Attempts to Nix Proposed Community Rights State Constitutional Amendment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michelle Sanborn
Concord, NH – On the morning of Thursday the 18th of February, the NH Community Rights Amendment CACR 14 was scheduled for a public legislative hearing with the House Legislative Administration Committee. This was the first time in the United States that a Community Rights state constitutional amendment was considered by a legislative committee. After a significant grassroots outpouring of support from residents across New Hampshire, the committee disregarded Community Rights supporters.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) drafted Article 40. The Right of Local Community Self-Government (CACR 14) with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). The proposed NH Community Rights Amendment is sponsored by House Representative Susan Emerson and cosponsored by Representatives Suzanne Smith, Mary Cooney, Stephen Darrow, Wayne Burton, and Senator Jeanie Forrester.
There was standing room only during the committee hearing as residents from communities all across the state testified in support of protecting the places they live from harmful unsustainable projects such as Northern Pass, fracked gas pipelines, water withdrawals, and industrial wind. Many of these communities have enacted local Rights-based Ordinances, asserting the right to democratic, community self-government – including the right to protect clean air and water. These communities have come together through NHCRN to advance Community Rights to the state level with the proposed NH Community Rights Amendment, recognizing that all residents of New Hampshire have these rights and protections.
The public hearing went well past the allotted 45 minutes and placed the remainder of the docket behind. This prompted the legislative committee to recommend recessing the hearing to later in the day, indicating they needed to move forward with other proposed legislation. It was proposed by the public to forfeit a number of verbal testimonies in favor of completing the hearing, so as not to further inconvenience residents that took time away from their work schedules and traveled in some cases over 2 hours to express their support for Community Rights. The legislative committee agreed and allowed 2 more testimonies in closing and promptly adjourned the public hearing.
According to Dolly McPhaul of Sugar Hill, “Throughout the meeting we got the sense the committee was not listening and could care less about protecting and expanding the rights of people to protect themselves from projects that would violate their health, safety and welfare. They were just biding their time to fulfill their obligation to let the public speak.”
Kris Pastoriza, a resident of Easton, expressed her disappointment with the behavior of the chairman of the legislative committee, Richard Hinch, “His obvious impatience with our desire to speak to the committee directly indicated he was listening without hearing and created an atmosphere that inhibited what legislation should encourage; intellectual and moral engagement, curiosity and real dialogue.”
Chairman Richard Hinch assured those present, that submitted written testimonies and materials would be read. However, after the committee indicated the need to move forward with other proposed legislation, rather than moving to the next scheduled hearing, the committee held an executive session and voted unanimously to the kill the rights-protecting state constitutional amendment. It is likely the committee did not read a single testimony.
Debbie Sumner of Jaffrey wrote to the House Legislative Administration Committee after learning of the executive session saying, “IF we had known you were planning to vote this morning, I for one would have wanted to know that so I could attend the executive session.” Committee members did not even have the courtesy to announce their intent of an executive session to the interested public.
Representative Emerson, the prime sponsor of the amendment, stated, “It seems beyond imagination that any member of this distinguished body would support habits of governance that would be destructive to the unalienable rights of the people or deny their authority to engage democratically for the protection of their rights.”
New Hampshire Community Rights supporters, through NHCRN, are determined to advance these rights. NHCRN Coordinator, Michelle Sanborn said, “We are not surprised that the legislative committee went through great lengths to nix the proposed NH Community Rights state constitutional amendment. They attempted to keep communities from democratic, local self-governance. We do not accept this as the end of the Community Rights Movement in New Hampshire, we see it as the beginning.”
About NHCRN – New Hampshire Community Rights Network
New Hampshire Community Rights Network is a non-profit, grassroots organization that seeks to empower communities with the education and authority necessary to promote and maintain the level of resiliency necessary for survival by educating citizens, state legislators, and elected officials, about the right of local community self-government.