalty study commission — before making a recommendation to the entire House.
Supporters say the change, which had overwhelming bipartisan approval, will allow committees to run more efficiently and allow lawmakers to complete their duties. There were also concerns that non-legislators might have undue influence over how recommendations might be crafted and approved.
"They (the public) can have a seat at the table, but not a vote," said House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth. "The whole point is for elected officials to gather information. What's good is healthy public input, but undue outside control of the outcome is not good."
But veteran state Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, opposed the change, calling it "anti-democratic." He said legislative study committees need and should encourage the participation of nonelected citizens.
Earlier coverage from New Hampshire begins with this post.