By Marshall Cobleigh
Step 1: Vote down or amend the leadership's proposed joint rules to allow the elected legislators to propose constitutional amendments or a process to leave lawmaking to elected officials answerable to the people of New Hampshire rather than the courts.
Step 2: Vote for a Constitutional Amendment (60 percent vote required) Justice Douglas' plan or Gatsas' Plan.
Step 3: If Step 2 fails to get 60 percent vote, have both the House and Senate adopt a resolution calling for a convention (simple majority vote required by both branches - NH Constitution Part 2 Article 100(b)). This Resolution could spell out details as to: o timing of the convention o when the election to select delegates would be held (could specify Presidential Primary date or town meeting date) o and when the question to amend would appear on the ballot.
This could provide a vehicle to ask the Supreme Court to delay their effective date deadline so the people's voice may be heard.
Step 4: Request the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of Governor Lynch's plan (majority vote required).
STATEMENT OF MARSHALL COBLEIGH
I believe strongly that if New Hampshire elected leaders do not act this coming Tuesday to pass a constitutional amendment removing the courts from education funding and taxing issues, we will lose the New Hampshire advantage.
Part I Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution spells out that ?whenever the ends of government are perverted, "and all other means of redress are ineffectual the people may and of right ought to reform the old or establish a new government." We believe that the recent New Hampshire Supreme Court decision so endangers New Hampshire traditions such as local control of education and the closer to the people a spending decision is made, the more efficient that decision will be. The time to act is now.
Time is quickly running out on the state's ability to stop a massive court-imposed spending increase and the taxes that go along with it. It is our firm belief that you do not increase the quality of education by willy-nilly spending increases to satisfy mandates from non-elected officials. History has taught us that the quality of education has little correlation with educational funding. This point was reinforced by the recent John Stossel education program entitled, "Stupid in America."
Fortunately, the legislature is reconvening in a special session next Tuesday. Unfortunately the governor and the legislative leaders have proposed to limit the agenda and ignore the Supreme Court's ruling on school funding. A simple majority of the membership of either branch can kill these proposed joint rules or amend them to allow the legislature to deal with this problem and put a constitutional question on the November 7th ballot that if adopted by the people would forestall the court?s decision. And allow our elected officials to deal with the biggest problem facing the state in decades.
The way to reverse the Supreme Court decision is to pass a constitutional amendment. If Governor John Lynch and the legislative leadership allow the voters to vote on a constitutional amendment that would be simple and clear in restoring our 1784 Constitution to where it was 13 years ago before the Claremont I decision. The amendment suggested by former Supreme Court Justice Charles G. Douglas, III, would simply say, "The definition of an adequate education and the funding of same by the state shall be exclusively decided by the legislative and executive branches of government."
The court ruled that the legislature must do something before July, 2007 or it will impose a plan itself. For an amendment to be considered by the people of New Hampshire before the court-imposed deadline, it would need to appear on the November 7th ballot. Failure to take this step means the next legislature will return to face a billion dollar spending increase that comes due on the New Hampshire Supreme Court imposed deadline.
This amendment does not define what an adequate education means. It does not say how to fund it nor require new taxes. It simply says who will make these billion dollar a year decisions' our elected officials or five non-elected judges who are not answerable to the people. The New Hampshire Constitution has been amended over 100 times. It provides an appropriate check and balance to the recent judicial decision that will forever alter our government and take away the New Hampshire advantage. The question is simple. Should the court require the change of our tax structure of our state forever or let our elected officials make this decision?
Governor John Lynch is right. This is a time to set politics aside and for everyone to work together in a bipartisan manner. Jim Coburn is also right that this is a time that cries out for real leadership not simply waiting until after the election. This is an opportunity for John Lynch, Ted Gatsas, and Doug Scamman to lead on the issue.
As usual, Ronald Regan said it best when he said, "I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself under mediocre leadership that drifts from one crisis to the next." Our current Governor John Lynch is a nice, pleasant man despite all of his rhetoric about non-partisanship. He is a specialist in avoiding courageous stands or even discussing controversial issues.
John Lynch, like most Mandy Grunwald clients, relies heavily on public opinion polls before taking any kind of stand on an issue. For instance, his first campaign ad shows him smiling prettily at disaster scenes and coming out firmly against sexual predators. Do you know any politician who ever came out for sexual predators? Of course not--they're at the bottom of the poll and thus it's safe to be against them.
As Fergus Cullen put it so well, "there is more to being an effective governor than showing concern at the scene of a local disaster or being a Portsmouth Little League groupie." But if push comes to shove and he's forced to take a position on an unpopular issue, John Lynch always does what his most partisan liberal advisors tell him to do.
Despite John Lynch's repeatedly telling us he is for bipartisanship, when the recent Supreme Court decision came down Lynch refused to join Senate President Ted Gatsas in the search for a bipartisan constitutional amendment to be put on the November 7th ballot to let the taxpayers of New Hampshire rather than five lawyers make the spending and taxing decisions.
Tom Thomson, one of Mel's sons, asked his mother, Gale Thomson, former First Lady of New Hampshire, what Mel would have done under similar circumstances. They decided Mel probably would have called a statewide news conference on the steps of the State Supreme Court denouncing the court?s decision and announcing his full support for a special session to craft a bipartisan constitutional amendment to be on the ballot November 7th so that the citizens of New Hampshire, once and for all, would decide whether they want the Justices of the Supreme Court or the people of New Hampshire, through their legislative representatives to set future education funding policy. Thomson went on to say, "Mel would have limited or foregone any reelection campaign to work on this important issue with the leaders of the House and Senate in order to allow the citizens to bring an end to the involvement of our judicial system in this matter."
If we fail to have a special session and a constitutional amendment ready for our citizens to vote on by November 7th and the Supreme Court Justices are allowed to define an adequate education in New Hampshire, we will be guaranteed a sales or income tax and the New Hampshire advantage that we have all enjoyed for so long will be lost forever. You must act now. New Hampshire's future is at stake.
Marshall Cobleigh was former NH House Speaker , a Parliamentary expert who spent 10 years in the Legislature 6 six years as a Legislative Leader and 4 years as Speaker of the House and served as an Administrative Assistant to Governor Mel Thomson for 5 years and Congressman Bill Zeliff for 5 years.