Some Are Trying to Make New Hampshire More Like Florida

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Garry Rayno is's State House Bureau Chief. He is pictured in the press room at the State House in Concord.


Some people are trying to turn New Hampshire into the Texas or Florida of the north.

Other states are facing a similar attempted conversion fighting the same battle over vouchers or “Education Freedom Accounts” as here in New Hampshire.

The programs proposed for Iowa and Missouri are almost identical to the one approved here two years ago, and reflect the changes to Arizona’s program that the new governor wants to roll back.

New Hampshire’s program has proven to be far more expensive than anticipated and will triple in cost in four years. The total cost over those first four years will be about $100 million with no new revenue to pay for it, which means it will drain money from the Education Trust Fund intended to pay for “public education.”
Education has been the biggest target for the Free Stater/Libertarian contingent now that face masks and vaccine controversies have become less toxic.

Along with the continued fight over either the expansion or contraction of the freedom account program, other bills have a similar ring to what is going on down south like book bans.

The bans are directly related to the culture wars and often result from political pressure of the sorts applied by the governors of Florida and Texas where some teachers emptied their classrooms of books because they feared they could be arrested.

In one instance a biography of  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was banned but a biography of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was not.

Here the House Education Committee last week held a public hearing on House Bill 514, with Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, the only sponsor.

The bill concerns “the dissemination of obscene material by schools and institutions of higher learning,” but also includes public libraries and museums.

The bill would require school boards to develop procedures to deal with complaints about obscene materials in schools, but does not define what obscene material would be.

And the bill would not leave that definition up to the courts where there is case law that sets out a methodology to determine if something is obscene.

Instead the bill would allow a parent or anyone else to file a complaint first with the school principal, whose decision could be appealed to the local school board, and then appealed to the state board of education.

Teachers could face arrests if the material is deemed to be obscene or “harmful to minors.”

Higher education and community college institutions, museum, public libraries or governmental agencies would face an advisory hearing, where the material could be determined to be obscene and the person or institution could be held accountable.

The bill adds the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to the attorney general or county attorneys who can file complaints against the institutions.

 AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes said the bill “practically begs parents or guardians to complain about a particular book to their local school board in the case of public schools, opening the way to a chaotic free-for-all.”

She noted for public universities, public libraries and museums, it adds the Department of Education to the agencies that can initiate legal hearings to find material obscene after receiving anonymous citizen complaints.

Under the bill, Howes said higher education faculty could be arrested, charged and indicted if they are found to be using an obscene book, whatever that means.

“This is disgusting and meant to censor students’ education and deprive them of quality books,” Howes said. “Book bans have no place in New Hampshire K-12, public libraries or higher education classes.”

The results of the bill could resemble what happened after the divisive concepts provision was approved two years ago in the budget package.

After the concept was law, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut touted an application form on his department’s website to report a teacher who may have broken the law.

The form led Moms for Liberty to offer a reward for the first conviction of a teacher under the new law.

The public hearing on the book ban bill drew a crowd, mostly opposed, while the electronic sign-in also was overwhelmingly opposed to the bill 601-83.

Education is not the only concern of the group, as firearms are a priority as well.

The group supports bills that would prohibit the state and its subdivisions from enforcing federal firearms laws, i.e. if an assault weapon ban is enacted, which would appear highly unlikely in the next two years as Republicans have a slim grasp on the US House, but just enough to defeat such a ban.

Another bill would prohibit the state from enforcing a Presidential executive order on firearms so that topic is pretty well covered.

New Caucus

During last year’s House session, some Libertarian/Free Staters introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to have New Hampshire secede from the Union. 

Such a vote on secession had not been taken by any legislative body in the United States since the Civil War.

The proposed amendment drew only 13 votes in favor and 323 votes against.

A number of sponsors of the proposed amendment failed to win re-election in November.

While there is no attempt to promote any new secession plan, there is a new caucus, which the instigator said would be bipartisan, but unlikely to draw any Democrats.

The House Nullification Caucus held its first meeting last weekend at Murphy’s Carriage House in Bedford owned by state Sen. Keith Murphy, R-Manchester, who came here as part of the Free State Project.

The organizer of the new caucus is first-term Rep. Jason Gerhard, R-Northfield.

The invite says “The federal government has usurped New Hampshire’s Sovereignty to such a point that close to 50 percent of the budget comes from the federal government. And we all know this money comes not with strings attached but chains.”

Gerhard notes a survey found Granite Staters trust their state government more than the federal government.

“We are asking legislators of all political stripes to join us in bringing governance back to the local level. The District of Corruption (D.C.) has succumbed to the special interests our forefathers warned us about,” Gerhard writes. “Thankfully, New Hampshire still possesses the spirit of rebellion that keeps the flame of liberty alive. Let’s work together to grow it into a forest fire.”

Gerhard received some notoriety when he introduced a bill to allow felons to reclaim their right to possess firearms.

Gerhard, 37, is still on probation after he was arrested in 2007 and served 12 1/2 years of a 20-year sentence for helping anti-government, tax evaders Ed and Elaine Brown at their Plainfield home. The nine-month standoff at the well-fortified home drew national media attention.

Gerhard and two others violated federal law by providing material support to the Browns who refused to surrender after their 2007 tax convictions.

The government said Gerhard and the others acquired firearms and explosives and helped turn the Brown’s property into a potential death trap.

There is no indication a secession caucus is forming this session.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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