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State House follies aren't that funny

Last modified: 2/6/2011 12:00:00 AM
Oh, my goodness, where to start? And has it really been less than two months since the victorious soldiers in the recent Republican revolution began helping themselves to the spoils of office?

So little time, so much goofiness - especially in our House of Representatives, where Bill O'Brien, a former backbench bomb thrower, has commandeered the speaker's gavel.

Take just one example of GOP (possibly unintentional) hilarity, brought to us by freshman Rep. Brandon Giuda of Chichester. He ran, as did many of his cohorts, on a platform of fostering government frugality.

And we learn this week that newbie Giuda is now one of the prime movers of a plan to spend $7 million in taxpayer money to move the Suncook River back to the bed it rambunctiously abandoned a few years back. Never mind that virtually every engineering and environmental expert who's examined the issue says it would be a colossal waste of money and wouldn't work. Giuda, doggone it, knows better!

Another river-rerouting fan is Epsom Rep. Dan McGuire. Even while McGuire is endorsing blowing $7 million in public money on a cockamamie scheme doomed to failure, he's determined to kill New Hampshire's Rail Transit Authority - despite the fact that the completely volunteer group, operating with private and grant money, doesn't cost the state a dime. Passenger rail service will never work. It's a 'boondoggle,' harrumphs the man who clearly knows a boondoggle when he sees one.

Then there's Dan Itse from Fremont, a real font of interesting proposals. He's proposed a bill to set up a process for recall of U.S. senators from New Hampshire 'in case you end up with someone who obtained the office on false pretenses.' Itse's also the author of a bill that would exempt any New Hampshire-made gun from any federal taxes or regulation and make it a crime for any federal authority to arrest anyone possessing a weapon or gun made in this state.

'We are in essence saying

the federal laws should not be enforced here and if agents of the U.S. government try to, there should be consequences,' Itse told The Telegraph of Nashua.

How about Hudson's Jordan Ulery? First he proposed mandating a background criminal records check for any elected officeholder in New Hampshire. Then came his bill that would outlaw any language but English on any business's sign unless the sign included all six 'official' United Nations Languages - a budget breaker for sure for any small business.

He really stepped in it when he defended himself by saying that he just wanted to avoid what happened when European Jews herded themselves into ghettos, thus making themselves 'different' and bringing on the Holocaust. Did I mention that Ulery fancies himself a keen amateur historian?

About that time, Lars Christiansen - also from Hudson, causing more then a few to wonder what's in the water down there - strolled onto the public scene. He decided that the ideal test case for the newly reconstituted Committee to Redress Grievances (which had its heyday several centuries ago) was a petition aimed at helping a convicted child rapist.

That was a bit too much for O'Brien and his sidekick, Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, who promptly tossed Christiansen under the GOP bus.

That was unusual. As a rule, O'Brien and Bettencourt don't object to the more fanciful proposals of their Republican confreres. In fact, they're often in the cheering section. They were certainly front and center in making sure lawmakers - and everyone else - could bring firearms not only into state buildings but into the legislative chamber itself.

That was a favorite of Al Baldasaro of Londonderry, whose vision of a fully-armed legislature is awesome. As he bragged to Monitor columnist Ray Duckler, 'If someone breaks into here or comes in here with an issue, before the police even get here, we've already probably stopped it.' Uh, probably? Not reassuring, Al.

Al is now pushing a constitutional amendment to change the New Hampshire oath of office for elected officials, directing them to swear 'true allegiance' only to the state while merely to 'support' the U.S. Constitution.

After all, Baldasaro told the Union Leader's John DiStaso, sometimes the way they vote 'is not the New Hampshire way.'

Amused? You shouldn't be. That's because so many of the proposals boiling to the surface in the Legislature have real long-term consequences, and with a veto-proof majority favoring them, they may well become law.

Baldasaro, for example, is a main sponsor of a so-called right-to-work law, long eschewed by lawmakers of both parties here, that would align New Hampshire with such economic powerhouses as Mississippi and Alabama. He's also one of many clamoring for immediate tax cuts that could add up to $200 million to the state's increasing debt.

He and his fellows - despite their lip service to focusing, laser-like, on job creation - have a distinct social agenda that flies in the face of New Hampshire's long libertarian tradition. They've made no bones about their fervent desire to repeal gay marriage and to restrict women's right to choose their own health care. O'Brien is with them.

They are actively attacking the independence of the attorney general, showing their contempt for the notion of three co-equal branches of government, and it's likely only a matter of time before they attempt to put the courts under their thumb as well.

Led by O'Brien, they're promoting legislation that would erect serious roadblocks for college students who want to vote here because, as O'Brien said, 'kids (come out) of school voting as liberals.' And if in the process they restrict military members from voting as well, hey, tough.

A Litchfield Republican, Ralph Boehm, wants to restrict the state's educational core subjects to the reading, writing and arithmetic which served us so well in the 19th century. Schools hankering to teach art, music, technology, health, world languages? Fine, he says, but the state won't help.

When Craig Benson effectively bought the corner office, the state survived, thanks to opposition Democrats and to the sane Republicans who then ran things. He couldn't do that much harm. And cartoonists and columnists, among others, had a lot of fun.

God knows where those sane Republicans went. And the Dems are still in deep shock. The current State House zealots will likely do real, permanent harm.

It's not funny.


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