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2021 Liberty Dinner – Get your tickets now

The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance cordially invites you to its 2021 Liberty Dinner on Saturday July 24th from 6:00 to 11:00 PM. Formal attire please. 

We will unveil this year’s Liberty Rating, announce the Legislator of the year, and announce the Activist of the year. In addition to a buffet dinner and an evening with both old and new friends, there will be a silent auction of various items – many of them liberty themed!
Get your tickets here!

2021 Mid-Term Legislator Scores

2021 Mid-Term Rating

This is an unweighted mid-term rating based on roll call votes on pro-liberty and anti-liberty bills.

Pro-liberty bills protect individual freedom of choice and personal responsibility; recognize the superiority of freedom over coercion; respect the citizen’s right of self-ownership; promote governance that is transparent, accountable, and adheres to the Constitution; and recognize the value of voluntary economic decisions.

Anti-liberty bills replace self-governance with interventionist regulation; assume rules made by agencies backed by force are superior to voluntary choices backed by personal accountability; and assume a better economy can be managed by a central authority that compels people and businesses to pay for policies they may not willingly support.

The Liberty Rating is the result of hundreds of hours of work by many volunteers who have read and analyzed bills, testified before committees, called and written their representatives, worked on our other signature publication, the Gold Standard, and culled extensive data from legislative voting records. We encourage New Hampshire citizens to learn the facts about how their elected representatives are voting in Concord and to use this tool to hold them accountable. Final year end ratings may differ in as in the final rating, bills are weighted by their impacts and thus the raw scores here may differ from final scores.

Mid-Term Liberty Rating 2021

2021 Remote Hearings

Remote Hearings – Senate

At this time, the General Court is conducting legislative activities remotely with the exception of publicly noticed sessions in the House or Senate Calendar. If you would like to attend remote public hearings, here are some helpful guidelines to help you navigate the process.

The Senate Calendar will be updated on the state website weekly (usually Thursday or Friday). On the calendar, you can locate all the public hearings scheduled for the following week. Look specifically for the “Remote Hearings” header. Once you have located the bill you are interested in, go to http://gencourt.state.nh.us/remotecommittee/senate.aspx to register to testify. Select the date of the hearing, the committee and the correct bill number. Next, select whether you are an elected official, lobbyist, state staff or a member of the public. Then you will indicate your position on the bill (support/oppose/neutral) and select if you wish to speak on the bill. On the next page, enter your name, email and phone number. Select continue to go to the confirmation page. Here you will see the date and time of the hearing. You will also receive instructions to email any written testimony or other documents you wish to share with the committee.

Sign-in data will be compiled one half hour prior to the start of the Committee’s hearing. If you sign in after that time, the Committee may not have your name before them; however, the Chair will provide an opportunity for you to speak once they have called through the list of names. On the day of the hearing, you will access the meeting using the Zoom Webinar link or the dial in telephone numbers on the Senate Calendar. You can also simply view/listen to the hearing on YouTube, the link is on the Senate Calendar directly under the bill details.

Detailed information on how to register support/opposition for remote Senate hearings is available here.

Remote Hearings – House

The instructions for the House remote hearings are essentially the same as the Senate. The House Calendar will be updated on the state website weekly (usually Thursday or Friday). On the calendar, you can locate all the public hearings scheduled for the following week. Look specifically for the “Committee Meetings” header. Once you have located the bill you are interested in, go to http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx to register to testify. You can also simply view/listen to the hearing on Zoom, the link is on the House Calendar directly under the bill details.

Detailed information on how to register support/opposition for remote House hearings is available here.

Organization Day is approaching – what’s next?

gavel photoAs the New Hampshire state election recounts come to a close over the next week, one of the next key events in state government will be Organization Day. Pursuant to Part II, Article 3, of the New Hampshire Constitution, this will occur on December 2nd – the first Wednesday in December. While no legislation will be heard that day there are important activities that will occur including the election of the Speaker of the House and Senate President.

While these are important positions and can influence the outcome of legislation through actions such as committee assignments, the NHLA has historically chosen to not get involved in endorsing candidates for House Speaker or Senate President and this year will be no exception. The selection tends to be dramatically partisan and therefore not aligned with our mission. More importantly, members of the General Court will be selecting individuals for these roles based not only on their positions on liberty but also on their ability to plan and execute general court business in a fair and efficient manner.  Neither our candidate survey nor prior legislative voting record provides objective information that would inform us as to the suitability of an individual for the role.  As a result, we will be taking no position on the candidates for these positions. As always, we do of course encourage NHLA members to engage with the legislative process and make their opinion known to their representatives if they have reasons for supporting or opposing individual candidates.

 

 

Team handing out gold standard at state house

Make an Impact!

This November, “The most important election of our lifetime”TM will take place. No – not that one. I of course speak about the election for the NH Liberty Alliance Director of Research.  Though clearly the opening statement is tongue-in-cheek, it is fair to say that the selection of board members for our organization is important not only to our members, but also to the prospects for long term liberty in the state.  According our bylaws, the duties of the Director of Research shall include, but not be limited to: bill review oversight; documentation of NHLA position on key legislative issues; developing the Liberty Rating for board approval; developing candidate surveys. I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss these duties in a little more detail to help prospective candidates for the role understand the nature of the position.

When we talk about bill review oversight, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is the technical expertise required read and understand complex legislation. In a typical year, nearly 1,000 bills will be generated that require review and the fact is that a majority of these are quite simple to read and often are only a few sentences or at most a couple of pages. While even apparently simple bills can have hidden underlying technical complexity, the truth is that the most challenging portion of this aspect to the role is not technical complexity but rather the effort required to coordinate the activities of a diverse pool of bill review volunteers. As luck would have it, this is also one of the more rewarding aspects of the role.

In 2020, at least 50 NHLA members volunteered their time to complete at least one bill review. Some completed just a handful of reviews while others pushed deep into double or triple digits for the number of reviews. Every one of these reviewers is volunteering a portion of their time to help the organization and advance the cause of liberty.  At times, there can be disagreements on positions in certain bills and a key portion of the role is to approach each of the inputs with an open mind and understand the perspective of the individual reviewers. Much is often made about the level of disagreement within liberty learning circles but over the years I’ve found that vast majority of our review volunteers are level-headed but passionate about their positions and it has been very rewarding to work with a group of such dedicated volunteers. Bill review season typically kicks off in December as the first pieces of text for the following year’s session start to appear in the state system and continues throughout the legislative season until ~June as bills are amended as they make their way through the process.

Team handing out gold standard at state houseUltimately, the inputs from the bill reviewers along with information from recorded or live witnessed public hearings and summary data from the legislative committees must be distilled into an NHLA position for each impactful bill and documented in the Gold Standard publication. Here again, you will be aided by a smaller core group of volunteers including current and former legislators to formulate the liberty position on key legislation.  Mentoring and training that of the bill review volunteers can pay off significantly each week as you work pull together a concise set of recommendations for each bill. This role typically requires weekly investment of time from about January through June. The NHLA has a great group of dedicated volunteers who distribute the Gold Standard each week at the state house (when sessions are run at the state house!) thus while having availability to go to Concord to support the distribution could be helpful, it is by no means a requirement of the job. The regular tempo during the legislative season can certainly be challenging but at the same time, this fast-paced work is also exciting.

As the season comes to an end, the position requires developing the Liberty Rating that scores legislators based on roll-call votes on matters that appeared in the Gold Standard. While the rating is the world’s easiest ‘open book test’ development of the rating is key as scores from the rating along with scores from the candidate survey developed by the Director of Research are key inputs to the Political Director to help determine endorsements in future elections.

Finally, any role in an all-volunteer organization ends up with a non-trivial portion of the effort falling into the “but not be limited to” category of the by-law role definition. While some tasking is very directly aligned with the role (e.g. supporting the political director and chair in the generation of the weekly activist alert heading into bill public hearings), other aspects may vary substantially based on the interests and amount of time that a person can dedicate to the position.

Ultimately, serving on a public-facing volunteer board is likely to be both more challenging and more fulfilling than you might initially imagine. It also is likely to help hone skills that will be useful in other aspects of your life. Most importantly, serving in a role like this can be one possible realization of a personal goal to apply the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property.

 

2020 NHLA Fundraisers

After careful consideration, NHLA has decided not to hold the annual fundraiser, Liberty Dinner, in its traditional form. This decision wasn’t taken lightly, and due to many factors, we believe it is the right course of action. We hope that you will continue to support NHLA and consider a donation to support our future endeavors.

In light of this change, NHLA has turned its focus to fundraising for liberty candidates in the 2020 elections. This year has brought about unique circumstances. In response, we will be hosting many fundraisers over the next few months at local venues and private homes all over New Hampshire. Similar to Liberty Dinner, each event will be sponsored, have a silent auction, 50/50 raffle, theme and a guest speaker. We held our first event on July 5th in Manchester, NH, and have many more scheduled through the general election in November. Please take a look at the NHLA events calendar here for information on upcoming fundraisers in your region! Keep an eye out in your inbox and on social media for more details. Thank you to all of our fundraiser sponsors. Your dedication to protecting liberty in New Hampshire is greatly appreciated!

If you already donated a silent auction item for Liberty Dinner, please know that we would still like to feature your item and/or service at one or more of our fundraisers. Each event will have a silent auction and items will be featured in a program. If you would like to donate an item to the silent auction to promote your product or service, or sign up as an event volunteer, please contact volunteer@nhliberty.org.

If you would like to host or sponsor a fundraiser at your home or know of an available venue, please reach out to political@nhliberty.org.

If you are not able to attend any of the events, please consider a donation here.

NHLA remains excited to host Liberty Dinner next year, 2021. Your support and understanding are greatly appreciated.

Missed Opportunities and Second Chances

Since at least the 1800s there has been a legal maxim that states that hard cases make bad law. This adage recognizes that it is possible that in responding to a particularly horrific and recent circumstance, there is a risk of drafting legislation that is a poor basis for the wide array of circumstances that may be encountered. The recent death of George Floyd during the arrest by Minneapolis police for allegedly making a purchase with a counterfeit bill has elevated numerous issues including whether the state currently grants appropriate powers to police. While both future cultural and novel legislative solutions may be appropriate, it is worth looking at legislative approaches that have been recently offered and rejected.

One recent legislative attempt was New Hampshire HB218 (2019). This bill sought to modify authorization for the use of deadly force by law enforcement. The change would have only authorized deadly force to defend the officer or a third person from the imminent use of deadly force; or to prevent the escape from custody of a person who the officer reasonable believes has committed or is committing a felony involving the use of force or violence, and is using a deadly weapon in an attempt to escape or is otherwise likely to seriously endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay.

While several changes to the existing law were a part of this bill, the section that repealed RSA 627:5, VIII was one of the most significant changes as it eliminated a section that indicated “VIII. Deadly force shall be deemed reasonably necessary under this section whenever the arresting law enforcement officer reasonably believes that the arrest is lawful and there is apparently no other possible means of effecting the arrest.”

Courts have shown great deference to police with respect to “reasonable beliefs” and thus the inclusion of this section of law effectively provides carte blanche for an errant officer to use deadly force to complete an arrest for something as simple as – passing a counterfeit bill.

With the large number of legislators speaking out against police violence in the wake of recent events – particularly given that those events were far from the only use of excessive force, one would logically conclude that HB218 would have received broad support in the NH house of representative. But in fact, it failed rather spectacularly with 277 voting Yea on a motion to kill the bill with only 62 members Nay to keep the bill alive. Failure of the bill was not a surprise as the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee had voted 18-1 to recommend that the bill be killed with only representative John Burt (R) – Hillsborough – District 39 (Deering, Goffstown, and Weare) voting to remove the authorization for the use of deadly force by police against in non-violent suspects. (As a side note, representative Burt went on to be the NHLA Legislator of the year in 2019). The committee majority recommendation includedIn the current climate where officers are more likely to be resisted by offenders using deadly force it makes no sense to restrict our protectors by denying the officer the means to complete the arrest.” This recommendation ignored the fact that the existing law would still have allowed the use of deadly force in the defense of the officer or a third party.

We suggest the re-introduction of this bill, or a similarly worded bill in the 2021 legislative session. In addition, it is worth recognizing that with or without this improvement, enforcement of every law comes with a risk of death or injury as an outcome of the encounter. While many seek to discount this possibility, the very fact that the majority of house members sought to retain the option of deadly force for arrests for even trivial crimes demonstrates that they are aware of this potential outcome. Whether the issue is seat belt laws, tinted windows or the failed war on drugs, every demand by the state to enforce a victimless ‘crime’ is a potential opportunity for a negative outcome.

Authoritarianism & Homework

Does voting really count? Why bother to vote? These are questions that came to mind recently when I read the text of House Bill 1309. It would amend current law by adding in the following: “Unless restricted by any provision of law, the vote on a petitioned warrant article shall be binding upon the town” and “Unless restricted by any other provision of law, the vote on a petitioned warrant article shall be binding upon the school district.” So, what’s the issue here? If voters approve a warrant, then it becomes law, right?

Not necessarily. It turns out some towns and school boards are totally ignoring the will of the voters. There are several examples of this outrage, but for brevity, I will concentrate on only two instances here. The Newfound Area School Board dismissed as a “giant hindrance” petitioned warrant Article 5, which passed by a margin of 921 to 625 on March 12, 2019, that would have required large capital improvements to be approved by voters in separate warrant articles. On April 9, 2019, Merrimack voters passed, by a margin of 1,771 to 1,478, Article 8, which “seeks to require the following amendment to the “IKB Homework” Merrimack School Board Policy: “At the discretion of the individual teacher, homework assignments will be (1) collected, reviewed, and graded; and (2) the accumulative average of the semester’s homework grade will be counted towards the student’s total cumulative semester grade.” The school board had instituted a policy in 2017 that homework no longer counted toward students’ grades, and angry parents had presented the warrant article for the voters to decide. The school board ruled that the warrant was only “advisory in nature” and ignored it. A local parent filed a civil suit against the school board, but the New Hampshire Board of Education and New Hampshire Supreme Court both ruled in favor of the local school board. As is often the case, judges defer to bureaucrats over regular citizens.

I see a couple of issues here. The most obvious is who works for whom, and who bestowed the bureaucrats with divine knowledge? If you’re going to have representative government—and preferably a republican form that protects individual rights over mob rule—then obviously elected representatives need to listen to what voters have to say. Otherwise that makes a mockery of the whole process, and no wonder so few citizens bother to take the responsibility of voting seriously. Of course, with any issue, honorable people will disagree on the best way to do things, but majority approval for non-fiscal issues and super-majority approval of taxes are the generally accepted and tried-and-true ways to run a government in a civil society. Naturally, it would be best to have as few as possible of these critical areas in the realm of government and leave them up to individuals to decide their priorities—and fund them themselves rather than expecting their neighbors to fund them—but if you’re going to have government, elected representatives have to consider the folks they represent. If they don’t, you can always “throw the bums out” at the next election, but while they’re still in office, they can cause quite a bit of mayhem.

The school board’s attitude on homework is reflective of the dismal state of government schools these days. The board insists that homework is still required, but it just doesn’t count towards students’ grades. So why would students even bother doing it? No homework—what’s next? No grades? The standards just get lower and lower all the time. Why not let the teachers decide? In my time, homework was assigned to reinforce what was taught in school that day. It was also part of a curriculum that stressed time management, discipline, and personal responsibility. It is true that for the very bright, sometimes homework was more busy work than anything of real value, but in a one-size- fits-all compulsory education scenario, that’s inevitable. That’s all the more reason to expand school choice to accommodate individual needs, interests, and abilities.

But what about the less scholarly-inclined students who don’t fare so well in testing? Homework has always been their avenue to making it through school by boosting their grades. It’s generally accepted these days that testing isn’t always the best gauge of what a student actually learned, so why deny those kids the chance to succeed? Even more important, there’s an important life lesson to be learned by doing homework and having it count towards your grade: hard work is to be rewarded. And isn’t that how it is out in the real world? It’s not always the smartest that succeed the most, but those who apply themselves the most. There have been plenty of complaints already of students’ grades dropping due to the new school board policy, which has left some students at a disadvantage when competing for colleges and scholarships. Isn’t it strange that those who deride testing these days are the very same folks who would force the scholastically-challenged to rely more on testing for their grades? Strange or not, hypocritical or not, school board bureaucrats know better.

It is interesting that the school board was unanimous in deciding to keep the new policy, but the voters were about 55% to 45% in favor of going back to the old system. Clearly the bureaucrats felt one way and a significant portion of “the people” felt differently. Perhaps the bureaucrats truly believed they were doing what was “best” for the students and stuck to their guns. Or was it power lust? The truth of the matter is that there is no “best” way for all students, and any attempt to impose it will always give some students the short end of the stick.

By the way, the new homework policy instituted three years ago dictates that teachers may assign homework, and it must be “evaluated” by teachers, but “evaluated” does not mean graded. In my time, part of a teacher’s job was to actually read and grade homework. That was part of their homework. Should a labor contract dispute come up in the future, how convenient for government teachers to have their time freed up to walk the picket line for higher wages and benefits.

Unfortunately, HB1309 was “laid on the table” recently, which doesn’t bode well for its passage. Apparently, school board bureaucrats and selectmen aren’t the only ones infected with authoritarianism virus.

References:

Make lemonade with the new NHLA Forum

The COVID-19 event is the perfect opportunity to observe and analyze the failures of government. It will be fresh in the minds of legislators at the next legislative session, creating the opportunity to argue for better approaches, and pointing out failures. On the other hand, the Authoritarians and Socialists will want to introduce draconian, anti-Liberty legislation.

You can now spend your lock-down productively! Put your mind to work brainstorming legislation that can be introduced in the next session, not only to advance Liberty, but also to handle the next emergency better.

The brainstorming will be hosted on the NHLA’s new Discussion Forum. Access to the Forum is limited to NHLA members, using our new Single Sign-on (SSO) system. If you’re an NHLA member, you already have an SSO account. You just need to reset your password, using your email address on this email, following these instructions.

Once you’re logged in to the forum, read the “About” post in the Legislation Brainstorm category. And then, create!

If you need help at any point, please contact the IT Director directly at itdir@nhliberty.org.

The Snoopers’ Dream

Is there no limit to the lengths school administrators will go to undermine families? Judging by House Bill 1459, a bill I recently weighed in against in a public hearing in Concord, their nerve shows no bounds. Under current law, parents have to give written permission for their children to fill out non-academic surveys. HB1459 would change parental permission needed from “opt-in” to “opt-out,” thus placing the burden on all parents to deny permission, rather than on school bureaucrats to obtain permission.

Why such a big deal over some innocuous questions in a survey? Under the law’s definition of a “non- academic survey or questionnaire,” it is “designed to elicit information about a student’s social behavior, family life, religion, politics, sexual orientation, sexual activity, drug use, or any other information not related to a student’s academics.” First and foremost, what business is it of busybody school administrators to pry into students’ and their parents’ family lives? Where I come from, we call that snooping, pure and simple. These are extremely personal areas—and definitely not in the province of school officials. In case they’ve forgotten what they get paid for, it is teaching the basics like the 3R’s, literature, history, science, and maybe a pinch of The Constitution once in a while, not probing into private lives.

The information the nosey parkers are going out of their way to obtain should be extremely alarming to any parent. Just think about the questions that could be asked in these surveys. Are there firearms in your house? Do your parents ever hit or spank you or your siblings? Do your parents ever leave you alone in the house? Have you ever seen marijuana or other recreational drugs in your house? Have you ever tried to kill yourself?* When you have sex, how often do you and/or your partner use a birth control method such as birth control pills, Depo-Provera shot, an implant, ring, patch, male or female condom (rubber), foam, diaphragm, or IUD?* How many adults have you known for two or more years who do things that are wrong or dangerous?* What political parties are your parents registered under? Who will your parents vote for in the next presidential election? Do your parents smoke or vape? By including the text “or any other information not related to a student’s academics,” the surveys could legally ask just about anything. Whatever happened to privacy and all those millions of privacy forms we see all the time that are supposed to protect our privacy? If it’s wrong for big corporations and private companies in the voluntary sector to share our data without our permission, why is it OK when government school bureaucrats do it? It is well documented that when government employees get hold of personal information, they sometimes misuse the information for nefarious personal purposes. And, even if not for personal misuse, can you just imagine what overzealous Child Protective Services bureaucrats would do with the survey data if it got into their overreaching hands?

All the survey results are supposed to be anonymous and kept confidential, but especially with declining student enrollment and smaller populations in many of New Hampshire’s rural towns, it wouldn’t be difficult for the snoopers to figure out where the responses came from—and possibly pay a surprise visit to a child’s home to check up on his “family life.” Data collection is one of the favorite ways for government bureaucrats to justify expanding their “services” in order to obtain more funding and personnel. Judging by the number of special interest groups who testified in favor of the bill, clearly they were looking for more business if only the schools could provide more data.

So how would the system of getting permission work under HB1459? Right now, if the school doesn’t receive the signed permission slip back from the parents, it’s a no go for the survey to be given to the student. Under HB1459 however, all the school would need to do is send written notice home to the parents via the student, and no signed permission slip would need to be returned. There was much ado by the bill’s proponents that the problem now is permission slips get lost in the shuffle of paperwork and never make it back to the school. The implication is that parents want to grant permission but logistics get in the way. From raising my own son, who always managed to lose not only papers being sent home but even the folder that contained the papers (“No homework, Dad!”), I can definitely agree with the proponents that indeed papers do get lost. However, their solution to the vanishing papers issue doesn’t solve the problem because the permission slip might never make it home in the first place; thus, by default the parents will be deemed to have given permission without ever having seen the permission slip.

Here is a real-life example how this scheme works in practice and enables bureaucrats to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. When I lived in San Francisco, the city was pushing its own government-owned electricity supplier CleanPowerSF over Pacific Gas & Power. Of course, they wanted enough rate payers to choose CleanPowerSF to make it financially feasible, so they have been “opting in” the entire city, one neighborhood at a time, over the last few years stealthily. When the issue happened to surface, a friend of mine who is a certified political junkie and in tune to what goes on at City Hall confessed that he didn’t even notice that he had been “opted in” to CleanPowerSF. He quickly opted out once he realized what happened, but considering that he is well read and generally informed, can you just imagine how little of the general public would even be aware of what had occurred right under their noses? In the olden days, when phone companies used to switch people over to their company without their permission, this was called “slamming” and was widely condemned. If it was wrong for “evil” corporations to pull this shenanigan, why is it suddenly OK when government officials do it? Where is the outrage now?

Also worth mentioning are comments made during the hearing I attended. One committee member noted that he heard from past similar surveys that older students weren’t taking them seriously and were filling in bogus answers. After all, if you’re taking drugs or sleeping around, would you really want to take a chance of your parents finding out, even though the results are supposed to be anonymous? So, after wasting limited resources to gather this data, even if the snoopers didn’t misuse it, it might not even be accurate in the end. Another point brought up by the only other person to oppose the bill was who is vetting these surveys before subjecting the students to them. The lack of oversight really concerned her over the inappropriateness of some of the questions.

Lastly, should there be any question as to the motivation and purpose of the bureaucrats, one of the letters sent home to parents announced that the survey itself would be available for viewing during school hours at the school. Of course, most parents are at work during school hours, so why not just send the survey home for parents to view it themselves before granting permission? OK, for those concerned with wasting taxpayer dollars on hard paper costs, why not just post it online for all parents to see? In fact, parents complained about not being able to take the survey home for review, and some had to file several Right-To-Know requests to get hard copies. The breathtaking depth of the snoopers’ nosiness is surpassed only by their zeal to deceive and circumvent parents.

*Questions extracted from a survey given to students as young as 5th graders.

References:

NH Legislation | 2020 | Regular Session

“Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes & Behaviors”

Letter by Kathy Dunton

Survey Notification Lurgio

“School Misleads Parents On Survey Questions For Students”

“Non-Academic Surveys in the Classroom”