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N.H. House votes to require Constitution Day events in public schools

The House voted yesterday to require that all New Hampshire public schools hold “patriotic exercises” each year during the week of Sept. 17, Constitution Day.

State law already requires schools to hold events recognizing Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The bill to require Constitution Day events, as well, passed the House on a 326-29 vote, after being endorsed by the House Education Committee, 15-4.

Constitution Day marks the date the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787. A federal law passed in 2004 requires all educational institutions that receive federal money to celebrate the holiday in some way.

The new legislation, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Glenn Cordelli of Tuftonboro, states that events in New Hampshire schools “may include recognition of the New Hampshire Constitution as well as exercises related to our rights and responsibilities as citizens.” It next goes to the state Senate.

In other action yesterday, the House considered a bill that would give the executor or administrator of an estate power to take over or delete a dead person’s social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. The House Judiciary Committee had voted, 13-7, to recommend killing the bill, calling it premature and unenforceable.

But its sponsor, Democratic Rep. Peter Sullivan of Manchester, asked the full House for more time to craft an amendment that would establish a study committee, instead. The chamber voted, 222-128, to table the bill.

Some of the most lopsided votes yesterday were on petitions that had been submitted to the House.

After Democrats retook the majority in the chamber in last November’s election, they eliminated the two-year-old Redress of Grievances Committee, which held more than two dozen public hearings last session on citizen petitions. Most were from people unhappy with the outcomes of their family court cases, and critics called the committee a sort of kangaroo court.

Rep. Dan Itse, a Fremont Republican, asked the House yesterday to refer two petitions seeking redress to committees that still exist, but was twice defeated, the first on a 231-124 vote and the second on a 246-90 vote. Rep. Stella Tremblay, an Auburn Republican, tried to refer a third petition to committee, but lost on a 243-93 vote.

And the House didn’t take up a petition signed by 120 people that called for the censure and impeachment of Rep. Cynthia Chase, a Keene Democrat. Chase angered supporters of the Free State Project when she wrote a comment on a liberal blog in December saying that, among other things, Free Staters “are the single biggest threat the state is facing today” and the state might want to “pass measures that will restrict the ‘freedoms’ that they think they will find here” to discourage them.

Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, ruled that since no member of the House had sponsored the petition, no one could make a motion on it. Rep. George Lambert, a Litchfield Republican, challenged her ruling, but she was upheld by the House on a 276-77 vote.

The House will meet again Wednesday at 10 a.m. The Senate will meet this morning, starting at 10.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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