Slew of Bad Legislation

January 08, 2012

While the public’s attention has been distracted by the upcoming primary election, the N.H. Legislature has pursued a dangerous agenda that is the epitome of political overreaching.

We’re confident that, once voters get the full sense of exactly what these lawmakers have been up to, the politicians will be tossed out of office and their reign of terror brought to an end. Why a reign of terror? First, because the laws proposed and passed by Free State Republicans in the House and Senate pose a real danger to law-abiding New Hampshire citizens. Second, because lawmakers who disagree with House Speaker Bill O’Brien and his henchmen are literally terrorized. Things have gotten so bad that Republican lawmaker Susan Emerson of Rindge filed a bill aimed directly at O’Brien’s bullying.

Emerson said, after she spoke against budget cuts in the Senate, O’Brien berated her. “He was like a little child with a tantrum,” she said, adding, “I have never been spoken to in my life like the way that man spoke to me.”

The Bill O’Brien Bullying Bill is co-sponsored by Exeter Republican Matt Quandt and longtime Democratic state Rep. Laura Pantelakos, who said she’s never seen things so hostile in all her years at the Statehouse.

While the House leadership is terrorizing its own membership, it is doing even worse to the public. It is putting us in danger.

This past week saw a slew of even more irrational proposed changes to the state’s gun laws.

Despite the pleading of police and school leaders, the House passed a bill making it legal to carry concealed weapons on any public property, including colleges, any public land or any publicly financed buildings. According to Gov. John Lynch, this means anyone can enter any private business at Pease International Tradeport with a concealed weapon, regardless of the business owners’ feelings about it, because Pease businesses lease their land from the state through the Pease Development Authority.

After expanding where it is legal to carry, the House then passed a bill to eliminate the need to get a license to carry a concealed, loaded weapon. Essentially now, with the exception of convicted felons, anyone can get and carry a loaded concealed weapon anywhere, anytime.

The third gun bill proposes eliminating a 74-year-old ban on people having loaded shotguns and rifles in their vehicles while they’re driving. We can only hope the Senate will stop this madness.

After making sure all our citizens can have unlicensed, loaded, concealed weapons, the House was then joined by the Senate in overriding Gov. Lynch and passing a law that allows the parent of any child in public school to stop a teacher from using any lesson that parent finds “objectionable.” The law doesn’t define what objectionable means, so now any parent could stop any teacher from teaching any lesson without any reason. As if our teachers didn’t have a hard enough job already.

After increasing the likelihood of gun violence and unnecessarily disrupting teachers in the classroom, the House and Senate set out to undermine consumers. Because an annual interest rate of 36 percent wasn’t high enough, our House and Senate have overridden Gov. Lynch’s veto and made it legal for payday lenders to charge 25 percent interest a month. We have seen models where the annual interest rate on these loans could wind up being more than 400 percent.

“You can’t legislate against stupidity,” explained Hampton State Rep. Fred Rice. This was also Rice’s explanation for his role in gutting a law that would have protected pre-buy oil customers.

That bill, sponsored by Rep. Lee Quandt, R-Exeter, was drafted with help from the state Attorney General’s office, after Flynn’s Oil went bankrupt in 2009 and stiffed more than 300 customers out of $500,000 they had paid in advance for oil. The bill would simply have required oil companies to put 75 percent of the money paid for oil in an escrow account for safekeeping.

“If you pay for heating oil to keep your family or small business warm in winter, that fuel should be delivered,” said Rep. Christopher Serlin, D-Portsmouth. “And if for some reason that does not happen, your money should come back to you.”

That seems sensible to us, which is why the nonsensical House leadership vote eviscerated the bill. Apparently, common sense is no longer welcome in the N.H. Legislature. Space prohibits listing the full catalogue of idiocy that took place this past week in the Legislature. For now, we’ll just have to look forward to welcoming common sense back in November 2012.