A landmark legislative session was held this winter in New Hampshire. It marked the first time a Community Rights state constitutional amendment was debated and voted on by a state House of Representatives. The proposed amendment would recognize the authority of people in towns throughout the state to enact local rights-based laws protecting individual and communities’ rights, free from corporate interference and state preemption. That authority includes the right to protect the natural environment.
Nine bi-partisan sponsors championed CACR19, known as the NH Community Rights Amendment. It is the first Community Rights amendment in the nation to receive support from a legislative subcommittee with a recommendation of “ought-to-pass.”
The amendment did not receive the 3/5 super-majority vote required to advance a state constitutional amendment to the November ballot. This was not surprising, given that the full committee chair ignored the subcommittee recommendation’s “ought-to-pass.” He allowed a motion of “inexpedient-to-legislate” to stand and move to the House floor.
Despite this, 1/3 of the New Hampshire House of Representatives demonstrated their support. These legislators recognize the inalienable right of people in their communities to protect themselves from corporations intent on using their communities as sacrifice zones. Community Rights supporters are encouraged both by the bipartisan support the people’s amendment received in the sub- committee, and the 112 House votes in favor of advancing the amendment to voters.
Why Community Rights?
Growing numbers of New Hampshire communities are forced to host parasitic special interest projects such as high voltage transmission lines, oil and gas infrastructure, water withdrawals for resale, landfills, and other harms. They face a structure of law and government that allows corporations to impose these harmful activities into their communities against the will of the people due to corporate claimed “rights” and privileges.
In response, a growing number of New Hampshire communities are partnering with the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) and CELDF to advance their rights. They are drafting local Community Rights laws, or rights-based ordinances (RBOs). The RBOs elevate communities’ right of local community self-government and environmental rights to clean air, water, and soil, above corporate claimed “rights” and state preemption.
Over the past decade nearly a dozen communities state- wide have adopted RBOs — not because they expected the New Hampshire legislature to agree with them, but because these rights are inherent and inalienable.
CACR19 would guarantee state protection for local RBOs.
What it Takes
We know from prior people’s movements that fundamental change takes persistent, unrelenting pressure. As corporate threats grow in the Granite State, more communities are joining the Community Rights movement. These communities and their supporters will reintroduce the NH Community Rights Amendment because our quality of life — indeed our very lives and those of our children and future generations — depends on it.
Read more in CELDF’s newsletter, The Susquehanna, Spring 2018.