Strong citizen support helps advance CACR19 to House M&CG committee



Michelle Sanborn, New Hampshire Community Organizer 

CONCORD, NH: Last week, the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment, CACR19, left House Municipal & County Government (M&CG) subcommittee with a 3-2 bi-partisan “ought-to-pass” recommendation. Community members from across the state attended the full committee hearing earlier this month, providing more than two hours of testimony in support of the amendment.

CACR19 was drafted by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). If adopted, it would guarantee the people of New Hampshire their individual and collective right to protect human and natural communities through local law-making. The amendment would secure the right of a democratic majority of townspeople to stop harmful corporate projects against corporate claimed “rights” to force those projects into communities – provided that the adopted local laws do not infringe on natural persons’ existing protections under state and federal law.

New Hampshire communities are increasingly facing destructive corporate development, such as Northern Pass, oil and gas infrastructure, water withdrawals for resale, and other harms. Since 2006, they have partnered with CELDF to protect themselves by advancing Community Bill of Rights ordinances. These ordinances secure rights, including rights to clean air and water, and the right to local community self-government. Nearly a dozen towns across the state have adopted rights-based ordinances. Today, growing numbers of communities, working with the NHCRN, are driving these rights upward to the state level.

Representative Frank Sterling (R) made clear his opposition, stating, “New Hampshire is not a democracy, it is a republic. This amendment changes our form of government to a democracy and we are not a democracy!”

Representative Bruce Tatro (D) disagreed, asserting that the state indeed is a democracy: “CACR19 is an amendment to a constitution that was formed by the people of the state. The people should have the opportunity to vote this amendment up or down. I’m not in favor of short-circuiting that.”

Opposed legislators suggested community members need only ask Representatives to pass town-protecting laws. Representative Steve Rand (D) countered that corporations routinely use court system privileges to appeal to state preemption and Dillon’s Rule in order to nullify local ordinances and people’s self-governing authority: “We represent constituents to create statutes, but the [New Hampshire state] constitution is higher than statutes. The people represent themselves constitutionally. Giving them the chance to vote on CACR19 is the one thing we can do to support their ability to protect their health, safety, and welfare. It will help them expand, not decrease their rights.”

Following testimony, the M&CG subcommittee took the unusual step of scheduling an unconventional Friday executive session on February 23rd at 1pm in room 301 of Concord’s Legislative Office Buildings. The House M&CG committee will recommend to the full House how to vote on CACR19, which is likely to occur the first week of March.

New Hampshire Part of Growing Movement

New Hampshire residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights movement building across the U.S. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance and protect fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit 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. New Hampshire joins state Community Rights Networks in Colorado, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where residents are advancing Community Rights state constitutional amendments.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Community Rights, contact CELDF at To learn about the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, visit Select Boards and citizens interested in supporting the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment may contact Michelle Sanborn at

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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