What is the New Hampshire Executive Council?
The Executive Council is an elected group of five individuals, each representing approximately 20% of New Hampshire’s population. The five councilors, part of the Executive Branch, are meant to serve as a “check and balance” to the Governor, the head of the Executive Branch. Councilors are elected every two years, at the same time as the Governor. Find your Executive Councilor here.
The Executive Council typically meets every other week, often at the State House in Concord – but they do not create policy or pass laws. Instead, the Executive Council approves or denies all federal and state contracts over $10,000, confirms or denies the Governor’s appointments of commissioners and department heads, and confirms or denies the Governor’s nominations of judges. This list is not exhaustive, but all three of these responsibilities of the Executive Council impact sexual and reproductive health care and rights in New Hampshire!
Who is My Councilor?
Click here to find your Executive Council member and their contact information.
Why is the Executive Council So Important to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care?
The Executive Council cannot pass laws or create policy, but they play a vital role when it comes to sexual and reproductive health care in New Hampshire. Specifically, the five-member Executive Council:
- Votes on contracts, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s Family Planning contract;
- Votes on the Governor’s nominations of judges, including to New Hampshire’s Supreme Court; and
- Votes on the Governor’s appointments of commissioners and department heads, including the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Executive Council approves or rejects all state and federal contracts over $10,000, including the contract that funds PPNNE and other members of the New Hampshire Family Planning Program. The New Hampshire Family Planning Program covers preventative sexual and reproductive health care, such as birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment, for low-income and uninsured Granite Staters. Essential, preventative health care is provided for free or on a sliding scale.
Since the New Hampshire Family Planning Program was established in 1972, the Executive Council approved this contract without controversy. Then, in 2011 and 2015, anti-reproductive health majorities on the Council decided to single out and reject PPNNE’s funding in the contract, injecting politics into the process.
In 2021 and 2022, Governor Sununu’s Executive Council voted against multiple rounds of contracts with PPNNE, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center. Councilor Joe Kenney (D-1), Councilor Janet Stevens (D-3), Councilor Ted Gatsas (D-4), and Councilor Dave Wheeler (D-5) all put personal politics before public health when they rejected more than $1 million in state family planning funding and jeopardized access to affordable health care for 12,000 Granite Staters.
In many other states, judges are elected -- but in New Hampshire, the Governor nominates all judges to the Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Circuit Court --and the Executive Council approves or rejects those nominations. These judges, who can serve until the age of 70, shape the legal landscape of our state, including the reproductive rights landscape.
Now, more than ever, it's critical that judges serving on New Hampshire's courts understand the importance of upholding reproductive rights. The U.S. Supreme Court, which is now stacked with ultraconservative Trump appointees, has overturned Roe v. Wade, which means that it is up to individual states -- including their courts -- to protect the right to safe, legal abortion.
Commissioners and Department Heads
The Executive Council approves or rejects appointments of NH state commissioners, including the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the NH Family Planning Program.
New Political Hurdles for Family Planning Providers
Funding for reproductive health care providers in the New Hampshire Family Planning Program expired on June 30, 2021. These contracts, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s (PPNNE), fund cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, birth control, and other safety net care; they do not fund abortion care.
On September 15, 2021, the Executive Council voted 4-1 to deny a six-month extension to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s Family Planning contract. Voting to reject contracts were Councilors Kenney (District 1), Stevens (District 3), Gatsas (District 4), and Wheeler (District 5). Councilor Warmington (District 2) was the sole vote in support of PPNNE's contract.
On December 22, 2021, the Executive Council voted 4-1 to deny a two-year family planning contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Voting to reject contracts were Councilors Kenney (District 1), Stevens (District 3), Gatsas (District 4), and Wheeler (District 5). Councilor Warmington (District 2) was once again the sole vote in support of PPNNE’s contract.
On November 29, 2023, the Executive Council again voted 4-1 against family planning contracts with the reproductive health care providers PPNNE, Lovering Health Center, and Equality Health Center.