New Hampshirites have a very low tolerance for stupidity or cowardice, especially from our representatives. Partisan excuses are intellectually feeble and show that an elected policy maker lacks principles. Recently, two bills in Concord have exposed some representatives as ill-prepared to serve the people of New Hampshire.
The first bill was HB 1589, a background check bill. When all the votes were counted, the N.H. House voted 242-118 in favor of killing the bill. For those keeping track, there are 179 Republicans and 221 Democrats in the House. Clearly, Democrats and Republicans worked together to defeat this poorly constructed piece of legislation. Perceived good intentions and blatant public shaming are not a strategy, which are some of the reasons why this bill failed miserably.
Unfortunately, Democratic supporters and some in the media chose to believe the loss was through some legislative hocus-pocus, that Republicans somehow managed to summon the spirits of past “vast right-wing conspiracies,” placing a spell over the House chamber, a spell that obviously stupefied many of their fellow Democrats.
Poorly designed, wordy, difficult to explain and lacking true bipartisan support, this bill was doomed from the start. The failure of HB 1589 should be placed at the feet of its chief sponsors and overzealous media disconnected to the bill’s flaws. Pointing the finger at others and blaming standard legislative protocols as the reason for the HB 1589 failure is not only poor reporting, but also weak representation.
Rep. Elaine Andrews-Ahearn, one of the chief sponsors of the bill, tried to deflect from her own culpability for the HB 1589 collapse when she stated: “Horrible, absolutely horrible. We were outmaneuvered. We were all very confused and I think that was the point.” Rep. Andrews-Ahearn, you were elected to serve your constituents to the best of your ability and you failed, period. When you walk into the chamber of the longest continuously functioning statehouse ill-prepared for the task at hand, and then offer hollow excuses, it might be time for you to consider another vocation.
It is not enough that our representatives serve to the best of their abilities; they must be able to serve without ego and with the utmost reliability. It is not only in their failures that they will be judged, but in their actions after the defeat. I am afraid that history will judge Rep. Andrews-Ahearn poorly, not only for her legislative failure but also for her selfish statements.
Nor will history look fondly upon those representatives who abdicate their duty and relinquish the responsibilities of future legislatures. Ours is to govern for today with an eye toward the future, but it is not our place to capitulate the authority of future elected officials.
No tax, no fee, no spending should ever be automatic. Government isn’t like cooking a frozen dinner, merely throwing it into a microwave, setting the timer and coming back when you hear the “ding.” Laws need to be created from scratch, each part attended to as individual ingredients, blended together with care and an understanding of its impact on the people who will be subjected to its control. That is why a provision being proposed as part of SB 367 (raising the current gas tax) is concerning, as was the threat by the key sponsor if the bill did not pass.
The merits of raising the gas tax in this current economic climate need to be debated, but the provision of SB 367 that would permit the tax (or fee) increase formula to be automatically reapplied every four years to adjust for inflation is not only lazy governing, it is legislative cowardice. Without one single vote or the need for an appearance before the citizens of New Hampshire, it is taxation through automation. If you believe in the merits of your legislation, stand before the people of New Hampshire and make your case. The primary sponsor for SB 367, Sen. Jim Rausch, seems to fully understand that this provision may hurt the chances of the bill’s passage, but he does not seem to realize that by including the provisions he shows a great deal of contempt for his constituents and future legislators to independently govern for unknown circumstances.
As if Sen. Rausch’s provision wasn’t concerning enough, should SB 367 fail, he threatened to seek a repeal of laws that benefit the trucking industry that delivers services and goods throughout New Hampshire. When an elected official resorts to such pettiness that would potentially harm his constituents and create a hostile business environment, that legislator has stepped over the line. I hope calmer heads will prevail and both automatic fee/tax increase provisions contained within SB 367 will be abandoned, as well as the threat of legislative retaliation.
Some may believe my critique was too harsh. But this is the “Live Free or Die” state, the home of the “First in the Nation” primary. Politics is our state sport. The cause of liberty flows through our veins. Regardless of salary or perceived level of prestige an elected position may hold, once you take your oath of office you are held to a higher standard. Your actions and deeds can have very serious repercussions on the lives of the people you are sworn to serve, so it is only fair that we set the bar high.