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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Legislature considers bills that would have US withdraw from UN, NAFTA

CONCORD – State legislators have proposed several changes to the way government conducts its business this legislative session, ranging from quoting England’s Magna Carta, which dates to 1215, to endorsing Arizona’s latest controversial law on illegal immigration.

Not all of the proposed bills have been embraced by the House. The bill that would have required new legislation addressing individual rights or liberties to quote the Magna Carta was killed in a house committee.

But some resolutions that are gaining traction pose interesting commentary on how New Hampshire legislators view the federal government and the way it has operated starting with the latter half of the 20th century.

Rep. Norman Tregenza, R-Carroll, has sponsored two House Concurrent Resolutions, 32 and 34, which urge the United States to withdraw from the United Nations and NAFTA.

“The U.N. is corrupt,” Tregenza said. “The American taxpayers are paying for that.

“We’re $15 trillion in debt, and yet the amount that we pay to the U.N. is about 25 percent, so we’re paying the dues of about 47 or 48 other countries.

“That’s one way of looking at it.”

Tregenza suggested the United Nations, the international body that facilitates international law, security and economic development, duplicates the United States’ international efforts through ambassadors for “almost every other country on the Earth,” Tregenza said.

“Why do we need to be paying for the U.N.?” Tregenza said. “We’re double paying.”

A similar U.N. resolution went through the House last year, as well as the Senate’s internal committee, but was eventually tabled, Tregenza said.

This time, the resolution passed in the House in a 188-129 vote on Feb. 1 and is waiting for consideration in the Senate.

University of New Hampshire political science professor Alynna Lyon, who is authoring a book on U.S. relations with the U.N. and the “reality and the rhetoric” surrounding them, said legislation such as HCR 32 is nothing new. Nor does she thinks it makes much sense, even if the New Hampshire Legislature’s vote meant the U.S. would withdraw from the United Nations.

“Strategically speaking, it’s really great in terms of burden sharing,” she said. “The argument that it’s going to save us money if we’re not in (the U.N.) is really funny to me.

“In fact, I think it would actually cost us a lot of money, because we’d have to do it all ourselves.”

Domestically, and in New Hampshire specifically, the U.N. fights environmental threats and pandemics, including the avian flu.

Locally, U.N. representatives have worked to contain the beetles destroying New Hampshire forests, which originally came from abroad, Lyon said.

“We’ve seen this before and we’ve seen this within New Hampshire and within the national level, too,” Lyon said. “We’ve had these periods where we’ve had these anti-U.N. sentiments. … I think that there’s a lack of comprehensive understanding about what the organization does, the work it does and the scope of the work it does.”

The U.N. isn’t the only intergovernmental organization that Tregenza and several other Republican legislators would like to ditch.

Tregenza said the North American Free Trade Agreement has hindered American job opportunities.

Tregenza’s HCR 34 states that NAFTA has cost millions work since it was approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

HCR 2 also passed Feb. 1, and awaits consideration by the state Senate. A year ago, Tregenza said a similar bill went through the House and was killed by the Senate internal committee.

“NAFTA is a significant factor in the moving of our manufacturing base offshore,” Tregenza said. “NAFTA hinders private industry, and therefore whole industries have left America – textiles, shoes, you name it. The steel industry is dying.”

HCR 34 seeks to block any further participation in the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America and any other multilateral activity that would advance or promote the creation of any North American Union.

“We’re not paying other people’s bills through NAFTA, but what we’ve done is we’ve regulated our industry so that people don’t want to manufacture here,” Tregenza said. “And so, because we don’t have good jobs, our salaries are lower, there’s less prosperity now than there was 10 years ago.”

But Lyon said losing NAFTA could pose more job losses for the U.S.

“I was surprised that they were thinking about NAFTA, because both sides of the aisle, both parties, tend to have consensus that free trade is a good thing,” Lyon said.

The agreement signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico particularly aids the states closest to the border, including New Hampshire, Lyon said.

“It’s more neoisolationism, based on fear and mistrust and misinformation,” Lyon said. “Canada’s economy is doing a lot better than ours, so it’s a great place to sell American goods and services. To withdraw from those agreements would have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. … It seems a little counter-intuitive if it’s going to be about economics.”

Still other House resolutions this cycle point to the federal government and the laws of other states that legislators say were filed in support of New Hampshire job creation.

For example, HCR 2 supports Arizona’s immigration law and has already passed through the House and is waiting for Senate consideration.

Arizona’s law requires local police to try to determine one’s legal status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that someone isn’t a citizen, and immigrants are considered trespassing in Arizona if they aren’t carrying their registration card.

Supporters of the legislation said Arizona lawmakers adopted it out of frustration with the federal government’s anti-illegal-immigrant strategy.

Legislation to copy or endorse Arizona’s law is pending in 25 states, but advocates don’t list New Hampshire as one of the states where it will most likely pass.

Bruce Marcus, R-Peterborough, is the sponsor of New Hampshire’s legislation, and although he lives in Peterborough now, he said it was his time spent in the Southwest that urged him to propose the resolution.

“I have the firsthand knowledge of what a major problem (illegal immigration) is,” Marcus said. “Of all the illegal aliens in the U.S., the estimate is that 2 percent need the jobs that Americans don’t want to do. The rest are taking jobs and creating problems.

“There are a tremendous number of violent crimes in the Southwest. The farmers, ranchers on the boarders of Arizona, a lot of them have to have high-tech surveillance systems.”

How does that affect New Hampshire, about 2,500 miles away?

“It is spreading northward,” Marcus said. “Look at all the sanctuary cities down and up the coast. … It’s costing the United States economy and jobs. When you create a problem that’s nationwide, it hurts New Hampshire.”

Eva Castillo, coordinator for the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said the resolution makes no sense for the Granite State.

“The law is a slap in the face for immigrants in New Hampshire,” Castillo said. “I don’t see what our business is supporting hateful legislation in another state. It’s very controversial, and immigration is a federal matter.”

Marcus said he hopes his resolution will show the federal government that it’s failing when it comes to immigration.

“I just feel that if the federal government is not going to go do their job, the states ought to be able to do that,” Marcus said. “It is their primary job to protect the borders and the citizens of the United States.”

Castillo said HCR 2 will do nothing but harm people, though.

“Its racism and hatred, that’s what it is,” Castillo said. “I really hope that in the next Legislature, we have people that have a moderate approach and are really concerned about the need of making New Hampshire a more friendly place for people to establish business and create employment and do something more positive.”

The House Concurrent Resolutions, if passed, would serve more as formal statements from the state Legislature and lack force of law. But Tregenza and Marcus have said they hope their bills will stir action at the federal level.

“I hope that something happens as a result of it,” Tregenza said. “Maybe our congressmen or our two senators will, as a result, be inspired to introduce the same thing at the federal level.

“The ultimate goal is to have our federal delegation take action and to withdraw from the U.N. and to withdraw from NAFTA. If we do these things, you will see prosperity begin to be restored.”

“We’re hoping that (HCR 2) will convince the federal government to do their job or allow the states to do their job up to the level of federal law,” Marcus said, “which they allow several other states to do, by the way.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).