by Seth Cohn
In school civics classes, we all learn about the separation of powers in our government. We learn that the judicial branch cannot make laws, only rule on them and cannot force lawmakers to act, only end enforcement of bad laws. The legislative branch writes laws, and the executive branch enacts laws. The Supreme Court cannot tell the legislature how to operate, nor can the legislature tell the court how to rule on cases. Likewise, the Supreme Court has no executive power to force people to do anything. It is only one of 3 parts, which work together, in a careful check and balance.
With his proposed amendment CACR 18, John Lynch is acquiescing to the Court, as if what we learned in school is wrong. He should be the first to hold up and defend the idea of different branches of power, and the legislature should be the second. Instead, the politicians in Concord will be letting the Court run the show, writing into the Constitution a very false notion that control of education is a state function, in direct contradiction to other sections of the Constitution, rather than a city and town concern, handled locally, as close as possible to parents and neighbors, and funded with reason and responsiveness that local control can allow.
This proposed amendment, if passed, also pushes the state towards adopting an income tax. Education funding decisions made in Concord will cause further lawsuits over funding, and the price tag will increase each year, placing more and more pressure on localities to deal with an "unfair" burden of property taxes. The move will begin to establish an income tax to supposedly pay for the “state education system” in a “fair” way. This attempt, like in the rest of the states, will only increase spending in Concord, not control it and hold the line, and destroy the single most distinguishing economic characteristic that has made New Hampshire a haven for businesses and residents alike. The powerful “New Hampshire Advantage” will be lost, replaced with more bureaucratic tax shuffling in Concord, with no discernable improvement in education. Of course, we'll be told that just a "little more" funding will solve that, each and every year.
Lawsuits will not stop with passage of the governor’s proposed amendment. There is nothing in it that stops the Supreme Court from ruling that state “education adequacy” numbers are unfair or need to be higher, and it is certain that towns will be envious of other towns over the amount they can spend on education, and they will seek the same path as in the past: lawsuits. Lawyers will take the cases, knowing that they will be able to point to the past decisions and that everyone else will roll over for them, just like what is happening now.
What can stop this mess is for the people of New Hampshire to enforce the restrictions placed on justices, and to refuse to concede to this illegitimate attempt by the judicial branch to take on legislative tasks, forcing state control of education, replacing local control by the people themselves. We, the people, set up the 3 branches, and when they fail to check and balance themselves, it falls to us to raise our voices.
I hope my neighbors will choose to support the proper separation of powers, local control, and fiscal responsiveness, not John Lynch’s attempt to appease an out of bounds Supreme Court that seeking to wrest school control away from our local budgets and eventually impose an income tax from Concord, taxing us all the more.