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Thursday, March 22, 2012

House endorses Constitutional Amendment to limit powers of judicial branch

CONCORD – By the narrowest of margins, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday in favor of stripping judicial administrators of all their rule-making authority.

The proposed amendment to the N.H. Constitution (CACR 26) heads to the state Senate after getting exactly the required 60-percent, supermajority threshold.

The vote was 239-114 and only came after House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, sought a second vote because the proposal had failed the first time to get through by two votes.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, had been out in the hallway and missed the first failed vote. During a recess, supporters also convinced one Republican, Rep. David Hess, of Hooksett, to change his mind and support it.

Rep. Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, said court administrators have used their rule-making power to dilute the clout of lawmakers and the governor.

“If there is any opportunity to take back authority from the courts, this is it,” Mirski sad.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said passing this amendment would upset the balance in the Constitution among the three branches of government.

“This is a blatant violation of the separation of powers,” Weber said.

“I am tired of the endless do-overs and game playing.”

For this to come to pass, at least 15 in the 24-person state Senate would have to endorse it.

The proposed amendment then would go automatically to the November ballot and require the support of two-thirds of voters.

This bill was one of several that The Telegraph profiled in its Capital Watch project that provides an ongoing look on the outcome of featured legislation on judicial, elections, education, social and other public policy areas.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.