By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — A bill would allow a state lawmaker to be replaced if he or she is removed from office for rebellion or insurrection, or for giving aid and comfort to an enemy of the state.
House Bill 1007 would also make clear removal could occur for an act to “separate New Hampshire from the United States, and ‘aid or comfort’ shall include any action facilitating such intent.”
At a public hearing on the bill Wednesday before the House Legislative Administration Committee, prime sponsor Rep. William Marsh, D-Brookfield, said the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution forbids anyone who participates in a rebellion or insurrection from holding state or federal office anywhere in the United States.
Whether his bill passes or not, he said, the amendment is federal law.
He said the New Hampshire Legislature does not have the authority to declare an office vacant, that is up to local town or ward who is represented by the person who would have to ask the governor and council to declare a vacancy.
Marsh said his bill would allow the people to have representation if the lawmaker is removed under the 14th amendment.
Under the state constitution, Marsh said, it is up to the House and Senate to make the final determination on the qualification of their members.
The bill does not make secession illegal, that has already been established, Marsh said, noting 700,000 soldiers and a like number of civilians died in the Civil War because no state has a right to secede from the union without the consent of the other states.
After the 2020 election about half a dozen House members were among those signing a petition to declare the election null and void and to terminate the state of New Hampshire. The petition was sent to the Secretary of State.
On Thursday, a public hearing will be held on a proposed constitutional amendment, CACR 32, which would have New Hampshire secede from the United States and become a sovereign nation.
The proposed amendment is sponsored by seven Republican House members.
Committee member Matthew Simon, R-Littleton, questioned if the proposed bill followed the language in the federal constitution and Marsh said it did.
In a similar vein, committee chair Gregory Hill, R-Northfield, asked if someone would be guilty of insurrection or rebellion for discussing seceding or submitting legislation to accomplish that, and Marsh said it could be submitted.
The 14th Amendment’s third section was intended to prohibit politicians who supported the confederacy from holding any political office after the Civil War.
Also Congress passed an 1868 law requiring five states to enforce the requirement as a condition of rejoining the union.
That law and the 14th Amendment are the basis for a group seeking to block the reelection of North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn claiming he participated in an insurrection Jan. 6.
The group, Free Speech for People, also plans petitions to block other U.S. Representatives who participated in the rally and the attempt to stop the counting of the presidential electoral votes in Congress that day.
Several attempts were made in the New Hampshire House to question the qualifications of House members who signed the 2020 petition, but were ruled out of order by the House Speaker.
Marsh was the only speaker on the bill, which is sponsored by eight Democratic House members and one Democratic Senator.
The committee did not make an immediate recommendation on the bill.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.