By Rep. MARJORIE PORTER, D-Hillsborough
In 2018, NH voters sent a Democratic majority to the legislature, while re-electing a Republican Governor.
It was soon obvious to anyone watching House proceedings Republicans felt a great injustice had been done. Obviously, the voters had gotten it wrong, giving control to Democrats.
Democrats produced a strong budget that took care of the state’s needs while sending record amounts of state funding back to schools and municipalities for property tax relief. They passed good legislation that had broad popular, and often bi-partisan, support, things like increasing the minimum wage, establishing an independent redistricting commission, and universal background checks for gun purchases, to name a few.
But the Governor agreed with his Republican pals. He vetoed the budget, while later taking credit for the increased local funding by personally delivering Publishers Clearinghouse-sized checks to cities and schools.
In all, he vetoed a record 79 bills, making sure the voice of Democrats, and those who voted for them, would not be heard.
Fast forward to pandemic-drenched 2021. Republicans are back in control, but not by much. Now in power, retaliation is in the air. And public health measures have become a political tool.
The courts have given the constitutional go-ahead for the legislature to meet remotely to do its work, and indeed the Senate is doing so.
With new virus variants making themselves known in the state, and with members having an average age in the high sixties, it would make sense for the House to have a remote option for session days. Many have underlying health issues and disabilities which prevent them from meeting in person, but they still have the right and duty to represent their constituents.
Democrats are taking this all very seriously. They don’t want to put themselves, their loved ones, and the public at risk, when options are available. But despite losing their newly elected Speaker to COVID, a large group of Republicans defy mask-wearing and don’t believe the virus is anything to worry about. The Speaker seems beholden to this group.
House leadership insists there is not a rule to allow remote meetings but vote down such a rule when it is offered. The technology is available and plans for moving forward with a hybrid model have been developed and offered to the Speaker. All have been rebuffed.
What should be a non-partisan issue—public health and safety–has become a power play. Republican leadership is well aware it is Democrats who will most likely avoid large, in-person sessions.
One can only assume this is another attempt to silence Democratic voices.
I would caution my Republican friends, however. According to the Secretary of State’s office, there are now more voters in NH registered as Democrats than Republicans. The Granite State is purple, turning blue, and 2022 is not that far away.