'Eight hundred years later, an inspiration'
New bills would cite Magna Carta
As in other lines of work, lunchtime discussions among lawmakers at the State House often spur ideas. Sometimes those ideas become bills. And sometimes those bills seemed less strange over lunch.
House Bill 1580 is the product of such a brainstorming session this summer between three freshman House Republicans: Bob Kingsbury of Laconia, Tim Twombly of Nashua and Lucien Vita of Middleton. The eyebrow-raiser, set to be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes next month, requires legislation to find its origin in an English document crafted in 1215.
'All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived,' is the bill's one sentence.
The Magna Carta, while famed as the first major declaration of rights under English monarchy, is a bit outdated in its actual prose. The overarching idea of personal freedoms and liberties served as a benchmark for framers of the American Constitution, but most of the feudal barons' 63 demands of King John of England dealt with the tedium of the day. The document, translated from its original Latin, includes such passages as:
• 'No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband.'
• 'We shall straightway return the son of Llewelin and all the Welsh hostages. . . . We shall act towards Alexander King of the Scots regarding the restoration of his sisters.'
• 'If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age.'
Upon seeing the bill, New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Ray Buckley said he was 'mostly speechless.' 'I appreciate all the hard work the Republican legislators are putting into the effort to make them look like extremists,' he said. 'Saves us the trouble.'
But Kingsbury said the 'primary motivation' for the bill was to honor the Magna Carta's upcoming 800-year anniversary in 2015. Citing quotes from the document will bring its historical importance to the public's attention, he said.
Vita admitted he needs to 'bone up' on the content of the charter, but said 'it's a document that still functions.' He views the bill as similar to efforts in Congress requiring all legislation to cite constitutional authority.
'This is a little bit older than the Constitution, but the same thought is there,' he said.
Asked about any legal hang-ups in requiring New Hampshire bills to derive their authority from an English charter, Kingsbury said 'that's an interesting thought.'
'Everything has an analog, everything has an origin, and this is part of the origin of what we have in our country,' he said.
The Magna Carta doesn't directly weigh in on modern-day liberty issues like gay marriage, women's rights or abortion. Vita acknowledged that 'all the activist issues that have come up in recent years probably are not addressed in the Magna Carta.'
'It probably didn't enter anybody's mind back then,' Vita said. 'In spite of that point, I'll still support the bill.'
Twombly said 'no way in heck' was his intention in backing the bill to prevent progressive civil rights legislation from being introduced.
'That's not my thought whatsoever,' he said. 'Our society has changed a lot since then. There are issues that need to be resolved that weren't a problem years ago.'
Kingsbury said he was mostly thinking of bills dealing with the judicial system; one of the Magna Carta's most enduring clauses states that 'no freeman' shall be imprisoned or harmed 'save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.' Though the bill's Magna Carta requirement would have the force of law if passed, Kingsbury said he didn't intend for there to be penalty for not citing the document.
'It's a recommendation that would be nice to be followed,' he said.
Marchand's not running
The announcement last week that former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand has been hired to head up corporate relations for the University of New Hampshire also signaled another development: He's not running for governor.
Marchand had been a rumored candidate for the Democratic ticket since speculation about an open seat began shortly after Gov. John Lynch's election last year. After Lynch confirmed he is not running for another term, former Senate majority leader Maggie Hassan is the only Democrat to enter the 2012 race. Names still in the mix include former state senator Jackie Cilley and Mark Connolly, former director of the state Bureau of Securities Regulation.
Marchand said last week that he had begun analyzing a potential run for governor and started to set up an infrastructure when the job opportunity opened up at UNH.
He had told people who approached him about running for both state and federal office that his political ambition would be focused on two issues: 'creating world-class educational outcomes at an affordable price' forging a 'culture of entrepreneurship' by building relationships between the public and private sector.
At UNH, he said, he can seek out those goals.
'It's simply too good to pass up,' he said, and also too time-consuming to allow him to campaign.
Marchand starts work Jan. 3. He was most recently the founder and managing director of The Marchand Group, a public affairs firm specializing in political consulting and fundraising.
What's in a boycott, anyway?
Remember back in October when Jennifer Horn led the charge to defend the New Hampshire primary from encroaching Nevada? Remember how Mitt Romney, despite banking his campaign on winning the Granite State, didn't sign on to her proposed boycott of the caucuses there?
'We are confident that the remaining candidates will do the right thing and stand with us,' Horn, a former congressional candidate, said at the time. 'I guess we're all trying to be very clear that there are consequences to not helping us preserve and protect the first-in-the-nation primary.'
Apparently those consequences didn't prevent Horn from endorsing the former Massachusetts governor last week.
'Mitt Romney has what most conservatives value most: the personal integrity and core character to lead, which is so lacking in Washington today,' Horn said in a statement released Tuesday.
Horn, whose alignment with the Tea Party may help Romney appeal to more conservative voters, said his 'combination of executive experience in both the private and public sector makes him uniquely qualified for the job.'
'He has impressed grassroots activists with his command of the issues and his ability to articulate a clear and conservative message of a free and prosperous America,' she said.
Horn isn't the only one not to punish Romney for not supporting the boycott. Senate President Peter Bragdon had said he would consider whether a candidate signed on to the boycott effort 'very seriously.'
'I don't necessarily believe in litmus tests, but I can tell you the weight of this particular decision as to whether or not to support the New Hampshire primary will be heavy,' Bragdon said in October.
He also threw his support to Romney in recent weeks.
First District Congressman Frank Guinta is facing some local push-back over a bill aimed at stripping away federal regulations.
Guinta is a co-sponsor of the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which he said earlier this month would 'slam the brakes on federal regulators and return them to their proper boundaries.'
'Clearly, people are hurting because of the wave of red tape that keeps flowing out of Washington. I'm working to end this wave of red tape run wild,' he wrote in his bi-weekly 'Frankly Speaking' column. Companies spend 118.8 million work hours a year filling out paperwork required by regulations in the Federal Register, he said.
But Addie Shankle at the New Hampshire Public Interest Research Group says New Hampshire restaurants, which rely on federal inspections to ensure their food is safe, could take a hit from Guinta's bill, which 2nd District Rep. Charlie Bass of Peterborough also supports. The bill would divert all new rules proposed by federal agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, to go through Congress, Shankle said.
Given the gridlock there, the bill 'would effectively end the agencies' ability to respond to public health threats,' she said, which could lead to 'tremendous uncertainly in the local food industry.'
A release from Shankle's group quoted restaurant owners in Nashua and Dover concerned about the bill.
'I'm gravely concerned about the impact passage that the REINS legislation could have on small, locally owned restaurants, farmers markets, and grocers, in particular,' Shankle said in a statement. 'Restaurant and shop owners need to know the food they put in front of their customers is safe.'
House Speaker Bill O'Brien will be the center of attention at the Hillsborough County Republican Committee's 2012 primary gala.
The Mont Vernon Republican is the committee's 2012 Lincoln-Reagan award winner, an honor that 'signifies O'Brien's leadership, his outstanding record of achievement as a member of the New Hampshire House and his dedication to public service on behalf of the people of Hillsborough County,' according to a release.
'Bill's commitment to upholding the principles of our party platform and his long record of outstanding work on behalf of the people of Hillsborough County serves as an inspiration to all of us,' Ray Chadwick, chairman of the Hillsborough County GOP, said in a statement.
O'Brien will be presented with the honor at the gala reception, scheduled for 5-7 p.m., Jan. 6, at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua.
Presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Buddy Roemer are scheduled to attend. Members of New Hampshire's Republican congressional delegation have also been invited and are expected to attend, according to the release.
(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or email@example.com. Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)