ADVISORY OPINIONS
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Advisory Opinion 2020-1 (PDF)

Is it permissible for an employee of the New Hampshire General Court to participate in a reduced tuition program offered by Granite State College?

The Committee advised that participation in the reduced tuition program, as currently offered by Granite State College, would not constitute a violation of the Ethics Guidelines as the reduced tuition is provided to all state employees, is not directed at legislative employees, and cannot reasonably be construed as an effort to impair the independent judgment or assert inappropriate influence on legislative employees.

Advisory Opinion 2018-3 (PDF)

Is it permissible for a Representative to accept free transportation, compensation for meals, and one night of lodging related to participation in a documentary on the issue of minors getting married?

Based on the information provided by the Representative about his activities, the Committee advises that his acceptance of the costs of travel, meals, and lodging, as payment for his participation in the documentary would fall within the exemption established for “honorarium” set forth in RSA 14-C:2, IV(b)(11).

The Representative must report his acceptance of the complimentary travel, meals, and lodging as an honorarium in accordance with RSA 14-C:4.

Advisory Opinion 2018-2 (PDF)

Is it permissible for a Senator to pursue a contract through his consulting business with an agency of the State of New Hampshire?

The Committee advised that the Senator’s pursuit or acceptance of a contract with the state agency would not violate the Ethics Guidelines’ prohibition against soliciting or accepting anything of value from a “giver who is likely to become subject to or interested in any matter or action pending before or contemplated by the legislator or the General Court” as the Committee does not construe the term “giver” as including a state agency.

Salary received from the consulting contract would be exempt from the statutory prohibitions on the acceptance of gifts because the salary would be in the regular course of his business, which is unrelated to his legislative position.

The Committee assumed that the state agency would pursue its standard process for awarding consulting contracts.

The Senator would be required to fulfill the normal requirements for disclosure of his financial interests through the use of the appropriate financial disclosure forms and verbal disclosure procedures under the Ethics Guidelines.

Advisory Opinion 2018-1 (PDF)

Is it permissible for a Representative to accept employment with a scholarship organization to fundraise for the organization in the business community if the Representative was one of the sponsors of legislation that allowed the formation of the organization and subsequent legislation that affected the organization?

Based on the information provided by the Representative about his prospective employment, the Committee advised that his acceptance of employment with the organization would not constitute a violation of the prohibition on the acceptance of gifts set forth in RSA 14-C:3.

The Committee also advised that if the Representative were employed with the organization while serving in the House, his participation in certain official activities would constitute violation of the Ethics Guidelines’ Prohibited Activities Paragraph II, Subparagraphs (c), (d), and (f).

Advisory Opinion 2017-3 (PDF)

Is it permissible for a Representative to accept payment of costs related to attendance at an event in Las Vegas sponsored by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)?

Based on the information provided by the Representative about the event’s purpose and activities, a majority of the Committee held that acceptance of the payment of expenses associated with the event would not qualify for exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as “Expense Reimbursement” under RSA 14-C:2, IV(b)(10), as defined in RSA 14-C:2, III.

A minority of the Committee found that there was no basis for finding that the proffered reimbursement of expenses would be a prohibited “gift.”

Advisory Opinion 2017-2 (PDF)

Is a legislator who owns a private company required to disclose in the Financial Disclosure Form the identity of customers from whom the legislator’s company received in excess of $10,000 in the preceding year?

A legislator who owns a private company from which the legislator received gross income in excess of $10,000 in the preceding calendar year is required to identify only the company the legislator owns in Section I of the Financial Disclosure Form.

A legislator is not required to disclose the identity of any customer with whom the legislator’s company has a contract or other customer relationship in Section I of the Financial Disclosure Form -- even if the legislator received in excess of $10,000 from the customer.

If a legislator’s relationship with a customer creates a “financial interest,” the legislator is required to identify and describe that interest in Section II of the Financial Disclosure Form.

Advisory Opinion 2017-1 (PDF)

Is it permissible for a Representative to accept payment of the costs of admission, travel, and lodging related to attendance at two conferences where she has been invited to speak in her capacity as a legislator?

Based on the information provided about the Representative’s activities at the conferences, acceptance of payment of expenses associated with attendance at the conferences qualifies for the exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as an “Honorarium,” as defined in RSA 14-C:2, V.

The Representative must report her acceptance of the complimentary admission, travel, and lodging in accordance with RSA 14-C:4.

Advisory Opinion 2016-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for legislators to accept payment for the cost of registration associated with attendance at a “Multi-Sector Leadership Summit” entitled, “Combating Elder Financial Exploitation in New Hampshire,” organized and sponsored by the Coalition Against Later Life Abuse (CALLA)? Does the Representative’s participation in presenting a welcoming introduction qualify as an “Honorarium”?

Based on the information provided about the Summit’s purposes and activities, the Committee determined that the event is “a bona fide conference meant to communicate information relating to matters of legislative concern.” Therefore, paid registration for attendees would qualify for exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as “Expense Reimbursement” under RSA 14-C:2, III, and the Representative’s participation presenting welcoming remarks would qualify as an “Honorarium,” as defined under RSA 14-C:2, V. See Interpretive Ruling 2013-1.

Both the expense reimbursement and the honorarium must be reported in accordance with RSA 14-C:4.

Advisory Opinion 2015-4 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a Senator to accept payment of the costs of travel, lodging, and meals related to attendance at an event focused on policies that governments and corporations can use to attract and retain veterans of the United States armed forces as employees?

Based on the information provided about the event’s purpose and activities, acceptance of payment of expenses associated with attendance at the event qualifies for the exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as “Expense Reimbursement” under RSA 14-C:3.

The Senator must report his acceptance of the complimentary travel, lodging, and meals in accordance with RSA 14-C:2, IV(b)(10).

Advisory Opinion 2015-3 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for Senators to accept payment for the costs of lodging and meals related to attendance at a conference sponsored by the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (“RLCC”).

Based on the information provided about the conference’s purpose and activities, acceptance of payment by the RLCC for expenses associated with attendance at the conference qualifies for the exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as “Expense Reimbursement” under RSA 14-C:2, IV(b)(10).

The Senators must report their acceptance of the complimentary lodging and meals in accordance with RSA 14-C:4.

Advisory Opinion 2015-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for Senators to accept payment for the costs of travel, lodging, and meals related to a trip to Israel to attend an educational seminar?

Based on the information provided about the trip’s purpose and activities, acceptance of the payment of expenses associated with the trip would qualify for exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as “Expense Reimbursement” under RSA 14-C:2, IV(b)(10). See Interpretive Ruling 2013-1. The Senators must report their attendance in accordance with RSA 14-C:4.

Advisory Opinion 2014-2 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for Senators to accept sponsored support for meals and overnight accommodation while participating in an informational tour of North Country health, educational, industrial and correctional facilities?

Based on the information provided about the tour’s purposes and activities, such support would qualify for exemption from the prohibition on “Gifts” under RSA 14-C:3, as “Expense Reimbursement” under RSA 14-C:2, IV(b)(10). See Interpretive Ruling 2013-1. Senators receiving such support must report it in accordance with RSA 14-C:4.

Advisory Opinion 2013-2 (PDF)

Is it permissible for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to offer and for legislators to accept, without charge, an E-ZPass transponder that enables legislators' free passage through electronic tollgates?

It is consistent with RSA 237:12, I. for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to offer and for legislators to accept, without charge, non-revenue E-ZPass transponders that enable legislators’ free passage through electronic tollgates in New Hampshire only, when used in vehicles bearing legislative plates. Because they are authorized by statute, they are not gifts prohibited by RSA 15-B:3.

Advisory Opinion 2013-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to accept an offer of tuition-waived participation in a handgun training course, where the regular tuition for such participation is $170.00?

Based on the course description provided to the Committee, tuition-waived participation would not qualify for exemption as an “honorarium” (RSA 14-C:2,V), nor as an “expense reimbursement” (RSA 14-C:2, III). As described, tuition-waived participation in the course would not meet the statutory prescription for “honorarium,” which is limited to “an appearance, speech, written article or other document, service as a consultant or advisor, or participation in a discussion group or similar activities.” Similarly, tuition-waived participation would not qualify for “expense reimbursement” because it is not "a bona fide conference, meeting, seminar, or educational, cultural, or informational program… related to the office...held with the state...."

Accordingly, since the economic value of the offer appears to be more than $50, and none of the exceptions listed in RSA 14-C would apply, acceptance of tuition-waived participation would constitute acceptance of a prohibited gift. However, a legislator may accept a tuition discount of up to $50, without violating the statute.

Advisory Opinion 2012-3 (revised) (PDF)

Would it be permissible for a legislator to solicit and accept cash donations from lobbyists and others, including fellow Representatives, as well as in-kind contributions, to financially support an event the legislator wishes to organize, where the donations would be received and disbursed by the legislator to defray the expenses of the event, with the remaining funds, if any, to be turned over to a charity of the legislator’s choice?

It appears from the facts presented that for the purposes described, solicitation and acceptance by a legislator of cash donations in any amount, as well as in-kind donations valued at more than $50, would involve prohibited gifts, in violation of RSA 14-C:3, as well as Section 3, Paragraph II(b) of the Ethics Guidelines. However, it would be permissible for the legislator to assist and promote such an event if it were sponsored by a charitable organization registered as such with the New Hampshire Department of Justice, announcement of the event were limited to publication in legislative calendars or other general means of communication, and all cash contributions were directed to the sponsoring charitable organization, rather than to any legislator.

Advisory Opinion 2012-1 (PDF)

Is a member of the Senate who is also an appointed member of the Assessing Standards/Current Use Board, required to file a "Statement of Financial Interests," as prescribed by RSA 15-A:3, in addition to the "Financial Disclosure Form," prescribed by RSA 14-B:8, for the period covering a given calendar year?

Legislators who comply with RSA 14-B:8 by filing a timely and sufficient Financial Disclosure Form need do nothing more to satisfy the filing requirements of RSA 15-A:3.

Advisory Opinion 2011-2 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to accept a scholarship with a potential value of up to $900 from the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce to participate in the 2011-2012 Leadership Greater Nashua Program?

Participation in the program would appear to qualify as “participation in a discussion group or similar activities” within the meaning of RSA 14-C:2, V. Under these circumstances, the proceeds of the scholarship would qualify as an honorarium, which may be accepted, provided that the reporting provisions of RSA 14-C:5 are fully complied with.

Advisory Opinion 2010-3 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to accept a prize or benefit with a value of greater than $50, awarded as a result of a drawing for which he qualified as a general admission patron at an event at a commercial venue? A legislator who attends a commercial event as a private citizen, who is a paid general admission patron, and participates in a drawing under the same circumstances as any other patron of the event, may accept a prize or benefit awarded in the drawing with a value of greater than $50.

Advisory Opinion 2010-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to accept a prize worth more than $50 awarded at raffle conducted in conjunction with a legislative event? Legislators may accept raffle prizes worth more than $50 awarded at legislative events if (1) the raffle is open to all attendees at the event, legislators and non-legislators alike; (2) participation in the raffle is optional and separate from free admission, and substantial consideration is personally paid by the legislator to participate; and (3) the proceeds of the raffle benefit a charity in accordance with RSA 287-A. However, "door prizes" with a value of more than $50, awarded by lot or otherwise as part of free admission to such an event, are prohibited gifts.

Advisory Opinion 2009-4 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to contact state agencies, nonprofit organizations, or law firms to inquire about the availability of summer intern programs for his daughter? The very limited previous inquiries the legislator described do not appear to involve violation of relevant provisions of the Ethics Guidelines. However, the Committee cautions that even such limited inquiries, if directed at persons or firms professionally involved with any matter or action pending before or contemplated by the General Court, may be perceived as questionable solicitations, in light of Guidelines Section 3, Paragraphs II (b) and (e).

Advisory Opinion 2009-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of a constituent who is seeking college admission? Is it permissible for a legislator to use General Court letterhead, or any other letterhead that indicates membership in the General Court, for the letter of recommendation?

If writing the letter of recommendation results in no private benefit to the legislator, the legislator's immediate family, or a household member, it is permissible for a legislator to write a letter of recommendation for a constituent. Letterhead which identifies the legislator's public office for the letter of recommendation may be used unless the individual potentially benefiting from the letter is the legislator, a member of the legislator's immediate family, or a household member.

Advisory Opinion 2008-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to accept two complimentary tickets valued at $100 to attend a fundraising banquet of the New Hampshire Chapter of Safari Club International? Is it permissible to accept a free 1-year membership in the same organization?

RSA 14-C prohibits an elected official from knowingly accepting a gift valued at greater than $50 unless the item falls under one of the specific exceptions set forth in the chapter. The Committee found no exception that would apply to the tickets in question. Therefore, accepting the tickets would constitute a prohibited gift. If the value of the 1-year membership is greater than $50, this would also constitute a prohibited gift.

Advisory Opinion 2007-5 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislative employee to accept a fellowship award from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire that includes underwriting or reimbursement of expenses for attendance of a conference and a $1000 award?

The underwriting or reimbursement for attendance at the conference would fall within the definition of "expense reimbursement," and acceptance of it would be permitted provided that it is reported. Acceptance of the $1000 award is also permitted because participation in discussion groups and other activities falls within the definition of "honorarium." Acceptance of the honorarium must be reported.

Advisory Opinion 2007-4 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for the House Sergeant-at-Arms to participate in soliciting New Hampshire lobbyists and other third parties to contribute to the National Legislative Services and Security Association (NLSSA) so the association can underwrite portions of its 2008 annual training conference, scheduled to be held in New Hampshire?

Based on the identity of the group to be benefited and the General Court’s relationship with it, the proposed activities are permissible. The Ethics Guidelines prohibit a legislative employee or officer from attempting to use "the employee's or officer's official position to (1) personally obtain any privilege, exemption, special treatment or any other thing of value, or (2) obtain any such benefit for others except as required to perform duties within the scope of employment." Based upon the information provided to the Committee, the House Sergeant-at-Arms would not personally obtain any benefit through the proposed activities on behalf of the NLSSA conference. Although participation in soliciting contributions would clearly benefit “others,” the Committee does not construe that term as including an organization with which the General Court has an official relationship.

Advisory Opinion 2007-3 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator who owns a corporation to bid on a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by a state agency?

Bidding on the RFP and acceptance of the contract award would be permissible because the payments received would be in the regular course of business which is unrelated to the legislator's position and therefore would not involve a prohibited gift. The legislator would not have to report the award of the contract as an honorarium because the statutory definition of honorarium excludes payments by the state for services provided that are unrelated to or associated with one's official position.

No applicable statute or guideline would otherwise prohibit the legislator from bidding on and accepting the contract. The legislator would not be required to recuse in general from future votes relating to the agency, but would be required to report the legislator's financial interest as a contractor for the agency on the financial disclosure forms required under the Ethics Guidelines.

Advisory Opinion 2007-2 (revised) (PDF)

May the House Finance Committee accept and use private auditorium space to hold public hearings at no charge to the committee or its members?

The offer of meeting space was made to, and would be accepted by, the House Finance Committee as a whole, to hold a public hearing. As such it would not constitute a prohibited gift to a legislator. No legislator would receive a personal benefit from the use of the space nor would any legislator have a right to use it except as a member of the committee while conducting the committee's official business. Thus, no value would accrue to any individual legislator; the benefit would be to the public as a whole and to the institution of the House. Therefore, it would be permissible for the committee to accept the use of such space and committee members would not be required to file any report, including the Honorarium or Expense Reimbursement Report. This determination applies whether or not a fee would be typically charged to third-parties for use of the venue.

INTERPRETIVE RULINGS

Interpretive Ruling 2016-5 (revised) (PDF)

This Ruling was issued to provide guidance for legislators for complying with the requirements of the Ethics Guidelines relating to filing required disclosure forms and making a verbal disclosure of conflicts of interest.

Because this ruling addresses several hypothetical scenarios, it is not readily summarized. The text should be reviewed in its entirety.

Interpretive Ruling 2016-4 (revised) (PDF)

This Ruling responded to questions about compliance with the requirements of our new ethics law, RSA 14-C, including the propriety of, and reporting requirements relating to, the acceptance of free admission or tickets to events sponsored by various organizations and entities, or the acceptance of payment for the cost of registration, travel, lodging, or meals and/or other underwriting for certain types of programs and events.

The Committee issued rulings addressing several scenarios. Because these rulings address several subjects in varying contexts, the interpretive ruling is not readily summarized. The text should be reviewed in its entirety.

Interpretive Ruling 2016-3 (revised) (PDF)

House Speaker Shawn N. Jasper requested an Interpretive Ruling on the following questions: Is Part II, Article 7 of the New Hampshire Constitution or Ethics Guidelines, Section 1, Principles of Public Service, violated by a legislator who identifies himself or herself as a representative of a public interest group while presenting testimony in advocacy of the group’s position on a bill at a hearing before a legislative committee? Is the legislator required to disclose a conflict of interest in accordance with Ethics Guidelines Section 6?

The Committee’s examination of the historical context in which Part II Article 7 was adopted led it to determine that the constitutional article would not prohibit a legislator from identifying as a representative of a public interest group and advocating the group’s position on general legislation at a hearing before a legislative committee.

With respect to possible violation of the Ethics Guidelines, accepting payment for advocating on behalf of a public interest group would constitute lobbying and would be prohibited. Otherwise, the Committee determined that legislators may wear two hats: first as an elected official, and also as representative of an advocacy group, as the long as the private interest is not incompatible with the public good. In order to achieve transparency, the Committee advised that legislators representing an organization must file a declaration of intent form indicating that they will participate in official action on a particular bill.

Interpretive Ruling 2016-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for legislators to accept unsolicited books, CDs, DVDs, or similar materials?

“Gifts” to legislators are prohibited, unless specifically exempted by law. Non-monetary items of value are prohibited, unless the item is worth $50 or less, or otherwise qualifies for a specific statutory exemption from the definition of “gift.” In some instances, an item is not worth what is shown as the list price of the item. If a book, CD, DVD, or similar item is widely available from Internet sources, for example, for a price of $50 or less, a legislator can accept it.

Another available exemption allows the acceptance of “(o)bjects or services which primarily serve an informational purpose provided in the ordinary course of business, such as reports, books, maps, or charts.” Such objects or services may be accepted even when valued at more than $50.

When a legislator receives an unsolicited item that is valued at more than $50 and does not qualify for a specific statutory exemption from the definition of gift, the legislator can avoid violation of the prohibition on the acceptance of gifts by discarding the item, returning the item to the giver, giving the item to another individual who is not a family member, or donating it to an entity such as a museum, library, or non-profit organization, provided no benefit accrues to the legislator or the legislator’s family member.

Interpretive Ruling 2015-1 (revised) (PDF)

Does a $100 donation to a charity from a third party in a legislator’s name, for participation in a focus group, qualify as an honorarium that must be reported?

Although the legislator did not personally receive a payment for participation in the focus group, the intangible honor and recognition of the donation resulting from it being in the legislator’s name constitutes a form of payment for the legislator’s participation. The donation is an honorarium and must be reported pursuant to RSA 14-C:4.

Interpretive Ruling 2013-1 (revised) (PDF)

Payments or other items of value legislators may lawfully accept in connection with participation in travel or as compensation for services paid by third persons.

Legislators may accept payment of more than $50 for travel to and attendance at an event if the payment qualifies as an “expense reimbursement.” The exemption applies only where the event is a bona fide conference, meeting, seminar, or educational or informational program that relates to the legislator’s duties, i.e., an event that is primarily focused on communicating information relating to matters of legislative concern to New Hampshire legislators, rather than directed at providing opportunity for tourism, entertainment, or recreation. Thus, reimbursement for “junkets” or “see the sites” trips as part of a legislative group doesn’t qualify for the exemption—the event must offer, as a genuine and central element, organized learning about subjects that are or may become the focus of legislative activity in New Hampshire.

Legislators may also accept payment of more than $50 as an “honorarium” for certain services related to the legislator’s duties or position as such. i.e., an appearance, speech, written article or other document, service as a consultant or advisor, or participation in a discussion group or similar activities related to legislative matters. This exemption is not directed at costs of attending an event, but rather acceptance of payment from third parties for performance of a qualifying service.

Subject to limited exceptions, to qualify for exemption, both Expense Reimbursements and Honorariums must be reported in writing on a form provided by and filed with the Secretary of State no later than the last day of the month following the month in which the honorarium or expense reimbursement was received. For expense reimbursements, reports must include: 1) The value of the reimbursement; 2) The name and address of the source of the reimbursement; 3) A brief description of the event that gave rise to the reimbursement; and 4) A copy of the agenda or an equivalent document which addresses the subjects addressed and the time schedule of all activities at the event. For honorariums, reports must include: 1) The value of the honorarium; 2) The name and address of the source of the reimbursement; 3) A brief description of the service that gave rise to the honorarium; and 4) A copy of the agenda or an equivalent document which addresses the subjects addressed and the time schedule of all activities at the event.

Items valued at more than $50 other than as permitted reimbursement for event expenses or permitted payment for services, are exempt only if they qualify for some other specific statutory exemption.

The same restrictions apply to expense reimbursements or honorariums received by legislative officers and staff. See full Ruling for important details.

Interpretive Ruling 2012-3 (PDF)

Petitions for Redress of Grievance—Further Obligations of Legislators to avoid revealing personal information of third parties.

(1) In designating the contents of a Grievance Petition, legislators must exercise caution, due diligence, and independent judgment about including private health or financial information of third parties, i.e., persons who are not the object of the redress sought by the request. Legislators must consider whether the information is protected by law from disclosure, whether the information appears to be accurate, and whether including it is necessary to support granting the relief sought in the requested Petition.

(2) In considering whether to discuss or further disseminate, through unofficial channels, such private health or financial information of third parties, legislators must exercise caution, due diligence, and independent judgment about whether such information is protected by law from disclosure, whether the information appears to be accurate, and whether it is necessary to support granting the relief sought in the Petition.

Interpretive Ruling 2011-1 (PDF)

Obligations of Legislators with Regard to Petitions for Redress of Grievance

No governing provision of the Constitution, law, rule, or Guideline requires a legislator to "present" a petition for redress of grievance simply because the legislator is requested to do so by a member of the public.

No such governing provision requires a legislator to keep confidential the content of petitions or other legislation the legislator is asked to sponsor by a member of the public, prior to its presentation, in the absence of express agreement by the legislator to hold the information confidential.

Interpretive Ruling 2009-1 (revised) (PDF)

Is it permissible for a legislator to threaten legislation or any other official action to influence the outcome of a judicial proceeding on behalf of third person who does not reside within the legislator’s district?

Ethics Guidelines Section 3, Prohibited Activities, Paragraph III, Subparagraphs (c) and (d) prohibit such conduct on behalf of “certain constituents.” The Committee construes the phrase “certain constituents” in these sections to include any particular person or persons on whose behalf the legislator is communicating, and is not restricted merely to persons who may reside within the legislator’s district. In short, the Committee considers that in accordance with these Guidelines, it would be improper conduct for a legislator to threaten legislation or any other official action, or to conduct private negotiations with any governmental agency, to influence a judicial, regulatory or administrative outcome in favor of a particular person or persons in a particular case, where the benefit of such outcome would not be available to others under similar circumstances.