THE STATE AND ITS GOVERNMENT
LEGISLATIVE ETHICS COMMITTEE
In this chapter:
I. "Conflict of interest" means the condition in which a legislator has a special interest in any matter which could directly or indirectly affect or influence the performance of the legislator's official activities.
II. "Household member" means any person living in the same domicile as the representative, senator, or officer of the house of representatives or senate who shares a common economic interest in the expenses of daily living, including, but not limited to, a spouse, child, or parents.
III. "Jurisdiction of the committee" means those actions which allege a violation of law, guideline, rule, or regulation and relate to the conduct of individuals in the performance of their duties as members, officers, or employees of the legislature.
III-a. "Rule" means any rule adopted pursuant to this chapter and shall not include any rule of proceeding adopted by the house of representatives or the senate.
IV. (a) "Sexual harassment" means an unwelcome sexual advance, a request for a sexual favor, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, provided, that:
(1) Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term of the individual's employment;
(2) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
(3) Such conduct is so pervasive or severe that it creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
(b) As used in subparagraph (a), verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature may include:
(1) Verbal abuse of a sexual nature;
(2) Unwelcome offensive sexual flirtation;
(3) Unwelcome graphic verbal comments about an individual's body;
(4) Sexually degrading words to describe an individual;
(5) Unwelcome brushing, touching, patting, or pinching an individual's body;
(6) Sexually explicit gestures;
(7) The display in the state house complex of sexually suggestive, sexually demeaning, or pornographic objects, pictures, posters, or cartoons; or
(8) Unwelcome inquiry or comment about sexual conduct, sexual orientation, or preference.
V. "Special interest" means any financial or non-financial personal interest in the outcome of a matter that is the subject of official activity, distinct from and greater than the interests of the public at large.
(a) A financial interest exists where a legislator or household member could stand to gain or lose anything of material value as a result of the official activity.
(b) A non-financial personal interest exists where a legislator or household member has a responsibility for the welfare of an organization by virtue of holding a position with a fiduciary responsibility, such as a board member, trustee, or director.
VI. "Sworn complaint" means a statement of facts within the personal knowledge of the complainant alleging a violation of law, guideline, rule, or regulation of the legislature and relating to the conduct of individuals in the performance of their duties as members, officers, or employees of the legislature.
Source. 1991, 105:1. 1994, 329:1. 2004, 234:2. 2009, 261:5, eff. Sept. 14, 2009. 2016, 328:1, eff. Dec. 7, 2016. 2017, 250:1, eff. July 18, 2017. 2018, 314:1, eff. Aug. 24, 2018.
14-B:2 Committee Established; Membership.
I. There is hereby established a legislative ethics committee to develop standards for legislative ethics and resolve, through procedures established in this chapter, issues, questions or complaints involving legislators and legislative staff and officers. The committee shall have the power to investigate allegations of improper conduct as set forth in this chapter. The committee shall consist of the following members, at least one of whom shall be an attorney who is a member of the New Hampshire bar:
(a) One house member, appointed by the speaker of the house.
(b) One house member, appointed by the house minority leader.
(c) One public member, appointed by the speaker of the house.
(d) One senator, appointed by the senate president.
(e) One senator, appointed by the senate minority leader.
(f) One public member, appointed by the senate president.
(h) One public member, appointed jointly by the speaker of the house, the house minority leader, the senate president, and the senate minority leader.
II. No person registered with the secretary of state as a lobbyist under RSA 15 shall serve as a member of the legislative ethics committee or for 6 months following the expiration of such registration.
III. Appointments to the committee shall be made by December 31 prior to the first legislative session of the biennium. A committee meeting shall be called no later than February 1 in the first legislative session of the biennium. Prior to the first committee meeting, the speaker of the house of representatives and the senate president shall jointly select from the members of the committee a chairperson and vice-chairperson. The members shall serve for the biennium and shall not be removed from the committee for any reason except for good cause by unanimous vote of the remaining committee members. Members shall receive no compensation, except that legislative members shall receive mileage at the legislative rate and public members shall receive mileage at the state employee rate. The committee shall provide the executive branch ethics committee with copies of all publicly issued guidelines, procedures, decisions, and opinions.
Source. 1991, 103:2; 105:1. 1994, 329:2, 5, 6. 1997, 113:1. 2001, 215:1, 2. 2004, 86:1. 2006, 21:5, eff. June 2, 2006.
I. The committee shall be authorized to:
(a) Issue guidelines to elucidate proper and appropriate conduct for individuals relating to the performance of their duties as members, officers, or employees of the legislature. Such guidelines shall be consistent with statute.
(b) Issue interpretative rulings explaining and clarifying any law, guideline, rule or regulation within the jurisdiction of the committee.
(c) Render an advisory opinion, in writing within a reasonable time, in response to a written request by a member, officer, or employee, concerning the application of any law, guideline, rule, or regulation within its jurisdiction to a specific factual situation pertinent to the conduct or proposed conduct of the person seeking the advisory opinion. Any advisory opinion concerning any person subject to the provisions of this chapter who acted in reliance thereon, shall be binding upon the committee, and it shall be an absolute defense in any complaint brought under this chapter or prosecution under RSA 15-A or RSA 14-C that the person complained against acted in reliance upon such advisory opinion.
(d) Receive sworn complaints, and investigate allegations of improper conduct, including sexual harassment against members or retaliation against employees who make good faith allegations of sexual harassment, which may reflect upon the legislature, relating to the conduct of individuals in the performance of their duties as members, officers, or employees of the legislature, and make appropriate findings of fact and conclusions with respect to such conduct. Deliberations on such sworn complaints shall be conducted in nonpublic session and in accordance with procedures set forth in RSA 14-B:4 and established by the committee under RSA 14-B:5. The committee shall consider any sworn complaint and shall conduct its initial review of each complaint in a confidential manner, unless otherwise requested by the legislator, officer, or employee complained against.
(e) Investigate any unauthorized disclosure of information by any committee member or employee of the committee and report to the legislature concerning any allegation which it finds to be substantiated.
II. Before guidelines or amendments thereto become effective, the committee shall distribute such guidelines or amendments to the members of the senate and the house of representatives. Specific guidelines or amendments shall be brought to a vote and approved by a majority vote of both houses within a period of 3 legislative days after distribution before they shall become effective.
III. All actions of the committee shall require an affirmative vote of 4 or more members of the committee before becoming effective.
IV. The committee shall review all financial disclosure forms required by RSA 14-B:8 and shall place the completed forms on file in the office of the secretary of state for purposes of the requirements of RSA 15-A, in accordance with the filing deadlines established under RSA 14-B:8 and RSA 14-B:9. The filing of a financial disclosure form in accordance with RSA 14-B:8 by a representative, senator, or officer of the house of representatives or senate shall satisfy the requirement of filing a statement of financial interest pursuant to RSA 15-A.
Source. 1991, 105:1. 1994, 329:3. 1995, 196:1, 2. 2001, 215:3. 2004, 234:3. 2007, 194:1. 2009, 261:1, eff. Sept. 14, 2009. 2016, 328:2, eff. Dec. 7, 2016.
14-B:4 Complaints; Procedures.
I. Each complaint shall be submitted in writing and signed under oath by the complainant. The sworn complaint shall be filed confidentially with the committee and shall contain the name and address of the complainant. The legislator, officer, or employee of the legislature complained against shall be furnished with a copy of the complaint and a copy shall be sent to each member of the committee for review. The committee shall initiate a complaint on its own motion against any individual the committee determines has not complied with the provisions of RSA 14-B:8. The committee shall promptly examine each sworn complaint and:
(a) If by an affirmative vote of at least 4 members it determines that a complaint is frivolous, scurrilous, or retaliatory in nature, fails to allege conduct which is contrary to the law, ethics guidelines, rules, or regulations, or is otherwise plainly not within the committee's jurisdiction, the committee may summarily discharge the complaint without the benefit of a meeting or further proceeding. The committee shall notify the respondent and complainant in writing of its action.
(b) For any complaint not discharged, the committee shall conduct an initial review to ascertain whether the committee has jurisdiction to consider the complaint or whether the complaint is without merit or is unfounded.
II. Any person who knowingly and willfully swears falsely to a sworn complaint does so under penalty of perjury, and the committee may refer any such case to the attorney general for prosecution.
III. Except as provided in this chapter, all proceedings, information, communications, materials, papers, files, and transcripts, written or oral, received or developed by the committee in the course of its work, shall be confidential. Any violation of these provisions relating to confidentiality may result in action by the committee, at the request of the non-violating party or on its own motion, to terminate the proceedings with or without public comment.
IV. Upon completion of its preliminary investigation of a complaint and determination to resolve the complaint through an informal resolution or to initiate a formal hearing, the committee shall make available for public inspection all records, other than its work product and internal memoranda, relating to any complaint it does not dismiss, and shall conduct any subsequent proceedings, other than its deliberations, in public session.
V. If, after receiving a sworn complaint, the committee concludes by a recorded vote that the alleged conduct is not within the committee's jurisdiction or is without merit or is unfounded, the committee shall dismiss the complaint and shall report such conclusion to the complainant and to the legislator, the officer, or the employee of the legislature together with an explanation of the basis of such determination.
VI. If the committee concludes that the complaint is within its jurisdiction and has merit, then by recorded vote, the committee may conduct a preliminary investigation.
VII. Upon completion of its preliminary investigation, the committee shall conclude by recorded vote that:
(a) No action is appropriate because no improper conduct occurred;
(b) The matter does not merit the presentation of formal charges and hearing and shall be resolved with the consent of the respondent by an informal method. Such informal resolution may take the form of written advice or admonishment, the requirement of remedial action, or the imposition of conditions, or any combination thereof; or
(c) The conduct complained of is of a serious nature and formal proceedings should be instituted to inquire further into the complaint. The committee shall then make a statement of formal charges and hold a hearing on the complaint.
VIII. Upon completion of the hearing, the committee shall conclude by recorded vote that:
(a) No action is appropriate because no improper conduct occurred; or
(b) No action is appropriate because there is not clear and convincing evidence that improper conduct occurred; or
(c) There was improper conduct based upon clear and convincing evidence, but such conduct does not justify formal disciplinary action and should be resolved by informal methods; or
(d)(1) There was improper conduct based upon clear and convincing evidence, and the improper conduct was of a serious nature so as to warrant formal disciplinary action by the general court in the case of a legislator or officer of the legislature, or formal disciplinary action by the joint committee on legislative facilities in the case of an employee of the legislature, except in the case of an employee of the legislature employed by the legislative budget assistant, in which case the formal disciplinary action shall be taken by the fiscal committee of the general court. The committee shall submit to the speaker of the house and senate president in the case of a legislator or officer of the legislature, to the joint committee on legislative facilities in the case of an employee of the legislature, or to the fiscal committee of the general court in the case of an employee of the legislature employed by the legislative budget assistant, a summary report of the deliberations regarding the complaint and of its findings. The report shall contain any specific recommendations concerning disciplinary actions to be imposed. With respect to any recommendations for disciplinary actions against a legislator, the committee may recommend one or more of the following:
(C) Expulsion from the senate or house of representatives.
(D) Denial or limitation of any right, power, privilege, or immunity of the legislator that the constitution of New Hampshire permits the general court to deny or limit.
(2) Before any disciplinary action may be taken against a legislator or against an officer of the legislature, the report shall be ratified by the legislator's or by the officer's respective body of the general court. Such ratification need not occur during the biennium in which the complaint was submitted, but may be considered and acted upon by the general court in the next succeeding session; provided that no action shall be taken against an individual who is no longer a member of the general court.
(3) In a case involving an employee of the legislature, the joint committee on legislative facilities shall determine what disciplinary action shall be taken against the employee. In a case involving an employee of the legislature who is employed by the legislative budget assistant, the fiscal committee of the general court shall determine what disciplinary action shall be taken against the employee. In making its determination, the joint committee on legislative facilities or the fiscal committee of the general court as appropriate may use any of the specific recommendations concerning disciplinary actions which are contained in the report which it receives.
IX. In processing complaints filed under this chapter, the committee shall have subpoena powers. If the legislator, the officer, or the employee of the legislature refuses to participate in the proceedings, the committee may refer the complaint to the attorney general for appropriate action.
X. Any member of the legislative ethics committee who is directly or indirectly involved in any complaint before the committee shall not participate in any proceedings regarding the complaint. In the event that a member does not participate in a particular case, the appointing authority shall designate an alternate to serve on the committee for that case only.
Source. 1991, 105:1. 1994, 329:4. 1995, 196:3. 2001, 215:4. 2004, 86:2; 234:4. 2006, 21:6, eff. June 2, 2006. 2016, 328:3-6, eff. Dec. 7, 2016.
14-B:4-a Penalty for Unauthorized Disclosure.
Any person who knowingly or willfully makes unauthorized disclosure of confidential matters or materials contrary to RSA 14-B:4, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and may be subject to disciplinary action as provided in this chapter and other applicable law.
Source. 2008, 132:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.
14-B:5 Rules; Procedures and Guidelines.
The committee shall adopt, publish, and make available to the public rules governing its procedures as well as guidelines referred to in RSA 14-B:3, II consistent with the procedures set forth in RSA 541-A.
Source. 1991, 105:1. 2004, 234:5, eff. June 11, 2004. 2016, 328:7, eff. Dec. 7, 2016.
14-B:6 Publication and Retention of Records.
All records required to be filed or placed on file with the secretary of state under the provisions of this chapter, or with the clerk of the senate or the clerk of the house of representatives under the rules or guidelines adopted in accordance with RSA 14-B:5, shall be made available on the website maintained by the committee in a timely manner. Records maintained by the office of the secretary of state shall be retained for a period of 6 years, after which time they may be destroyed.
Source. 2001, 215:5. 2004, 86:3. 2009, 261:2, eff. Sept. 14, 2009. 2012, 126:1, eff. Aug. 4, 2012.
14-B:7 Repealed by 2006, 21:10, I, eff. June 2, 2006.
14-B:8 Financial Disclosure Form.
Every representative, senator, and officer of the house of representatives and the senate, shall file with the legislative ethics committee a financial disclosure form no later than the third Friday of January in the first legislative session of the biennium. If the legislator's or legislative officer's financial circumstances change, he or she shall file a new financial disclosure form prior to participation in any official activity which would have been affected by the change. The financial disclosure form shall include the following information:
I. The name, address, office, county or district, and telephone number of the reporting individual.
II. The name, address, and type of any business, profession, or other organization (including any unit of government) in which the reporting individual or reporting individual's household member was an employee, officer, director, associate, partner, or proprietor, or served in any other professional or advisory capacity, and from which any income in excess of $10,000 was derived during the preceding calendar year. Sources of retirement benefits other than federal retirement and/or disability benefits shall be included. If the individual filing the financial interest statement or that individual's household member has no qualifying income he or she shall report this by writing his or her initials following the statement: "My or my household member's income does not qualify ___."
III. A statement of whether the reporting individual or reporting individual's household member has a financial interest in any of the businesses, professions, occupations, groups, or matters listed in this paragraph and a place on the form where the nature of the financial interest shall be described for each matter, as applicable.
(a) Any profession, occupation, or business licensed or certified by the state of New Hampshire, listing each such profession, occupation, or category of business.
(b) Health care.
(d) Real estate, including brokers, agents, developers, and landlords.
(e) Banking or financial services.
(f) State of New Hampshire, county, or municipal employment.
(g) The New Hampshire retirement system.
(h) The current use land assessment program.
(i) Restaurants and lodging.
(j) The sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
(k) The practice of law.
(l) Any business regulated by the public utilities commission.
(m) Legal forms of gambling or charitable gaming.
(o) Water resources.
[Paragraph III(q) effective until January 1, 2027; see also paragraph III(q) set out below.]
(q) New Hampshire taxes, specifying if business profits tax, business enterprise tax, or interest and dividends tax.
[Paragraph III(q) effective January 1, 2027; see also paragraph III(q) set out above.]
(q) New Hampshire taxes, specifying if business profits tax or business enterprise tax.
(r) A place where the reporting individual may, but is not required by this chapter to, specify any other area for which he or she or a household member has a financial interest.
IV. The following statement regarding the disclosure of financial interest: "You have a financial interest in a business, profession, occupation, group, or matter listed in this section if a change in law, administrative rule, or other official action by the general court affecting the listed business, profession, occupation, group, or matter would potentially have a financial effect on you or a household member that is distinct from and greater than the interests of the public at large."
V. The following statement regarding the filing of a declaration of intent form: "If your participation in an official activity creates a conflict of interest not disclosed by the information on this form, you must complete and file a Declaration of Intent Form in accordance with section 6 of the Ethics Guidelines. Also, if such activity could reasonably have greater benefit or detriment to you or a household member than other members of a group identified in this form, a Declaration of Intent Form is required. See section 6 of the Ethics Guidelines for information regarding particular conflicts of interest you may have."
VI. The following statement followed by a line for the person filing the form to sign and date the form: "I hereby swear or affirm that the foregoing information is true and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief."
VII. The full text of RSA 14-B:10.
Source. 2009, 261:3, eff. Sept. 14, 2009. 2016, 328:8, eff. Dec. 7, 2016. 2021, 37:1, eff. July 16, 2021; 91:90, eff. Jan. 1, 2027.
14-B:9 Filing With Secretary of State.
All forms filed under RSA 14-B:8 shall be on file with the secretary of state on or before February 15 in the first legislative session of the biennium.
Source. 2009, 261:3, eff. Sept. 14, 2009. 2021, 37:2, eff. July 16, 2021.
Any representative, senator, or officer of the house of representatives or senate who knowingly fails to file the form required under RSA 14-B:8 or who knowingly files a false statement on such form shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Source. 2009, 261:3, eff. Sept. 14, 2009.
14-B:11 Repealed by 2013, 211:2, eff. Dec. 2, 2014.