NH Legislature Has a Very Different Look

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Nancy West photo

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

By GARRY RAYNO, Distant Dome

If you transported a typical New Hampshire resident from the turn of the century into a Legislative committee hearing today, that person would not think it was in the same state.

Last week, a proposed constitutional amendment to have New Hampshire secede from the United States received largely favorable testimony at a public hearing.

A little later in the day, the State and Federal Relations Committee held a hearing on another bill to return to the Gold standard for currency.

The person from two decades ago would wonder if he had been transported to another planet or if aliens had taken over his state.

Secession was before the legislature two years ago and received 13 votes from House members and 323 votes opposed.

New Hampshire was one of the original 13 colonies and was not as rebellious as some other states prior to the Revolutionary War with its loyalist governors.

One of the arguments New Hampshire used before the US Supreme Court in claiming the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as its territory and not Maine’s was that New Hampshire was a loyalist province unlike rebellious Massachusetts, which at that time encompassed large sections of Maine including the land where the naval shipyard was eventually located.

Many loyalists from New Hampshire and Massachusetts fled to Canada when the war began.

But once the war with England broke out, New Hampshire did its part with rebellions here and there and some say the war began at Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth when a rebel militia overwhelmed a small British contingent and hauled away the gunpowder English Gen. Thomas Gage was on his way to secure to prevent the rebels from being able to use it.

That skirmish occurred before the battle for Lexington and Concord.

And New Hampshire likes to claim the founding of the Republican Party occurred in Major Blake’s Tavern in Exeter, although Ripon, Wisconsin claims it is the GOP birthplace as well.

But today’s Republicans seeking to secede and return to the gold standard, are far removed from the ones who joined together to oppose slavery or those who fought to defeat the crown.

The Republican Party has evolved over the years from opposing slavery to a party aligned with business interests and trickle-down economics.

Beginning with the Reagan administration there were significant tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations who at one time accounted for half of the total federal revenue stream.

While the tax cuts may sound good, they did not occur for everyone and essentially transferred the burden to the middle class which was the beginning of a long decline that has produced the breathtaking wealth inequality between the rich and everyone else today.

While the GOP was willing to make the tax cuts, they were not willing to make the corresponding spending cuts on the other side of the ledger and the national debt exploded almost immediately and was only balanced at the end of the Clinton administration. The balanced budgets did not last long after the Bush tax cuts.

If all those tax cuts had not been made, there would be no national debt, and social security and Medicare would be in good standing.

So today’s rebels decided to hang New Hampshire’s secession on the national debt reaching $40 trillion, which will happen fairly quickly as it now sits at $34 trillion.

The prime sponsor of the proposed secession constitutional amendment, Rep. Jason Gerhard, R-Northfield, served12-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the armed standoff of Edward and Elaine Brown in Plainfield, after they were convicted of tax evasion.

During his testimony before the committee last week he called the Internal Revenue Service “an extortion racket” so he must not have rethought much of his actions during his prison term.

Several others bemoaned the sorry financial state of the country and the debt they said can never be surmounted, including Reps. Michael Granger, R-Rochester, and Glenn Bailey, R-Milton.

The implication was New Hampshire residents could avoid having to pay their fair share of the massive federal debt by seceding from the United States.

That is the hook this year to make secession more palatable to more representatives and senators, but the goal is still secession to avoid federal income taxes and regulations from the Libertarians disguised as Republicans.

This is not about breaking from an oppressive monarchy, this is about not paying your fair share to have a functioning society and individual rights at all costs to the detriment of the public good.

That is not what the Revolutionary War was about, it was about the worth and freedom of every individual and a collective self-determination.

And the supporters of secession said New Hampshire is part of a national movement for secession with the Texas legislature facing a similar bill and other states in the future.

They couched the secession as a peaceful divorce sounding very much like Marjorie Taylor Green in her speeches.

The supporters of secession have to know they have no chance of ever seeing it pass the legislature where the proposed constitutional amendment needs a three-fifth majority to make it to the next general election ballot where it will need a two-thirds majority vote to be approved.

So why is it before the legislature? It is a distraction from what the people with the money behind the Free State Project and other similar groups really want to accomplish.

They want a return to a time before President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his new deal safety net, no Social Security, few regulations, no unions to drive up wages for working folks, few people with college educations and white males ruled.

And the money was concentrated in the hands of a few who controlled the economic and political world, or an oligarchy, which is where all this is heading now.

The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allows today’s oligarchs to anonymously dump money into a place like New Hampshire to elect the lawmakers who support bills like secession, the gold standard, right-to-work and a $7.25 minimum wage because people no longer take the time to know who they are electing here or in Congress.

That Rumpelstiltskin who woke up 20 years later will wonder what happened to New Hampshire, just as many do who grew up here and continue to live in the Granite State.

Garry Rayno may be reached at garry.rayno@yahoo.com.

Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.

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