By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – If you are an executive councilor, you’ve got mail. Lots of mail, from those who oppose the state accepting federal money for its vaccine program.
The five-member New Hampshire Executive Council’s email mailbox and phone lines are getting full these days, both before and after the cancellation of its raucous meeting Wednesday which left two federal contracts worth $27 million for the state vaccine program on the table and the meeting cancelled when state employees were threatened by protesters.
By Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., the Council received 1,088 emails urging it to vote no on the contracts, four to vote yes and one which did not specify a choice, said the council’s executive assistant, Meagan Rose.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” she said.
She said the mail on this subject far outweighs the volume of correspondence on any other subject, even to the recent defunding of several reproductive health clinics.
Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, acknowledged the high number of emails and said many looked like they were not just from individuals. Warmington also acknowledged being offered extra security after the meeting.
As of Tuesday there are more than 3,000 signatures on a petition calling for a “no” vote on the contracts, which was created by ReBuildNH, an organization that seeks to “end the authoritarian and administrative state in New Hampshire” and “serve as a clearing house of information surrounding the unlawful shutdown” according to their Facebook page.
Next Wednesday, the Council will make another attempt to hold a meeting where the controversial tabled contracts are likely to come up and they are planning for a crowd, but have not announced a location yet.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who supports the contracts, said the contracts support public health departments in Manchester and Nashua so first responders can continue to get their COVID-19 booster shots, fund call centers to answer questions about vaccines, store and ship supplies, and pay wages for 13 additional full-time temporary positions, using no state taxpayer funds.
But opponents say just agreeing to take the federal money may tip the power to the federal government and fly in the face of state sovereignty contained in the state Constitution. The governor said that is not true.
The Council may take up the contracts on Oct. 13 or they may keep them on the table for more debate.
Andrew J. Manuse, chairman of RebuildNH, said the executive board of his organization wrote the Council to “urge your rejection of the combined grants for the purpose of propaganda and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination system and the vaccination registry.”
“While we understand that other states may have accepted this contract, it is important to note that we do not have to be like other states. Our autonomy is important, and our freedom is critical. Our state is in a great position to set an example of how a hands-off government creates better outcomes for free adults who make their own informed choices,” the letter reads.
Taking the money, the letter says, involves unacceptable federal strings that go to the heart of the Constitution.
The governor, however, said the language is essentially boilerplate, used and accepted in other contracts in the past without the state losing its Constitutional sovereignty.
“I would never allow that to be the case,” Sununu said at a press conference last week. “Of course, that would be of utmost concern to us. There is a reason why New Hampshire continues to manage this crisis better than most other states. We do it our way…It’s important to note that this kind of paragraph, this boilerplate language, is contained in other contracts that the council has voted to accept before. Its language that every other state accepts. Again, more liberal states, more conservative states, every state accepts these funds and this language. So there’s nothing unprecedented.”
The next meeting is set for Oct. 13 at a location still to be determined. To get up-to-date information on the council visit https://www.nh.gov/council/meetings/index.htm.