FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15th, 2021
Freedom Caucus Tri-Chairs
House Freedom Caucus Rejects Committee of Conference Amendment on HB417 Relative to the powers of the governor during a declared state of emergency.
CONCORD, N.H.—House Freedom Caucus members are livid at the proposed Committee of Conference amendment to HB 417 that makes the State of Emergency powers law weaker, and further limits protections for the people from abuse of government. When the House agreed to a Committee of Conference, they fully expected that there would be meaningful dialogue and the conferees would agree to a compromise that was between the House and Senate position and that it would be beneficial to New Hampshire citizens.
HB417 passed overwhelmingly through the House on a 328-41 vote. The bill at that time required that the legislature vote to extend any State of Emergency after 30 days. Instead of the tweaking dates about how long the State of Emergency should continue, the Senate wants to allow the status quo to continue. They want to allow the Executive branch sole authority to run the state until the Legislature votes to end it.
“Other states are taking steps to address the lessons learned from this past year”, said Rep. Andrew Prout (R-Hudson), “the deal that was reported in the press on Monday, while a significantly smaller step than passed the House 328-41, included common-sense reforms that would’ve made strides in the right direction and taken a middle-ground position compared to other states that have recently addressed this. I am appalled that the Senate would play dirty politics like this and not follow through on their commitment to the people.”
While other states are already making significant advances to limit governor authority, New Hampshire is faltering just before the finish line. Pennsylvania recently enacted new reforms that require a vote of the legislature to extend any state of emergency after 21 days. Formerly this time frame was 90 days, so it seems that Pennsylvania is moving to correct the issues discovered during the recent state of emergency, while the “live free or die” state of New Hampshire appears to be advancing state authoritarianism.
“When the citizens elected us in November of 2020, they expected meaningful reform to the State of Emergency statutes that impacted Manchester businesses so severely,” said Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester. “Increasing the time that the Executive branch has complete control of the state, not only breaks the promises that we made when we ran for office, it actually harms the citizens that we work for.”
The reality is the amendment further dilutes existing statute by extending the state of emergency length from 21 days to 45 days and contrary to comments by the Senate, the language does not correct the issue at hand. The language would require a vote to end the State of Emergency not to continue it. The amendment is useless and does nothing to enact the necessary reforms to our state statutes to prevent handing the executive branch the sole authority to rule over the state as has happened for the last 65 weeks.
Allowing the current [fundamentally broken] state of emergency laws to continue without the necessary reform puts our entire state and republic at risk. As Benjamin Franklin so elegantly stated: “A republic, if you can keep it.” The House took the necessary steps to make sure that changes to the State of Emergency statues contained provisions to protect the public by mandating that the other branches of government would have equal say.
“To quote Thomas Jefferson, ‘The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.’ We can never again sacrifice our republic during an emergency,” said Keith Ammon, (R-New Boston). “We must create meaningful reforms so that the legislature is an active participant during an emergency.”
About the Freedom Caucus
The New Hampshire House Freedom Caucus is a grassroots organization consisting of legislators and private citizens, who believe in personal liberty and the traditional conservative “Yankee” values that made New Hampshire a great place to live.