Here's an email I received today regarding the people's right to make noise in the House chambers and my response. As usual, as an advocate of free speech, I come down on the side of limits and obeying rules established.
From: Dana Coons [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2013 12:17 PM
To: ~House Criminal Justice and Public Safety
Subject: Suffering to listen to your Constituents?
Honorable Committee Members,
Apparently Chairman Laura Pantelakos finds it a burden to listen to the citizens of New Hampshire as during the hearing on HB 135, she made the statement “Show some respect for the members of this committee. We are forced to sit here and suffer through this… I am not going to tolerate this!” after the audience showed their support for a speaker by clapping their hands. I wish to say that I am very much offended that an elected representative feels this way. If they have so much disdain for their constituents, why on earth did they run for office? It is their job as a representative to listen to the voters whether they agree with them or not. If they find that it is such a burden to listen to the voter, then I strongly suggest that Chairman Pantelakos resign as chairman of this committee. I would also strongly suggest that she resign as representative as it is apparently to much of a burden for her to listen to her constituents.
Respectfully, Dana Coons
Rep. Vaillancourt's Response:
The chair's comment was admittedly inartful, but the point was that if you are going to show up, and I welcome you, you should obey House rules of no applause, and it is certainly reasonable to limit comments to two or three minutes. That has happened often in the past....including for a House full of people for the gay marriage debate. Those people, by the way, remained silent when warned ONCE.
Those well-mannered people developed an ingenious gimmick of "silent applause", raising their hands as if to come together but not actually touching each other to create a noise.
By someone going on 10 or 15 minutes when the House is full, he or she is only hurting others who share similar views...since a delay often forces others to have to leave...or dimiishes the audience, so while I don't think the Chair used the best words, please cut her some slack as to her intent. It was not meant to silence anyone, merely to help the proceedings move along more swiftly...and I speak as someone who is often too wordy and can cut back to two minutes when necessary. The woman who insisted on reading her ten minutes of testimony, when asked not to, could have been escorted out but the Chair allowed her to proceed. That's more than the prior speaker might well have done, but then of course, he only tried to silence those who disagreed with him.