It would be nice to wake up tomorrow morning and discover that the actions of the current New Hampshire House and its imperious speaker, Bill O’Brien, had been one long April Fools joke and now lawmakers were planning to get serious. Unfortunately, the speaker and House majority seriously believe that people should be able to stand their ground and shoot anyone they think is threatening them rather than walk away. And they are serious when they say that a tortured electoral redistricting plan is the best one they could conceive.
The House passes so much bad, or downright illegal, legislation that’s it’s hard to keep track of it all. Last week alone, the House passed three bills that will have a negative impact on some or all of the state’s residents. One is a bill that makes women seeking an abortion wait at least 24 hours between an initial doctor’s visit and the procedure itself. That’s needless legislation that demeans and inconveniences women without justification. Gov. John Lynch should veto it.
February marked the 324th consecutive month that global temperatures exceeded their long-term average. March saw a string of high temperature records broken in New Hampshire and across America. The great majority of scientists say global warming caused by human activity is at least in part at fault. So what did New Hampshire’s House do? By better than a two-to-one margin it voted to pull New Hampshire out of the regional greenhouse gas agreement to cut carbon emissions. That would hasten global warming. The House took that action on the same day that scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report warning that global warming is causing extreme weather that will decimate coastal areas – extreme weather that could strike anywhere on Earth. Longer droughts, worse floods, fiercer storms and longer and more frequent heat waves are predicted.
The House also overturned the governor’s veto of its redistricting plan (and the Senate later concurred). That vote came as a surprise engineered by the House’s devious and dictatorial speaker, enough of a surprise that the vote deserves to be challenged on constitutional grounds.
The House plan deprives 62 communities large enough to meet the requirements under the state Constitution that they have a representative to call their own. It also lumps some city wards, including Concord’s Ward 5, in with other communities. Because of those flaws a fair number of Republicans, perhaps enough to make overturning Lynch’s veto impossible, opposed the redistricting plan. On Thursday, O’Brien looked around and saw that many of them were absent. He held a half-hour caucus with the Republicans present and then called a vote. Democrats who asked for 15 minutes to caucus before the vote were told no.
The redistricting vote had not been scheduled, nor had the governor’s veto message been printed in the House calendar as required under the state Constitution. When challenged, O’Brien cited an opinion by House legal counsel Ed Mosca, a conservative activist and occasional Monitor columnist, that the vote was legal, but he refused to allow Democrats to read the opinion.
We urge Democrats, joined by Republican representatives and their constituents who will be denied equal representation by the redistricting plan, to sue, both over O’Brien’s illegal vote and the redistricting plan itself. What’s going on in the House is government at its worst. Mean-spirited, meddlesome, partisan, ill-reasoned and tyrannical. We urge voters to think hard about whether to send their representatives back to Concord in the fall.