Union Leader: Amendment overload: Don't clutter the ballot, 3/7/12

posted Mar 7, 2012, 4:33 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Mar 12, 2012, 1:27 PM ]

DNHPE Comment: The Union Leader points out that the House is its own worst enemy.  They're so excited to be in charge of the Legislature and concerned that it might never happen this way again, that they want to change everything about how the State works all at once.    

The underlying theme seems to be to put all public policy into the arena in which the Republican leadership feels they have the advantage - where political contributions, especially independent expenditures and issue advocacy, can prevail.  Elect the attorney general.  Allow any law to be vetoed by referendum.  They want to eliminate the judiciary entirely - not just in education funding but in all areas.  Put the Legislature in charge of judges and court rules.  The Union Leader has blown their cover just by listing this week's proposed constitutional amendments all together.

Then the UL gets to CACR 12, stating the case in the most concise and unvarnished way yet (emphasis add, below).  It misunderstands how education funding has evolved to work in New Hampshire and, based on that, reiterates the fear that it will eventually lead to an income tax.  But the UL is probably right that this  is the best chance the amendment will ever have. 

On the House calendar for today and tomorrow are seven constitutional amendments. Representatives should pass one of them.

The only one that should make it to the Senate is CACR 20, which would restore biennial legislative sessions. It was a mistake to switch the Legislature to annual sessions back in the 1980s. Going back to the Founders' intent would be good for the people, who would endure less frequent meddling in their lives by legislators. The remainder of amendments on this week's calendar should be voted down to aid the passage of the more important ones.

Other amendments being considered are:

-- CACR 11, limiting judges to five-year terms;

-- CACR 8, an overly complicated and poorly structured amendment attempting to free the state from any obligation to fund public schools;

-- CACR 21, allowing voters to veto laws by referendum;

-- CACR 22, establishing legislative oversight of state court rules;

-- CACR 26, repealing the power of the chief justice to establish court rules;

-- CACR 29, changing the attorney general to an elected position.

This year presents the people of New Hampshire with their greatest opportunity yet — and possibly the greatest they will ever have — to rescue their state from the ticking time bomb the state Supreme Court planted inside its Claremont rulings. One amendment, CACR 12, would defuse that bomb. It would end the financially devastating requirement that the state give every school district the same base subsidy, instead allowing the state to target aid to where it is most needed. If that amendment does not make it into the constitution, New Hampshire will wind up with a broad-based tax, so great is the financial burden imposed by Claremont.

CACR 13 would ban a state income tax. It also could pass this fall, if legislators don't hurt its chances.

Voters won't pass nine or 10 amendments; they will pick one or two from the lot. A ballot cluttered with too many amendments reduces the odds that the most important ones will pass. To increase those odds, lawmakers should defeat the secondary amendments.