Representatives Overwhelmingly Vote to Prevent Abuse of Emergency Powers
EAST DERRY, N.H.—The N.H. House of Representatives overwhelmingly declared that no governor ought to use emergency powers the same way as Gov. Chris Sununu ever again, and passed a reform yesterday with a bi-partisan veto-proof majority that will make sure of this.
While the bill, HB 417, does not affect the current state of emergency, it ensures that any governor who declares an emergency in the future will need to work with the Legislature as a co-equal partner like the founders intended. Importantly, the bill would require legislative oversight over any emergency order issued by a governor during a state of emergency to ensure the order is lawful and considers constitutional protections of New Hampshire citizens. The bill passed with an overwhelming bi-partisan, veto-proof majority vote of 328-41.
“The Legislature this week has demonstrated its wisdom by passing a bipartisan bill that would prevent any governor from abusing power and unilaterally making decisions for the citizens of this state during a state of emergency,” said Andrew J. Manuse, chairman of RebuildNH. “It would also be wise for Gov. Chris Sununu to cease his unnecessary criticism of the Legislature, which is constitutionally authorized to pass state laws, and acknowledge that his year-long state of emergency and emergency order extensions have crossed the line. Now would be a good time for him to start a conversation with leaders of the People’s House and start backing out of his alarming unilateral control of the state.”
Gov. Sununu has acted above the law during the State of Emergency by creating, in Emergency Orders 52 and 65, an alternative justice system for businesses accused of violating his emergency orders. Rather than prosecute emergency order offenders in court as the law requires—offering the accused the possibility of a jury trial, the right to face their accuser, and a capped fine if found guilty—Sununu’s system allows hearsay evidence in an administrative hearing within the executive branch and demands payment of excessive fines.
In addition, the governor has waived provisions in the N.H. Constitution, Part 1, Article 2B, just passed in 2018, as well as state law, which protects the private information of citizens from government intrusion. In this case, he has arbitrarily declared that all citizens’ information will be submitted to the vaccine database for the Covid-19 vaccine, despite the law clearly stating that citizens must agree to volunteer such information.
Arguably, the governor also lacked authority to mandate citizens wear facial coverings, which are classified as a medical device, without the advice of their doctor and their own consent, and he also lacked the authority to shut down businesses, religious assemblies, and other private organizations.
“The Legislature spoke very clearly and soundly that a government by one man is unacceptable,” said JR Hoell, treasurer of RebuildNH. “The founding fathers left England to establish a new government as they did not want us to be ruled under a monarchy, and they put protections in place to make sure the same government could not happen here. The Legislature has just confirmed that New Hampshire should not be ruled that way either. The wisely drafted bill allows the Governor 30 days to get things under control, but that’s it. All future extensions require approval of the Legislature.”
RebuildNH, also known as ReopenNH, is a PAC made up of concerned individuals devoted to getting New Hampshire back to work through a restoration of balance and reason in state government.