NH Talking Points 2020

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Your Voice Counts!

HB1599, an Act establishing a special marriage officiant license, continues to make its way through the NH General Court. JPus created these talking points for JPs and town clerks to help guide conversations. It will take one-on-one conversations and emails to defeat this bill. Invite your friends and family members to get involved, and ask them to contact their legislators, too.

Contact Your Senator

If you don’t know who your Senator is, click here.

We recommend personal connections with senators. This will help them hear how implementation of this bill will hurt New Hampshirites. Our goal is to help the senators recognize that this bill is misguided and will be harmful to their constituents. More background that may help with your conversation is in the related links, below. Following is a list of specific issues for your consideration:

  • It puts the community at greater risk of COVID transmission; professional JPs are trained to follow safe practices
  • It creates cracks in our system of protection for victims of child and forced marriage and trafficking.
  • It creates unfunded mandates for municipalities
  • It jeopardizes the validity of marriages for unsuspecting couples
  • It diminishes the value of professional, state-commissioned JPs who hone their skills to provide custom ceremonies to couples

Composing Your Written Message

Assuming the bill passes the House, then it will go before the Senate subcommittees and then the full Senate. Because of the pandemic, the legislative office building is closed. The General Court is using alternate space for hearings and live streaming to the public.

You may submit written (formal) testimony by email to your own senator so they are aware of your position. Please also send a copy of your testimony to JPus at [email protected] so we can submit it to the Senate Clerk; this will make your statement part of the official record and all members of the Senate will receive a copy. We would also like to keep track of our collective efforts.

  • Direct your written and oral testimony to the Chairs, and other members of the Senate, state your name, your town and whether you are in favor or opposed to HB1599.
  • State that you are a Justice of the Peace (and/or a Town Clerk) and a member of the Justice of the Peace Association.
  • Check back soon for a template to use for your written testimony

Your goal is to help members of the legislative body better understand what your experiences are. Think about the different points you may want to get across. You won’t be able to cover them all, so identify between one and three to help you focus your message. Think about how you could give the senators a real understanding of how amateur officiants may pose a problem.

All public hearing testimony, written and spoken, is public information. As such, it will be made available on the state’s website and indexed by Internet search engines.

The following are some suggestions to help you formulate your message:

What do you offer that makes hiring a professional JP important?

  • JPs are standing in for the state when they perform their duties. Is the JP role more than someone just signing a form? How?
  • Consider the NH JP Manual for the official duties. Does this bill diminish the importance of JP’s responsibilities that being a professional JP provides?
  • The state’s income from fees related to a special marriage officiant will be at the expense of JPs who derive their livelihood from their marriage officiant role, negating the state’s benefits.
  • When concluding your statement, please remember to restate your position (for or against) HB1599 and thank the committee for taking the time to listen to your experiences.

To-Do Checklist

  1. Call or e-mail your senator,
  2. Write testimony; use our template for guidance (coming soon), or call the JPus office at 203.255.7703. Send to your senator, and send a copy to JPus: admin at jpus.org, to let them know your position on HB1599. Help them understand why this is important to you.
  3. Speak with your town clerk, friends, family and fellow JPs. Make sure they are aware of this pending bill and ask them to get involved. JPus is available as a resource.

Related Links

  • Learn about the problems with amateur marriage officiants here
  • JPus submitted alternative language to HB 1599 to address the problems with the bill
  • Read the text of HB 1599 here.
  • JPus’ white paper about temporary officiants in Massachusetts illustrate the anticipated problems in New Hampshire.