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Friday
Jun072013

PublicCitizen - State Senate should act democratically

Statement by Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Senior Organizer, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

The New Hampshire Senate today continued its undemocratic obstinacy by blocking consideration of the three resolutions that passed with bipartisan support by the House of Representatives. The resolutions concern health benefits for New Hampshire veterans (HCR 1), reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (HCR 2) and honoring a New Hampshire women’s suffrage leader (HJR 1).

The stalemate began in February, when the Senate adopted a new rule that effectively blocks consideration of House-approved resolutions. The House decided Wednesday not to press the issue, although some lawmakers had planned to push a measure calling for the Senate to do the right thing and vote today on the three resolutions.

Now that the Senate has refused to act, the House likely will revisit the issue when it meets again on June 26. The Senate still could suspend its rules and vote on the three resolutions at any time throughout the rest of the session, which is supposed to end at the end of June, but may go longer due to potential unresolved issues, including the state budget.

The three resolutions before the Senate may not be full bills, but they are still important.

HCR 2 is the focus of Public Citizen members. Throughout the nation, people are looking to New Hampshire to become the 15th state to call for a constitutional amendment to restore our democracy. New Hampshire saw the impact of the Citizens United decision in the 2012 election cycle. More than $19 million was spent by outside spenders on New Hampshire’s 2012 gubernatorial race, almost five times what the candidates spent themselves. A recent poll shows strong bipartisan support in New Hampshire for an amendment to allow limitations on campaign expenditures.

It is no easy task to pass a constitutional amendment, but passing state and local resolutions is essential to building momentum for an amendment. After the passage of nearly 500 local resolutions and 14 state resolutions calling for an amendment, the idea is gaining serious attention in Congress.

HCR 1 recognizes the 131,000 veterans who live in New Hampshire – the only state without a full-service veterans hospital – and calls upon the U.S. Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase efforts to provide care to these underserved veterans. It is important for a state legislature to speak out on behalf of those in need, especially when they are being left behind by federal programs intended to serve them. New Hampshire not only should pass this resolution but should proactively advocate to make sure it is heard in Washington.

Finally, HJR 1 directs the New Hampshire Legislature to display a portrait of women suffragist Marilla Marks Ricker in the halls of the state house complex. Few portraits of women are displayed in these hallways, so this act is a significant one for parity. It should not be controversial for the Senate to take a few minutes of its time to affirm the bipartisan vote of the House to display this portrait.

It is ironic and unfortunate that the attempts of our members and allies in New Hampshire to speak out to reclaim our democracy from the flood of money that is inundating our elections are being stymied by the undemocratic actions of the Senate majority. I am hopeful that the leadership will recognize its error and move to take a vote on these essential resolutions.

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