Our Turn: In state Senate, democracy derailed
For the first time in its history, the New Hampshire Senate changed its rules, midway through its session, to require a super-majority (two-thirds) vote before accepting for consideration resolutions passed and sent to it by the House. This new rule closed the doors to Senate consideration of three resolutions:
∎ HCR 1 urges “Congress to fund the development and implementation of a comprehensive health care delivery system to enhance the level of specialty care for New Hampshire’s veterans.” The resolution states, in part, “New Hampshire is one of only two states in the nation without a full-service hospital,” requiring its 131,000 veterans, the majority over the age of 65, “to travel to Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island for medical treatment.” This resolution has the support of its 10 bipartisan sponsors and the majority of the New Hampshire House, evidenced though its passage on a voice vote.
∎ HCR 2 asks “Congress to begin the process for a constitutional amendment establishing that human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.” Poll after poll has shown that strong, bipartisan majorities of Americans, both in New Hampshire and nationwide, favor such an amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v FEC, in which the court repealed 100 years of regulation of corporate campaign spending. HCR 2 states that “the founders of the United States Constitution and Republic clearly and emphatically intended freedom of speech to mean freedom to communicate with and by natural born persons either directly or through the free press,” and did not intend that “corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people, and that they can spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.”
HCR 2, which was adopted on a bipartisan vote of 189-139, would be one step toward returning democracy to the people. The people in two of our state’s municipalities and nearly 500 others across our nation have approved ordinances with similar language.
∎ HJR 1 would direct the joint legislative historical committee to acquire and display a portrait of women’s suffrage leader Marilla Marks Ricker. Ricker appeared before the Dover selectmen in 1870 to demand her right to vote. As with all women wanting to vote at the time, her request was denied. Ricker then cast a ballot in a municipal election in 1871 and “though it was not counted, it is known as the first to be cast by a woman in the United States.” Ricker studied law and passed the bar but was not allowed to practice law because of her gender. She later ran as a Republican candidate for governor, and is credited as “the first woman in New Hampshire history to file for that office.” HJR 1 passed the House on a voice vote.
It is unreasonable for the Senate to arbitrarily change its rules to block debate on meritorious requests affecting the health care of veterans, money in politics and women’s rights. On behalf of everyone affected, we urge Senate leadership to withdraw its two-thirds rule, engage in meaningful debate and vote on each resolution, as our democratic process, common courtesy and New Hampshire tradition require, and as our citizens expect.
(State Rep. Bob Perry is a Democrat from Strafford. Paul R. Camacho of Concord is a retired sergeant from the Rifle Co. 9th Marine Regiment.)