Legislative committee blocks CACR 14 from going to the voters



Michelle Sanborn

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Today, the New Hampshire House voted on CACR 14, the Community Rights state constitutional amendment, which would empower community members and local governments to make local governing decisions – including banning unsustainable development projects and establishing stronger environmental protections than in place at the state and federal level.

Despite having broad community support across New Hampshire, the amendment – Article 40, the Right of Local Community Self-Government was voted inexpedient to legislate (ITL) by the House Legislative Administration Committee. The Committee ignored the standing-room-only crowd that was urging them to support the measure, instead favoring industry, which wanted the measure blocked. The full House voted today to end consideration of the amendment as part of a package of bills on the consent agenda.

The Community Rights state constitutional amendment was drafted by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) in partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). The measure was sponsored by House Representative Susan Emerson (R – Cheshire, District 11) and co-sponsored by Representatives Suzanne Smith, Mary Cooney, Stephen Darrow, and Wayne Burton, as well as Senator Jeanie Forrester.

Stated Michelle Sanborn, CELDF’s Community Rights Organizer and the NHCRN’s Coordinator, “We are enthusiastic that CACR 14 received the support it did from Representative Emerson and her colleagues, and we are undaunted by the outcome. It took more than 50 years for the Women’s Suffrage Movement to achieve their goals – including more than 400 local and state laws. We are at the beginning of the Community Rights Movement, and this is the first of countless Community Rights measures to come to the state level. Representative Emerson and her colleagues supporting CACR 14 are making history alongside the communities of New Hampshire, and hundreds of other communities across the United States. We will be back next year.”

The NHCRN helped organize communities from across the state that are supporting the measure to attend the House vote. Each of these communities is facing unsustainable projects such as the proposed Northern Pass industrial energy project, fracked gas pipelines, corporate water withdrawals, and industrial wind. CELDF has assisted communities across New Hampshire to prohibit such projects through local Community Bills of Rights laws, which assert the right to democratic, community self-government – including the right to protect clean air and water. CACR 14 is the next step to protecting those rights by securing  them in the New Hampshire Constitution.

The prime sponsor of the amendment, Representative Susan Emerson, stated, “I am disappointed that more of my colleagues did not understand the purpose of the amendment – to provide new guards against the oppression of the people, wittingly or unwittingly, by a central government, and to secure their right to chart their own course, where their fundamental rights are at issue, for the future security of their communities, their homes, their families, and future generations. Clearly, there is more that we, as elected representatives of the people of New Hampshire, could be doing to protect them.”

While the state legislature may be standing in the way of the right of local community self-government for the people of New Hampshire, residents are undeterred. Last night, Barrington residents adopted a Community Bill of Rights, protecting themselves from harmful resource extraction, and this weekend Barnstead and Mason will be voting on their Community Bills of Rights as well.


New Hampshire Communities Part of Growing National Movement

New Hampshire residents and their local and state representatives who are advancing Community Rights are part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks across the country are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They have worked with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction,  fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.


Additional Information

For additional information regarding the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment, visit www.nhcommunityrights.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org. To read CACR 14, visit here.


About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.


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