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A Shield, Not A Spear, Madame Speaker

I've spent the lunch hour writing a floor speech in support of House Bill 370, the bill to repeal education vouchers for relgious schools.  Since I wanted to get every word just right, I think I'll read this rather than ad lib it.  The House Ways and Means Committee voted 10-7 to pass the bill, most likely along party lines with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.  As should be clear from the tenor of these remarks, I'm with Democrats on this one (that's why I'm wearing my Chris-Spirou-provided donkey tie today) and am frankly ashamed of the vast majority of Republicans whose fidelity to the Constitution apparently only counts when the Constitution agrees with their pre-conceived notions.

Here's the speeech.  See if I can deliver it word for word.

Remarks on House Bill 370

From Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, Hills. 15

February 20, 2013

          Thank you Madame Speaker, ever cognizant of the oath of office I took to defend the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, I rise in full support of this bill to repeal what I consider to be an unconstitutional education voucher.

          If I may paraphrase the immortal bard, Madame Speaker.  In his play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare had Brutus say, “It’s not that I love Caesar less, but that I love Rome more.”

          In the case of this bill, I say, “It’s not that I love vouchers less, but that I love our Constitution more.”

          In not one, but in fact in two sections, the New Hampshire Constitution prohibits any tax money from going toward education of religious institutions. 

          Part First, Article 6 states, and I quote, “No person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination.”

          Part Second, Article 83—yes that’s the article that provides those famous words about cherishing, that is to say, funding education—also states, and again I quote, “No money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of any religious sect or denomination.”

          Notice, Madame Speaker, that I did not read words detailing how it would be permissible to put money under a shell, move it around like in an old game of hutchenspiel, and then after the proper amount of laundering, voila!, declare it acceptable to give to a religious school.

          That’s really what the education voucher passed, shamefully in my opinion, by this House last year did.  To the extent that businesses are given tax credits for providing vouchers for religious schools, we are allowing tax money to go to religious schools.  After all, if the credits were not being granted, the businesses would have to pay their taxes, just like all other businesses.

          Here’s how the Portsmouth Herald and Nashua Telegraphs explained it in recent editorials, and once again I quote, “The state and other private groups defending the tax credit program make a tortured argument that somehow the tax credits are not tax dollars.  This is absurd on its face, because the state would not be in a position to give credits unless it was owed taxes.  No taxes, no credits.  No credits, no voucher program.”

          Seldom has an editorial writer summed it up better, Madame Speaker.

          Except perhaps a Concord Monitor writer who noted, and I quote, “The tax credit would effectively allow a government subsidy for schools that teach religion and discriminate based on their hiring practices.  It is the pea under shells manipulated by legal sleight of hand.”

          Ah yes, the old shell game.

          We do not take an oath of office to turn out Constitutiion into a shell game, Madame Speaker.  The Constitution should be used as a shield…to protect our individual rights, not as a spear, a bayonet if you will, to wield against those with whom we disagree.

          You cannot, Madame Speaker, use the Constitution when it agrees with your point of view and then turn against it with specious arguments, with absurd legal mumbo, jumbo when it clearly opposes what you wish to do.

          As I said at the outset, Madame Speaker, it is not that I love vouchers less, but that I lover our Constitution more.  For those who would tell us that our Constitution demands that we allow guns in this body or that we have to address any grievance to come before us, for them to then deny that our Constitution prevents any tax monies going to religious schools…well, that’s just the kind of gall…or chutzpah…that would make our founders roll over in their graves.

          I will never be any part of it, and I’m frankly ashamed of those who will.

          If you don’t like what the Constitution says about never giving tax monies to private schools, you are welcome to change the Constitution.  There are mechanisms in place to do just that, but as long as the wording is clear in not one but in two places; it should be anathema to let this bill stand.

          One final quote, if I might Madame Speaker.  Bill Duncan, writing an op-ed piece for Fosters of Dover, stated, and again I quote, “Revising previous policy is what Legislatures do, especially when voters have spoken as clearly as we did last November.”

          This bill allows us to revive previous misguided policy, and I trust all House and Senate members who take their oath of office seriously will vote ought to pass on this bill.

          A shield, not a spear Madame Speaker, that’s what our Constitution is, and shame to those who attempt to wield it as a weapon.


Follow-Up--I stuck to the script...only because I deliberately avoided listening to the previous speakers, lest I be tempted to ad lib rebuttals to points they had made.  I never knew I was capable of such discipline; I only diverged from the script once, when after the reference to "last November", I threw in those three famous words.




And no, I never went into an explanation of how Hutchenspiel is dervied from the German.  I trust the Bully Without a Pulpit remembers quite well.

Hmmm...maybe I should write speeches out and attempt to read them (rather than ad lib) more often.  It's not as much fun, but I suspect it's more effective.

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Reader Comments (3)

Well written, although I think when you speak extemporaneously your passion is more evident.

Was the vote a roll call, and how did the parties split on the issue?

How did this thing ever get passed in the last session, when we had the late-and-unlamented Constitutional Review and Whatever Else committee to make sure the legislature kept to the straight-and-narrow, constitution-wise?
February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Marsh
Deerest Democratics –
So where are the bills from the party of diversity and choice to introduce same to the de facto monopoly of skoolin' by the government? Are they too busy counting their party favors from the union bosses? Keep 'em stupid, democratics, that's your voting base!
– C. dog pulling wool over eyes to see things from a democratic perspective
February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterC. dog
It was a roll call. Seven Republicans voted for the bill; four Democrats voted against it. It passed last year because Republicans, sadly, only value the Constitution when it agrees with their pre-conceived view of the world. For example, if you can believe it, one of the people who thinks religious schools vouchers are constitutional appeared in Criminal Justice today to say that it's unconstitutional to have gun permits, something we've had for decades. These people disgust me more than ever; as I said, you can't wrap yourself in the Constitution when it suits your purpose then discard it like a rag when it does not. I think we learned in Marbury v. Madison who determines Constitutionality, and it's not Itse or the unnamed one from Litchfield, but rather duly appoined judges.
February 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterRep Steve Vaillancourt

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