To The Daily Sun,
Friends and neighbors have asked me why I am voting yes to Article 29, the Community Rights-Based Ordinance in Ashland. The reasons are many, but the simplest is that I’m tired.
I’m a resident, a taxpayer, and a mother raising children here and I’m just plain tired. I’m tired of watching large corporations use their size, power, and money to overrun local interests and destroy our environment. I’m tired of being told by state (and perhaps more sadly local leaders), that projects like Northern Pass are inevitable, beyond our control, and that we just need to suck it up and prepare for it. I’m tired of the “let’s make the most of it” argument or the argument for “let’s try to just mitigate the inevitable.” I’m tired of being told we have no say, no power, all while watching corporations claim massive rights and future lost profits and dodge responsibility for harm after harm.
Perhaps Northern Pass is falling victim to my fatigue, perhaps my lens isn’t 100 percent open to their claims of inevitable benefits of their project and articulated efforts to mitigate harm... but if this is the case, I’m not sorry. They are the straw that is breaking the camel's back for me and many in my generation. We’re done.
No, you cannot expect us to rejoice that you’re offering us free testing of our watershed and lagoons so that IF you cause harm we can prove it and attempt to receive a settlement. No. Just stay away from our watershed. Don’t dig there, don’t test there, don’t put towers there, just leave one of our most precious facilities and resources alone for us to manage as a community.
With respect to my fellow community members that argue that a community rights-based ordinance goes too far, I say, no, its corporate rights that have extended too far and it’s time for us to begin the process of curtailing them. With respect to my fellow community members who argue a community rights-based ordinance is risky or invites a lawsuit, I say, I’m tired of being bullied and feared in to compromise or flat-out forced in to decisions from forces beyond our control. I remind them that having a rights-based ordinance in place WHEN Northern Pass adjusts its proposal and requests reconsideration is a potentially valuable tool, one that we together can choose to enforce or not. We can assess if the danger of trying to implement it feels riskier or costlier than the risk of allowing towers across our land.
I see it as akin to going in to battle armed. We don’t leave the tanks at the base in hopes we don’t get shelled.
With respect to my fellow community members who argue a community rights-based ordinance makes them fearful of how individuals in the community would make use of the ordinance, I encourage them to read it in its entirety and recall that it does not take away any existing rights. Further, I assert that I’d much rather work together as a small community to address and protect each other’s interests and assure individual fears are alleviated than to be the victim of external forces dictating what happens in our community.
With respect to my fellow community members who argue we should wait to see if the Community Rights Amendment (CACR19) passes and lends legal credibility to such ordinances first, I invite them to share with me when in our history they’ve experienced the law leading the change?
As disenfranchised and powerless as we feel, we must always remember that the laws are our creation, and that every amendment to every law has begun with a person, a people, a community asserting that the law as it stands should be challenged. We assert our sincere will and the legislators and law follow that will. So, I will be voting YES to Article 29, and I hope to find among my neighbors others who are tired and ready to claim what has always been ours.
K. Hridaya Sivalingam, PhD
CACR19's Executive Session Is Now
Tuesday, Feb. 27th, 9:00 AM
Rm 301 Legislative Offices Building:
33 N. State, Concord, NH, 03301
At this session, the House Municipal & County Government committee will vote on how to recommend CACR19 to the full NH House.
PLEASE ATTEND to show the M&CG committee that We the People of the Granite State care very much about amending our state constitution to
Protect People, Principles, and
Places above Profit.
SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
The Community Rights Movement to the New Hampshire House: Let the People Decide What’s Best
CACR19's Tuesday, Feb. 27th
executive session at 9:00 AM
CACR19 needs majority support in the full 20-member
House Municipal & County Government committee.
This means at least 11 members have to believe it is time to elevate people and nature above corporation and profit!
PLEASE CONTINUE TO CALL
HOUSE M&CG COMMITTEE MEMBERS
URGE THEM TO RECOMMEND THAT CACR19 OUGHT-TO-PASS
NOTICE COMMITTEE MEMBERS WHO ARE STILL UNCERTAIN!!!
Jane Beaulieu: Manchester, Hillsborough 45 (603) 626-1260
James Belanger: Hollis, Hillsborough 27 (603) 465-2301
John Bordenet: Keene, Cheshire 05 (603) 352-0680
Clyde Carson: Warner, Merrimack 07 (603) 456-2562 Supports
Francis Chase: Seabrook, Rockingham 20 (603) 944-0830 Uncertain
Debra DeSimone: Atkinson, Rockingham 14 (603) 362-4314 Uncertain
Francis Gauthier: Claremont, Sullivan 03 (603) 543-7382 Opposes
Julie Gilman: Exeter, Rockingham 18 (603) 580-1393 Supports
Timothy Josephson: Canaan, Grafton 11 (603) 523-2023
Carolyn Matthews: Raymond, Rockingham 03 (603) 244-2027
Frank McCarthy: Conway, Carroll 02 (603) 356-9160
Mark McLean: Manchester, Hillsborough 44 (603) 668-0076 Opposes
David Meader: Keene, Cheshire 06 (603) 357-1340
Vincent Migliore: Bridgewater, Grafton 09 (603) 744-5800 Supports
Steven Rand: Plymouth, Grafton (603) 236-6587
Franklin Sterling: Jaffrey, Cheshire 14 (603) 532-8284
Brian Stone: Northwood, Rockingham 01 (603) 724-1404 Opposes
Bruce Tatro: Swanzey, Cheshire 15 (603) 352-3904
Susan Treleaven: Dover, Strafford 17(603) 749-2347 Supports
Tripp Richard: Derry, Rockingham 06 (603) 434-4674
Sample message: "Hello, my name is _________, and I am reaching out to you in support of CACR19 from the town of _________. I want to know that local majority voices matter, and CACR19 provides this assurance without limiting already established rights. I support the people of New Hampshire having the recognized, secured, and protected authority to protect the well-being of their municipalities and of the natural environments on which they depend. I urge you to vote ought-to-pass on CACR19.
Remember to leave your name & number!
IF A REPRESENTATIVE ASKS A QUESTION AND YOU'RE NOT SURE ABOUT AN ANSWER, PLEASE ASK IF YOU CAN GET BACK TO THEM ON IT -- THEN EMAIL THE QUESTION TO NHCRN FOR A RESPONSE THAT YOU CAN THEN SHARE WITH THE COMMITTEE MEMBER.
FAQ on CACR19
WHAT CACR19 WOULD ACTUALLY DO
If passed with 3/5 majority in the NH House & Senate, and if passed by 2/3 majority vote by the people, CACR19 would become Article 40 of our NH Bill of Rights.
It would codify that the individual citizens of NH have the recognized constitutional right to pass local laws in their town, municipality, city and county to protect both their human communities and the natural ecosystems on which their survival depends, including in the face of corporate harm--so long as locally-made laws would not infringe on real persons' existing rights under state and federal law.
Because rights are not gifted by any constitution but recognized and enumerated within them, CACR19 is purposefully not a proposed law but a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to specifically enumerate the individual right to local self-government within NH’s State Constitution in the same way freed slaves' equal rights were recognized within the U.S. Constitution.
Finally, because laws enacted under this amendment would include protection of natural ecosystems (think air, water, soil) on which NH citizens depend, CACR19 mentions Rights of Nature. Precedent for Rights of Nature is growing in the U.S. and around the world as evidenced by scholarship, changing law, legal cases, and the International Center for the Rights of Nature.
The NCRN hosted a webinar on February 1, 2018:
To those who were able to join us and to those who have requested a recording of the webinar. We believe that this webinar is an excellent way to introduce new people and groups to the Community and Nature Rights Movement. It is also a catalyst for long-time activists to escape the "Hamster Wheel" that dictates our engagement and influence on political and fundamental change in our community...
Click Here to Read Entire Article and View Webinar
One Year Anniversary of our
"Rights of Nature" Solidarity Call
A year ago, February 2017, we hosted a Solidarity call with Mari Margil on the Rights of Nature. We hope you will take the time to listen to this 26 minute video to learn more about why our laws do not protect our environment and actually legalize the harms that our communities are exposed to by the corporate/government state.
Click Here for Solidarity Call Recording
Thank You for your activism.
Together we can create a movement worthy of nature,
our children and future generations!
To the Editor:
On Feb. 6 the N.H. Community Rights Amendment, CACR 19, inspired so many supportive citizen testimonies that its House Municipal & County Government committee hearing ran 90 minutes rather than the scheduled 30. The following week, CACR 19 left its subcommittee with a 3-2 bi-partisan vote recommending it ought-to-pass.
The next step is CACR 19′s executive session on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 9 a.m. in room 301 of Concord’s Legislative Offices Building. The complete House Municipal & County Government committee will vote how to recommend CACR19 to the full NH House. If recommended ought-to-pass and approved in both NH House and Senate by three-fifths majority, then a two-third vote by the NH people would establish CACR19 as Article 40 of New Hampshire’s Bill of Rights.
Supported by nine bipartisan co-sponsors, CACR19 seeks to codify the recognized constitutional right of NH citizens to pass local laws by majority vote to protect their human communities and the natural ecosystems (e.g. air, water, soil) on which they depend — so long as any locally-made laws do not infringe on real persons’ existing rights under state and federal constitutions and laws.
CACR 19 would give New Hampshire citizens real voices against harmful corporate interests that routinely and successfully lobby legislatures and petition courts to apply state preemption to nullify local ordinances and any say NH people have over where they live and what projects come into their communities.
Plymouth’s Rep. Steven Rand (D) outlines the solution CACR19 would offer legislators and constituents: “We represent constituents to create statutes, but the people represent themselves constitutionally. The constitution is higher than statutes. Giving them the chance to vote on CACR19 is the one thing we can do to support their ability to protect their health, safety, and welfare. It will help them expand, not decrease their rights.”
Rep. Vincent Migliore (R) of Bridgewater, a self-identified conservative, believes that “In lieu of revolution, CACR19 offers a peaceful way for people to self-govern when the need arises.” To those worried over CACR19′s scope, the NRA member quotes the amendment itself: “Local laws adopted pursuant to this article shall not weaken existing protections for, or constrict the fundamental rights of, natural persons, or their local communities, or nature, as those protections and rights are secured by local, state, federal, or international law.”
Jaffrey’s Rep. Franklin Sterling (R) shockingly retorts that “New Hampshire is not a democracy, it is a republic. This amendment changes our form of government to democracy and we are not a democracy.”
In response, Swanzey’s Rep. Bruce Tatro (D) asserts that New Hampshire indeed is a democracy: “CACR 19 is an amendment to a constitution that was formed by the people of the state. The people should have the opportunity to vote this amendment up or down. I’m not in favor of short-circuiting that.”
For more information on CACR19 and the community rights movement in New Hampshire, please visit www.nhcommunityrights.org/.
Adam Tardif, Newmarket
The NH NRA Chapter Targets Right to Protect
The NH Chapter of the NRA, Gun Owners of NH (GONH) opposition to CACR19 targets our individual right to protect our children, our property, and the natural resources upon which our lives depend. The GONH has resorted to intentional misrepresentation and fear-mongering tactics to dissuade this intelligent body of legislators to turn on its people and natural environments and protect corporate special interests over the well-being of Granite-Staters.
CACR19 – The NH Community Rights Amendment – would secure the right of local community self-government to be exercised only to expand, not to lessen, the rights of people as secured by state and federal constitutions.
Republican Representatives who are NRA members and sponsors of the NH Community Rights Amendment have consistently directed amendment naysayers to study CACR19's language: "Local laws adopted pursuant to this article shall not weaken existing protections for, or constrict the fundamental rights of, natural persons, or their local communities, or nature, as those protections and rights are secured by local, state, federal, or international law."
The right of local community self-government is a fundamental, individual political right – exercised collectively – of people to govern the local communities in which they reside.
The current list of “protections” individuals can exercise at the local level for themselves, their communities, and environments are few. Yet, corporations enjoy a long list of state-permissible legalized harms they can carry out against us: corporate water extraction; mining activities; industrial contamination of waterways, air, and land; large-scale storage and applications of toxic chemicals; superfund sites; harmful and unnecessary commercial energy projects; and so many more. Not only do corporations enjoy our individual personhood rights, they also use Dillon’s Rule and preemption to infringe upon our individual rights as enumerated by our constitutions.
The people living in these affected communities are the ones who most understand what is at stake for the supposed “greater good” of the rest of the state. What negatively affects any one community will have a negative impact on neighboring communities. Cumulatively, the negative impact then becomes no longer for the “greater good” of the State, but for the good of the corporate entities exploiting New Hampshire communities for profit.
Don’t give in to fear-mongering. Let the people decide if they want to protect their health, safety, and welfare by enumerating within the NH Bill of Rights the right of local community self-government. Government of right originates from the people which is why CACR19 should be put to the voters of New Hampshire.
President - NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN)
CACR19 IS STILL IN THE RUNNING!
CACR19's Feb. 13th & 14th House Municipal & County Government subcommittee work sessions inspired engaging debate and resulted in a 3 to 2 vote recommending to the full committee that CACR19 ought-to-pass (OTP).
The Community Rights Movement to the New Hampshire House: Let the People Decide What’s Best
CACR19 is scheduled for an executive session where the full House Municipal & County Government committee will vote on one of 3 recommendations to the full House: ought-to-pass (OTP), ought-to-pass-as-amended (OTP/A), or inexpedient-to-legislate (ITL).
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD AT
1:00 PM, LOB #301
Share the event on Facebook event!
CACR19 needs majority support in the full 20 member committee -- at least 11 members have to believe it is time to elevate people and nature above corporation and profit.
YOUR PERSONAL CALLS ARE INTEGRAL FOR REACHING THE HEARTS & MINDS OF THE HOUSE MUNICIPAL & COUNTY GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS
PLEASE CONTINUE TO CALL
HOUSE MUNICIPAL & COUNTY GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS
URGE THEM TO RECOMMEND THAT CACR19 OTP
COMMITTEE CONTACTS AND TO-DATE CACR19 POSITIONS:
Jane Beaulieu: Hillsborough 45 (603) 626-1260 - Uncertain
James Belanger: Hillsborough 27 (603) 465-2301 - Opposes
John Bordenet: Cheshire 05 (603) 352-0680 - Uncertain
Clyde Carson: Merrimack 07 (603) 456-2562 - Supportive
Francis Chase: Rockingham 20 (603) 944-0830 - Uncertain
Debra DeSimone: Rockingham 14 (603) 362-4314 - Uncertain
Francis Gauthier: Sullivan 03 (603) 543-7382 - Opposes
Julie Gilman: Rockingham 18 (603) 580-1393 - Uncertain
Timothy Josephson: Grafton 11 (603) 523-2023 - Supportive
Carolyn Matthews: Rockingham 03 (603) 244-2027 - Opposes
Frank McCarthy: Carroll 02 (603) 356-9160 - Opposes
Mark McLean: Hillsborough 44 (603) 668-0076 - Opposes
David Meader: Cheshire 06 (603) 357-1340 - Uncertain
Vincent Migliore: Grafton 09 (603) 744-5800 - Supports
Steven Rand: Grafton 08 (603) 236-6587 - Supports
Franklin Sterling: Cheshire 14 (603) 532-8284 - Opposes
Brian Stone: Rockingham 01 (603) 724-1404 - Opposes
Bruce Tatro: Cheshire 15 (603) 352-3904 - Supports
Susan Treleaven: Strafford 17 (603) 749-2347 - Uncertain
Tripp Richard: Rockingham 06 (603) 434-4674 - Uncertain
Sample message: "Hello, my name is _________, and I am reaching out to you from the town of _________. As a resident of New Hampshire, I am concerned about the lack of local decision-making authority Granite State citizens have to determine what happens in their home communities. I want to know that local majority voices matter, and CACR19 provides this assurance. I support the people of New Hampshire having the recognized, secured, and protected authority to look out for the well-being of their residents and of the natural environments on which they depend. I urge you to vote ought-to-pass on CACR19. Remember to leave your name & number!
IF A REPRESENTATIVE ASKS A QUESTION AND YOU'RE NOT SURE ABOUT AN ANSWER, PLEASE ASK IF YOU CAN GET BACK TO THEM ON IT -- THEN EMAIL THE QUESTION TO NHCRN FOR A RESPONSE THAT YOU CAN THEN SHARE WITH THE COMMITTEE MEMBER.
NHCRN Comments: The committee scheduled 30 mins for the hearing, not an hour-and-a-half, and the hearing went on for almost 2.5 hrs, not 3.5 hrs. Also, it was the AFP lobbyist that said the 400 NH-member House is sufficient and therefore local control is not needed, not the committee members.
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
CONCORD — Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to grant New Hampshire communities the right to determine what is in their best interests for health, safety, and welfare got an intense grilling from members of the House Municipal and County Government Committee on Tuesday.
The panel had scheduled an hour and a half for the hearing on Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 19 (CACR 19), but after moving to a larger room to accommodate all those who wanted to speak, the hearing went on for more than three and a half hours.
Proponents argued that current law leaves towns powerless to stop projects that could drain resources, hurt the environment, and introduce toxic chemicals into their food or water.
Opponents expressed concerns that giving towns the power to halt projects that could provide an overall benefit to the state would disrupt the economy and undermine the state legislature and regulatory agencies.
Late in the day, as committee chairman James Belanger urged people to be concise with their comments, Stuart Leiderman of Center Barnstead asked for three minutes of oral testimony to accompany his written comments. His impassioned arguments in support of the bill had Belanger finally stop him: “I understand the idea behind the bill, and don’t want to be disrespectful, but he asked for three minutes and he spoke for 13 minutes.”
Leiderman was attempting to settle several questions that arose during earlier testimony. Rep. Francis Gauthier of Claremont repeatedly asked the various speakers how the current system of regulatory laws has failed to provide protection to communities. He cited his own activism in fighting an incinerator project in Claremont that the state Department of Environmental Services had “sanctified” and he said they finally won by taking it to the state Supreme Court.
“That shouldn’t be necessary,” Leiderman said. “This amendment would bring a consensus, not drive it to the court for a resolution.”
Leiderman said the state constitution has been amended 213 times, which he termed “extraordinary.”
“It’s not the monolithic document that a lot of people think it is,” he said. “Citizens look to the constitution for freedoms. It’s a composite to meet the overruling forces, and this amendment should be looked at in that light.”
He said that, instead of looking at government as an entity that operates by opinion — “that I’m right and you’re wrong” — in order to survive, the government must respond to “the kinds of things New Hampshire cities and towns chronically face — contamination, for instance.”
The state and federal government, Leiderman said, often rely on “natural attenuation” to deal with landfill sites, contamination at Air Force bases, and Superfund toxic sites. “Do nothing and let nature take care of it,” he said.
“Those approaches are diminishing the chances for New Hampshire in the future,” he said. “This amendment goes to the beginning of the constitution. It provides checks and balances between governments. … We’re not talking about insurrection.”
CACR 19 is based on the constitutional principle that “All government of right originates from the people, is founded in their consent, and instituted for the general good,” according to the language of the resolution.
Committee members pointed out that New Hampshire is not a home rule state where municipalities can make their own laws; instead, the 400-member House of Representatives ensures that people have an adequate voice at the state level.
Rep. Richard Tripp of Derry suggested that legislative authority would be undermined by allowing towns to make their own rules through rights-based ordinances, and then it would be the courts that end up with the ultimate authority.
Members of the committee kept asking the speakers how they would define “welfare” as outlined in the bill. They suggested it was too broad a term and is subject to individual interpretation.
Henry Ahern of Plymouth agreed. He said he opposed the bill not because of what it seeks to do but because of possible unintended consequences.
“Terms like ‘welfare’ and ‘health’ and ‘public safety’ change in meaning over time,” he said.
“I own a deer farm,” Ahern said. “I work land in two towns. If this passes, one town can say I can’t plant certain seeds in that town. The same goes for the spreading of biosolids. Instead of facts, there can be an emotional reason for making these decisions.”
Greg Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity, argued that home rule would mean the state doesn’t need a 400-member House, and it would take power away from the legislature.
“I have a lot of faith in the General Court,” Moore said, noting that he once served in the legislature. “When you look at a constitutional amendment, it not what it’s intended to do, but what it can do.”
He said the amendment would allow individual towns to enact a sales tax. It also would open up the possibility of corruption, he said, arguing that it is difficult to bribe 201 legislators in order to have a majority on one’s side, but getting a majority on a three-person board of selectmen would mean bribing just two people.
Michelle Sanborn of Alexandria, the president and coordinator of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network who also represents the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, testified that the amendment represents only limited home rule and would not override state and federal law.
“This is a people’s amendment,” she said. “It brings clarity to the people, the courts, and businesses. It gives people the right to protect themselves.”
Several speakers spoke of out-of-state businesses that know how to navigate the state’s regulatory laws to get what they want, and towns are powerless to stop them. Rights-based ordinances, they said, would take the process out of the regulatory arena and make it a constitutional matter.
Several speakers asked the committee for support so the amendment could go to the voters for a decision.
Before that can happen, both the House and Senate would need to agree to support the amendment. A House subcommittee will be reviewing the resolution on Feb. 13 and 14, at which time it will make a recommendation on its future.
BY JOHN COLLINSWhen you combine an economic system that requires constant growth in order to function, with a legal system that mistakes corporations for “people”—you inevitably wind up with a few extremely powerful corporations and a lot of powerless citizens. Furthermore, when that same system regards nature as property, thus allowing those in control to do whatever they see fit with a given area’s natural resources, long-term ecological health takes a backseat to short-term profits. For decades, communities across the country have been learning this lesson the hard way.
In recent years, for example, energy development projects in New Hampshire have sparked resident concerns over contamination of local water supplies. In addition, according to the EPA’s latest Toxics Release Inventory Program data, the small state is home to 127 of the 21,600 toxic sites monitored by the agency. Maintaining that a weakening of citizen’s rights at home has left their communities defenseless against ever-worsening corporate abuses, a group of Granite Staters are challenging the legal system that in effect grants corporations a license to pollute by denying local governments the right to control what occurs within their jurisdictions.
When citizens determine that the actions of a corporation pose an economic, environmental or public health threat to their community—whether it’s a new pipeline, a factory farm, a facility generating industrial waste, a mining operation etc.—and they try to stop that entity from setting up shop in their community, they’re often surprised to learn that (despite what the Declaration of Independence says about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”) they are powerless to do anything about it.
This is by design. Over time, one state legislature after another has passed preemption laws—legal doctrines restricting a city, town, or county’s legal authority to regulate its economy or protect its environment—that prioritize corporate interests over those of local communities. In other words, corporations usually get what they want because the law, as it is written, is on their side, not yours.
Instead of fighting each and every corporate assault—on people or on nature—on a case-by-case basis, the community rights movement, a grassroots network of people who’ve had-it-up-to-here with corporate power, is working on the local, state and federal levels to address the problem at its source. The National Community Rights Network (NCRN) and its affiliates in states across the country are attempting to end government-sanctioned corporate exploitation by amending state and federal constitutions in order to “codify a community’s inalienable right to self-governance.”
This can be difficult. In many cases, before a proposed constitutional amendment can even get on a state’s ballot, supporters must first convince state legislators to allow it. On Tuesday, February 6, members of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) met with the state’s House Municipal and County Government Committee in Concord in an attempt to do just that.
NHCRN organizers and about 50 of their supporters, including Thomas Linzey, the executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (and a Rural America In These Times contributing writer), gathered to urge the committee to consider Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 19 (CACR19). This is NHCRN’s second attempt to give New Hampshire voters a chance to decide for themselves whether or not to add a community rights amendment to their state’s constitution—an amendment that would allow local municipalities to enact laws to protect their people and environment from corporate harm.
The full text of the bill can be found here, but reads in part:
Be it Resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring, that the Constitution of New Hampshire be amended as follows:
I. That the first part of the constitution be amended by inserting after article 39 the following new article:
[Art.] 40. [Right of Local Community Self-Government.] All government of right originates from the people, is founded in their consent, and instituted for the general good; the people have the right and the duty to reform governments when those governments manifestly endanger public liberty; and sustainable environmental and economic development can be achieved only when the people affected by governing decisions are the ones who make them; therefore, the people of New Hampshire have an inherent and inalienable right of local, community self-government in each county, municipality, city, and town to enact local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare by recognizing or establishing rights of natural persons, their local communities, and nature; and by securing those rights using prohibitions and other means deemed necessary by the community, including measures to establish, define, alter, or eliminate competing rights, powers, privileges, immunities, or duties of corporations and other business entities operating, or seeking to operate, in the community. Local laws adopted pursuant to this article shall not weaken existing protections for, or constrict the fundamental rights of, natural persons, or their local communities, or nature, as those protections and rights are secured by local, state, federal, or international law.
While about a dozen New Hampshire towns already have ordinances geared toward ensuring the health, safety and welfare of their residents, municipalities cannot technically enact any laws the state doesn’t allow them to. This is because, like all but 11 states in the country, New Hampshire follows the so-called Dillon’s Rule—a doctrine that since 1868 has been a “cornerstone of municipal law” and holds that local governments can only enact laws that are approved by their state Legislature.
Twenty-six states, as well as Washington, D.C., offer initiative and/or veto referendum rights for their citizens—the ability to petetion a new statute or constitutional amendment through the collection of a minimum number of registered voter signatures—New Hampshire is not one of them. (Infographic: ballotpedia.org)
Urging Granite State residents to get behind their amendment, NHCRN organizers wrote the following in a letter-to-the-editor of Seacoastonline, an online news agency based in Portsmouth:Such recognition has been a long time coming to strengthen and restore “We the People’s” right to self-determine the future of the communities we live in. This right has been all but suffocated by corrupt corporate privilege that has been woven into law and upheld by judicial precedents. Together with state preemption, this weakening of citizen rights at home has left us with no defense when corporate projects come to develop or to extract resources in our towns—much less when these projects contaminate where we work and live, often with toxic waste. We’ve seen this happen all across our state. We should be able to have a recognized right to local decision-making authority to determine whether or not we want these projects in our communities.
By empowering people with authority to use this self-determining voice, CACR19 would reinforce the viability of our civil rights by supporting our democratic right to cultivate communities founded in peace and civility in which no person or entity has free pass to violate the health, safety, or well-being of another person or of nature, and certainly not for profit. Each day that our government denies us full participation in determining this cultivation, we are discriminated against—blocked from accessing and engaging in our rightful democratic process to protect our basic and inalienable rights that are not limited to but which include our right to clean air, water, and healthy ecosystems.
These inalienable rights were the ideals that birthed this nation’s experiment in democracy. And what is democracy if it is not the civic employment of people’s inalienable right to have democratic authority over what happens in their communities? When we cannot protect ourselves through the self-government so integral to the principles of our Revolutionary ancestors, then we are not living in a democracy. We must not let this right to self-government go un-championed by a disengaged sense of civic duty, nor can we afford to lose it amidst the animosity found in our divided political aisles. Now is the time to unite both community and bi-partisanship solidarity and action to recognize our right to self-government.
What the Revolutionaries of this country fought for was not something they could buy. It was the right to pursue a self-determined life of honesty and goodness. For our legislators to deny us an enlightened path to access this self-determination is for them to admit doubt in their constituents’ ability to reason over and to trust in the goodness that is in ourselves and in the ecosystems around us. CACR19 will secure our right to protect this goodness for a new future honoring people’s and nature’s natural right to sustainability.
Before the bill can go anywhere, the House Municipal and County Government Committee must vote OTP (“Ought to Pass”), at which point the amendment could continue to the House and Senate. If approved, only then would it be placed on the ballot for voters to decide. CELDF’s Thomas Linzey tells Rural America In These Times the public turnout on February 6 was good despite the fact the flu was “running rampant up there.” “We have nine co-sponsors who are committed, so we’re in a better place than last year at least,” he says. The next subcommittee hearing is scheduled for February 13.
Below is an interview in which Tom Groover, vice-president of the National Community Rights Network’s (NCRN) board of directors, speaks with CELDF organizers Michelle Sanborn, Monica Christofill and NHCRN member, Douglas Darrell, about their effort and why they feel it is more important than ever that they succeed in putting the measure before New Hampshire voters.
For more information about the NHCRN or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Advocates for more local control in New Hampshire are trying again to amend the state constitution, this time to let municipalities pass laws protecting people's health and the environment.
A dozen New Hampshire towns already have ordinances geared toward ensuring locals’ health, safety and welfare, sparked by big energy developments or water quality concerns.
But Granite State municipalities technically can’t enact any laws the state doesn’t allow them to. So supporters say those ordinances wouldn't hold up in court – which is why they need a constitutional amendment.
They tried to pass the so-called Community Rights Amendment two years ago, but failed amid concerns it would give municipalities too much power and undermine state government.
Like most states, New Hampshire follows what’s called Dillon’s Rule, where municipalities derive all their governing abilities from the state Legislature.
A minority of states has varying degrees of the opposite – home rule, where towns and cities can govern freely as long as they follow state and federal law.
Lobbyists for the Community Rights Amendment told the House local governance committee Tuesday the proposal only creates a narrow degree of home rule in New Hampshire. They were joined by dozens of residents and families who support the bill.
Rep. Wayne Burton, a Democrat and co-sponsor, says the amendment would give citizens recourse for when they don't feel the state has their best interests at heart – such as when it permits an unwelcome local land use.
"When the character of the town is severely threatened, the people in local level ought to have an ability to pass a law or regulation under this,” Burton says. “That's what this is for."
The amendment is scheduled for several work sessions before it can go to the House floor. (Read the full text of the bill here.)
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that about 10 states follow Dillon's Rule. In fact, about 40 do.
By ANNIE ROPEIK • 3 MINUTES AGO
The town of Plymouth, N.H.
New Hampshire has put the brakes on the Northern Pass energy project for now, but some towns are still prepared to block it with local laws asserting their view on big utility development.
Plymouth is the latest municipality to approve an ordinance saying certain energy projects, while allowed under state law, are harmful to local health and environment.
When such laws are enforced, developers either have to go elsewhere, or sue to build in town.
Eversource didn’t respond to a request for comment on how they’ll handle the handful of community rights ordinances along Northern Pass’s route if the project wins its forthcoming appeal to the state Site Evaluation Committee.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has been helping write these ordinances in New Hampshire since 2006. Organizer Michelle Sanborn says they've been sparked by Northern Pass, large wind farms and other concerns.
"It's basically withdrawing their consent to be governed in the manner that the state is dictating that they be governed,” she says of Plymouth’s ordinance.
Sanborn's group is also lobbying for a state constitutional amendment to affirm towns' right to pass these ordinances.
That proposal gets a hearing in the state House of Representatives’ Municipal and County Government Committee, Tuesday at 2 p.m.
PLYMOUTH — Residents have adopted an ordinance they believe will give them the authority to ban Northern Pass from building within town borders.
During a special town meeting on Thursday, residents voted by secret ballot 132 to 19 to adopt a Community Rights-Based Ordinance designed to strip legal power from corporate entities that seek to force unwanted activities on a town.
Richard Hage of Concerned Citizens of Plymouth, who helped spearhead the development of the ordinance, urged its adoption, telling townspeople to “invoke restorative justice to broken law.”
“It’s our next best shot at banning Northern Pass,” he said.
The $1.6 billion project to bring hydroelectric power from Quebec into New England has a 192-mile route through more than 30 communities; 60 miles of the transmission lines would be buried.
Northern Pass work along Plymouth’s Main Street could last over two construction seasons; dozens of businesses have expressed fears about financial losses during the construction.
The Site Evaluation Committee is currently considering whether to approve the project.
Henry Ahern, who raises red deer at his local farm, expressed his concern that if the Rights-Based Ordinance passed he would be forbidden to use bio-solids as fertilizer on his fields or precluded from planting certain seeds.
He proposed an amendment sun-setting the ordinance after eight years.
Chris Wood, who is also involved in agriculture, shared Ahern’s concerns, but said he would rather see the amendment exclude farmers than include a sunset provision.
Hage told voters the ordinance’s language on prohibitions “makes it clear we are trying to protect farmers, not attack them.”
The amendment was defeated.
Resident Frank Miller read from a copy of the New Hampshire Constitution, which he noted predates its federal counterpart. He said the ordinance mimics the document and its assertion that all men are free, sovereign and independent.
“It’s a function of self-determination, of how we are going to be,” he said.
David Moorhead said he opposes Northern Pass. He said plans to bury a stretch of the Northern Pass transmission line along Main Street would be the death knell for some businesses. But he also expressed concern that the ordinance would make the town subject to a lawsuit.
State Rep. Steve Rand, D-Plymouth, said he is one of six sponsors of a constitutional amendment that if passed “would not only make these types of ordinances OK, but desirable.”
If adopted, Rand said, the town would likely be sued. But he said a constitutional amendment “would provide an umbrella, making it immune from legal challenge.”
The ordinance became effective immediately and as written will apply to any and all actions that would violate it, “regardless of the date of any applicable local, state, or federal permit.”