CONCORD (AP) — As the New Hampshire Legislature starts its summer break, a review of roll call votes shows 2019 was a banner year for attendance.
New Hampshire Public Radio analyzed data from the Legislature's website dating back to 2011. While records from 2015 were not available, the remaining data showed this year's group of House lawmakers had higher attendance for floor votes and fewer unexcused absences than any other year. An average of 353 of the 400 lawmakers were present for floor votes this year, compared to 330 last year.
Last year, only 34 representatives maintained perfect attendance. This year, 55 earned that distinction. Rep. Joe Alexander, R-Goffstown, maintained a 98% attendance record for roll call votes this year, despite working three jobs and pursuing a graduate degree at the University of New Hampshire. He said every representative should achieve 95% or above.
"I think it's very important. We were elected to do our job," he said.
Rep. Tom Loughman, a first-term Democrat from Hampton, said serving in the Legislature is particularly challenging for working parents like him. He missed 20% of the roll call votes, and said many of the absences occurred on days when he had to leave early to pick up his children.
"Frankly, I have a pretty typical schedule in terms of my obligations as a parent and a young professional," he said. "And if we are going to make it difficult or impossible for people who work for a living or have children in school, I think we've gone far astray from our commitment to a citizen Legislature."
Paying just $100 per year, the Legislature tends to attract more retirees and those with flexible schedules than working professionals. Loughman and Alexander backed a bill this session to formally study the "economic challenges" of people who serve in the Legislature while holding outside jobs. The bill died in the Senate, but both lawmakers said they will continue to work on research toward possible reforms.
Absenteeism is less of an issue in the 24-member Senate because with fewer lawmakers, a single absence is more likely to affect the outcome of votes. Almost every senator had perfect attendance this year.
Information from: WEVO-FM, www.nhpr.org