NH House Calendar, No. 10 March 9, 2018 (pg. 7)
MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT CACR 19, relating to right to govern. Providing that the people of the state may enact local laws that protect health, safety and welfare.
MAJORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE.
Rep. Franklin Sterling for the Majority of Municipal and County Government. This amendment is an attempt to change the NH Constitution and permit “Home Rule” giving veto power to any community in area wide projects. Passage of this amendment would allow one community to forbid a highway construction or expansion in their community although the surrounding communities desired it. When Planning Boards consider projects with “regional impact” they consult neighboring communities that will be affected. This amendment would render that purpose impractical since a community would no longer need to consider how a project would affect their neighbors. The philosophy behind this Constitutional Amendment could be extended to neighborhoods within a community pitting one neighborhood against another. The result would be discord and dissatisfaction with no overall state control or influence. The effect might be different rules from community to community relating to leash laws, taxi cabs, highway uses with different weight limits, municipal sales taxes, firearm controls and a myriad of other quality of life provisions guaranteed to us by the state. Vote 11-8.
MINORITY: OUGHT TO PASS.
Rep. Steven Rand for the Minority of Municipal and County Government. This constitutional amendment adds a new article (40) to the Bill of Rights of the NH State Constitution. The article makes plain that communities may enact local ordinances that protect the “health, safety and welfare” (a well understood phrase used in 151 NH statutes) of their local citizens and of nature. At the same time, it does NOT allow the establishment of ordinances that would remove or weaken any existing protections or rights of natural persons currently secured by local, state or federal law (such as second amendment rights). We heard testimony from many NH communities who wished to limit or deny a corporate wind, water, or contaminant project only to find that they did not have the constitutional standing to prevail against the constitutional “personhood” civil rights of a corporation in a court of law. The corporation’s financial resources and constitutional civil rights made for an unfair fight in the courts. This amendment levels the playing field. Because this amendment’s purpose is to recognize limited constitutional power to communities, it will, within its purview, make a substantive change to the parent-child relationship of the State to cities and towns. Within narrow limits, it gives towns the flexibility to address matters of local concern without needing state enabling legislation. The minority believes that this substantive matter must be decided by the people themselves as the ultimate stakeholders in our system of government, through the popular vote of the amendment process. As we proceed toward a vote on the amendment, citizens should and will take the time to educate themselves and decide their best interests on this balance of power/rights-based question. It is our obligation as their representatives, to pass the amendment so they can learn, decide and vote.