I am concerned by the underhanded treatment NH Community Rights Amendment, CACR19, received during its Feb. 27 House Municipal & County Government executive session.
At CACR19’s original hearing on Feb. 6 , I testified as a mother and Alliance for Newmarket Citizen & Ecosystem Rights member determined to say an effectively resounding NO to projects that would contaminate the water my son drinks.
CACR19 was proposed to recognize and protect in our NH Bill of Rights the authority of N.H. communities to enact local laws by majority vote in order to protect themselves (and the air, water, and soil on which they depend) from harmful corporate projects — as long as local laws wouldn’t limit existing state and constitutional rights of natural persons.
CACR19’s nine bi-partisan sponsors — including two Republican NRA members — believe CACR19 is needed because N.H. citizens currently have neither binding voice nor equal standing against harmful corporate interests that consistently and unfairly appeal to state preemption to take away any real recourse citizens have to prevent their communities from becoming sacrifice zones to profit marketed as “greater good” for the larger state.
After its initial hearing, I watched CACR19 move through Feb. 13 and 14 subcommittee work sessions resulting in a 3-2 bi-partisan vote recommending that it ought to pass. The next step was CACR19’s executive session where protocol would have the full House Municipal & Government committee chair open by calling the subcommittee chair to report to the full committee the outcome and reasoning behind this ought-to-pass recommendation.
Not only was this protocol not followed at CACR19’s Feb. 27 executive session, but the senior Republican chair of the full committee ignored the first hand that went up. It belonged to a CACR19-supporting Republican subcommittee member seeking to motion that CACR19 ought to pass as recommended.
The full committee chair looked at him, looked away, and instead called on the subcommittee chair — a fellow senior Republican voting against CACR19 who not only neglected reporting the ought-to-pass subcommittee recommendation vote but also immediately motioned that CACR19 be inexpedient to legislate.
This subcommittee chair should have reported on and motioned that CACR19 ought to pass so that it could be seconded and voted on by the full committee. If it did not garner majority support as such, then it could have been motioned inexpedient to legislate, seconded, and voted on accordingly.
Point of order was called to have the inappropriate inexpedient to legislate motion withdrawn, but to no effect. This prompted additional protest from six bi-partisan committee members — one of whom is registering formal objection, all of which decreased their time to actually discuss CACR19.
Meanwhile, representatives opposing CACR19 ignored the amendment’s language, which clearly states local laws protected under the amendment would go through town majority vote procedures and would not limit but expand citizen rights. They hyperbolically characterized the amendment as a harbinger of anarchy and chaos.
The only approach to anarchy I see associated with CACR19 is that of senior committee members believing their opinions supersede the process deserved by each piece of legislation that comes before them.
Ultimately, the vote tallied 11-8 in favor of recommending to the full N.H. House that CACR19 be inexpedient to legislate (one absent representative supporting CACR19 would have made it 11-9).
Before the vote, committee member Rep. Rand (D), one of CACR19’s co-sponsors, asked fellow committee members, “Who are we to make a decision for the people? If we do not allow voters the chance to establish their will, we are not honoring the principles of our constitution, which provides that the people’s authority can supersede the state when seeking to reform government.”
Sometime next month, CACR19 heads to the N.H. House floor and anticipated heated debate to overturn the committee recommendation of inexpedient to legislate.
I urge N.H. voters to visit www.nhcommunityrights.org to learn more about CACR19 and to call their representatives to ask them to support the amendment.