In his unending quest to convince New Hampshire Representatives that gay marriage is the greatest scourge ever to be visited upon our society, Windham Rep David Bates has amended his bill to repeal gay marriage to include a non-binding referendum which would be placed on November's ballot.
Speaker Bill O'Brien agrees with Bates that denying two human beings the right to express their love in a formal fashion is--stop the presses--what he and 297 other Republicans were elected to do. Word has leaked that O'Brien plans to throw the House rule book aside, and bring up the Bates amendment prior to an amendment from the Judiciary Committee. Committee amendments have always been the first to be considered and then and only then are bill open to further amendment, but O’Brien and Bates clearly are willing to break any rules or traditions to foist this insane notion of a non-biding referendum onto the Legislature.
No, you just can't make this stuff up.
The New Hampshire Constitution does not allow for initiative petitions. Whether or not you think such petitions are a good idea, they are simply not allowed here. In fact, maybe we should have a nonbinding referendum to get a sense of the people as to whether or not we should amend the Constitution to provide an initiative petition process.
Referendum on Referendums?--Maybe we should have a nonbinding referendum to decide whether we should have a non-binding referendum on gay marriage.
I say this only in jest of course. The main point is deadly serious. How could anyone be so vain as to think this issue and nothing else merits the status of a nonbinding referendum? There’s a Yiddish word I’m searching for here, one I probably can’t spell. No, not verklempt. The word is chutzpah. He may not speak Yiddish, but Rep. Bates has plenty of good old-fashioned chutzpah to think his issue and his issue alone merits a special vote.
At least a dozen issues of much more importance to all New Hampshire voters come to mind, and yet Bates is not asking we put them to a public vote. Here are a few.
Referendum on Gambling? Why not? Most polls seem to show support for it, but no one is asking for a nonbinding referendum. Better yet, why not make it two referendums, one for the D’Allesandro gambling plan which makes a few out of state casino owners rich and the Gatsas plan which gets more money back into state coffers? As long as we’re asking voters to decide, we may as well clutter the ballot with as many decisions as possible.
Referendum on An Income Tax or Sales Tax? Larger minorities support them both than support a repeal of gay marriage, yet Bates isn't asking that the issue be put to a non-binding vote.
Referendum on The Speed Limit? All surveys show that 85 percent of us speed every day, yet the New Hampshire House, just voted against raising it. Why not let the people decided whether laws should reflect the consent of the governed?
That's an issue I could get behind.
A Trapping Referendum? Since first elected in 1996, I've been trying to ban the cruel and inhumane practice of trapping. The legislature has always said no, but when the people of Massachusetts were allowed to vote on it, they said yes.
Let's let the people vote on that here.
A Dog Racing Referendum? Last year, the New Hampshire legislature decided to end dog racing, the same decision Massachusetts’ voters reached through the referendum process a few years back. But wait. Maybe we should let New Hampshire voters weight in on the subject, and while we’re at it…maybe we should ask voters if they think these now defunct dog racing tracks should have a monopoly on simulcasting races from other venues. Why not open the televised races up to others or bar it for everyone?
A Seat Belt Referendum? New Hampshire is the only state not to force people top buckle up when they get in their cars. I firmly believe it’s a mater of individual choice, but it we’re going to start asking the voting public to weigh in on issues, why not this one? Gay marriage affects very few people (a couple thousand so far), but this would affect us all.
A Death Penalty Referendum? Gay marriage is certainly not a matter of life and death, but there’s one issue which is. Yes, that would be the death penalty. A few years back, the New Hampshire House voted to get rid of it. A few years before that, both the House and Senate voted to get rid of it (Governor Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it). Most polls show people favor the death penalty, but some polls show that people would favor doing away with it if we included the option of replacing it with life in prison with no chance of parole. Certainly if Bates and Joe McQuaid think we should let the people decide on gay marriage, the people have a right to weigh in on death.
An Insurance Referendum? For years, Manchester Alderman Ed Osborne has been pushing for a law requiring all New Hampshire drivers to be covered by insurance. The legislature kills the idea every session, but maybe it would be a different story if people were allowed to vote on the idea in a referendum. Gay marriage affects so few people; an insurance requirement would affect us all.
Bottle Bill Referendum? The Legislature always votes against a bottle bill, but other states have gone this route. In the interest of a greener environment, maybe we should pass a bottle bill. Maybe the people would say yes if provided the option on a referendum. Gay marriage affects so few people; a bottle bill would affect us all.
Do It For Granny D—The Legislature just voted down a bill providing for public financing of elections, but in honor of Granny D, who made this her number one cause, shouldn’t we let the people decide. Gay marriage affects so few people; public financing would affect us all.
The number of possibilities for non-binding referendums is limited only by one’s imagination….should we wish to navigate that slippery slope.
I say we don’t. We have the largest legislative body in the country. Each of our 400 Reps represents only about 3300 people, so the voice of the people can certainly be heard without subjecting each issue to a non-binding referendum.