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Government

At the time of writing the Governor of New Hampshire is Maggie Hassan (Democrat). New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators are Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat) and Kelly Ayotte (Republican). New Hampshire’s two U.S. representatives are Carol Shea-Porter (Democrat) and Ann McLane Kuster (Democrat). New Hampshire is an alcoholic beverage control state, and through the State Liquor Commission it takes in $100 million from the sale and distribution of liquor. The state has offered civil unions since January 1, 2008, and, on January 1, 2010, same-sex marriage became legal.

Governing documents

The New Hampshire State Constitution of 1783 is the supreme law of the state, followed by the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated and the New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules. These are roughly analogous to the federal United States Constitution, United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations respectively.

Branches of government

New Hampshire has a bifurcated executive branch, consisting of the governor and a five-member executive council, which votes on state contracts worth more than $5,000 and “advises and consents” to the governor’s nominations to major state positions such as department heads and all judgeships and pardon requests. New Hampshire does not have a lieutenant governor; the Senate president serves as “acting governor” whenever the governor is unable to perform the duties. The legislature is called the General Court. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are 400 representatives, making it one of the largest elected bodies in the English-speaking world, and 24 senators. Most are effectively volunteers, nearly half of whom are retirees. The state’s sole appellate court is the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Superior Court is the court of general jurisdiction and the only court that provides for jury trials in civil or criminal cases. The other state courts are the Probate Court, District Court, and the Family Division.

Local government

New Hampshire has 10 counties and 234 cities and towns. New Hampshire is a “Dillon Rule” state, meaning that the state retains all powers not specifically granted to municipalities. Even so, the legislature strongly favors local control, particularly with regard to land use regulations. New Hampshire municipalities are classified as towns or cities, which differ primarily by the form of government. Most towns generally operate on the town meeting form of government, where the registered voters in the town act as the town legislature, and a board of selectmen acts as the executive of the town. Larger towns and the state’s thirteen cities operate either on a council-manager or council-mayor form of government. There is no difference, from the point of view of the state government, between towns and cities besides the form of government. All state-level statutes treat all municipalities identically. New Hampshire has a small number of unincorporated areas that are titled as grants, locations, purchases, or townships. These locations have limited to no self-government, and services are generally provided for them by neighboring towns or the county or state where needed. As of the 2000 census, there were 25 of these left in New Hampshire, accounting for a total population of 175 people (as of 2000); several were entirely depopulated. All but two of these unincorporated areas are located in Coos County.

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