New Hampshire Citizens Call on their State Senate to Permit Votes on Resolutions

Free Speech For People helped organize this event today in Concord, New Hampshire, in conjunction with the New Hampshire Coalition for Open Democracy.

Citizens Call on the New Hampshire Senate to Permit Votes on Resolutions

Veterans, Women, Good Government Groups Rally to Urge Change to
Senate Rule Blocking Votes on Three Popular Resolutions

CONCORD – A broad group of citizens including veterans, women’s rights leaders, good government organizations, senators, representatives and concerned citizens rallied today to call on the New Hampshire Senate to do away with a new rule it adopted this year that blocks consideration of resolutions that have been approved by the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

The rule was adopted by the Senate on February 14, 2013, after the deadline for official House and Senate bill drafting requests.

The rule has been preventing the consideration of three resolutions that were passed with bipartisan support by the House earlier this session. These resolutions are concerning health benefits for New Hampshire veterans (HCR 1), reversing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (HCR 2), and honoring a New Hampshire women’s suffrage leader (HJR 1).

Members of the Senate and the House and organizations and individuals in support of the resolutions expressed their frustration at the historic violation to the democratic process that the rule represents.

Senator Martha Fuller-Clark stated, "New Hampshire is recognized around the country for having one of the most open legislative process of all the state legislatures. I am gravely concerned that the decision of the Senate majority this session to block all resolutions that fail to receive a two thirds vote from coming to the floor for discussion defies our tradition of open government and fair debate. It sets a dangerous precedent and must be reversed."

“This Senate rule is an abrogation of responsibility and is contrary to the spirit of democracy, regardless of the issue at hand,” said Paul Camacho, a Vietnam veteran and resident of Concord. “The veterans’ resolution is important in that it alerts the nation that New Hampshire residents value the military sacrifices of their constituents. This is a non-partisan issue which everyone should be interested in.”

“Resolutions are important. Blocking resolutions is a sign of disrespect to the other chamber” said State Representative Mary Cooney from Plymouth.

“This is the first time that the New Hampshire Senate has refused to vote for a resolution that has passed the house,” said Olivia Zink, program director at the Coalition for Open Democracy, an organization dedicated to integrity and transparency of New Hampshire electoral and political process. “The people of New Hampshire want the senate to VOTE on Resolutions.”

“The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire has been proud of the open hearings and the ability to access our government at many steps along the way. While we believe that the processes determined by the legislature must follow a path that allows for citizen input, extensive debate, compromise and efficient decision-making. Self-imposed rules that restrict some types of issues from reaching a legislative body are counter-productive." stated Sally Davis, co-president of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire. "While New Hampshire citizens have experienced a continual loss of confidence in the ability of our national Congress to make progress in solving critical issues of our time, it is disheartening to have this filter down to our state level.”

"What began as a Republican tactic to avoid taking a position on a Roe v. Wade resolution, is now preventing many other equally important issues from being heard” said Laura Thibault, Interim Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire. “The people of New Hampshire expect our elected officials to thoughtfully consider all issues that are important to their constituents"

The Senate is expected to take a vote again on whether to hear the resolutions in an upcoming session. Meanwhile, the House is considering amendments to SCR 1 to incorporate language of these resolutions so that the Senate will address the resolutions in conference committee.

Background:

The New Hampshire senate’s current rules are listed here:
http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/about_Senate/category/senate_rules.pdf

The Senate rule blocking resolutions, # 3-26, appears on page 11. It begins, “The only resolutions that may be introduced into the Senate are:…”, and then lists 5 special cases, meaning that all other resolutions are barred from consideration by the Senate.

Rules #6-5, 6-6, and 6-7, appearing on page 14, each require a vote of 2/3 of the Senate to change, suspend, or rescind any rule, including the rule at issue here, #3-26.

The following three resolutions have passed the House but the Senate is now refusing to hear, because of rule # 3-26:

HCR 1 – Urging the U.S. Congress to fund the development and implementation of a comprehensive health care delivery system to enhance the level of specialty care for New Hampshire’s veterans.

HCR 2 – Requesting the U.S. Congress to begin the process for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, and making it clear that human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.

HJR 1 – Directing the joint legislative historical committee to acquire and display a portrait of New Hampshire women’s suffrage leader Marilla Marks Ricker.

About the Coalition for Open Democracy:

The Coalition for Open Democracy, based in Concord, is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to ensuring integrity, transparency and efficiency in political and legislative processes in New Hampshire and the nation. For more on the Coalition for Open Democracy, see:
http://www.coalitionforopendemocracy.org/about-us/

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