A change in legislative leadership in Concord has brought with it a number of policy proposals ranging from the strange to the exceptionally harmful. One measure in particular – passed by the House last week – threatens the very fabric of our democratic process and serves as a direct affront to New Hampshire’s independent tradition.
The new Republican-controlled House voted along strict party lines to pass HB 89 – a bill which would require the attorney general to file lawsuits challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Acts, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s cap-and-trade program. While the subject matter of these specific federal laws often elicits a strong partisan response, the core underlying principle of HB 89 – allowing the Legislature to instruct another co-equal branch of government how to conduct itself – is in direct violation of the New Hampshire Constitution and should be repudiated and dismissed by Republican and Democrat alike.
The separation of powers doctrine engrained in our state Constitution is clear and unfettered. To now suggest that we should ignore these principles in order to engage in legal resistance to cherry-picked political issues determined unjust by whichever party controls power in Concord stands in stark contrast to the very values and ideals that we as elected officials swore to uphold.
Appropriately, Attorney General Michael Delaney has made clear his opposition to the bill and denies the existence of any constitutional authority granted to the Legislature to enforce such a usurpation of power. Those in the House who disagree with Delaney’s responsible and right-minded aversion to this legislative overreach have even filed a bill to examine the viability of electing the state’s highest law enforcement officer by a vote of – you guessed it – the Legislature. Such a move amounts to political extortion.
Offering further evidence of the misguided nature of HB 89, Gov. John Lynch has indicated that he would certainly veto the bill were it to reach his desk.
I hope that my colleagues in the Senate see fit not to let it get that far. Recognition of legislative-executive branch independence and a reverence for our constitution speaks directly to New Hampshire’s identity and is a concept that should transcend party lines.
It is subsequently troubling that such a large number of House members who swept into office with a strong message of constitutional adherence should now be so dismissive of our state’s governing document in favor of political convenience.
I hope we can put an end to the partisan antics that have thus far controlled the focus and set to work on the truly important issues, like working together to balance our state budget, creating jobs and providing economic recovery. House Republicans campaigned on these very promises and have yet to deliver. I call upon the House Republicans to end the divisive atmosphere they have created and sit down together at the table with Democrats and work diligently to do the job the people elected us to do. The people of New Hampshire want solutions to the real problems they face on a daily basis, not political shenanigans.
(State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro is a Democrat from Manchester.)