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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NH GOP back in news – for the wrong reason

Telegraph Editorial

Whatever one might think about the policy stands of the 2013-14 edition of the New Hampshire Legislature, we suspect most would agree that it has conducted itself to date with a sense of professionalism and decorum.

Gone are the days of making national news for the wrong reasons, such as “birthers” trying to keep the president’s name off the Democratic primary ballot or filing legislation to make it mandatory for certain bills to quote directly from the Magna Carta. ...

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Whatever one might think about the policy stands of the 2013-14 edition of the New Hampshire Legislature, we suspect most would agree that it has conducted itself to date with a sense of professionalism and decorum.

Gone are the days of making national news for the wrong reasons, such as “birthers” trying to keep the president’s name off the Democratic primary ballot or filing legislation to make it mandatory for certain bills to quote directly from the Magna Carta.

Or so we thought.

That was until we learned last week that three disgruntled Republican lawmakers – including two from Greater Nashua – actually thought it was a good idea to file a formal petition of removal and criminal complaints against 189 of their fellow representatives.

Specifically, Londonderry Rep. Al Baldasaro, Goffstown Rep. John Hikel and Merrimack Rep. Lenette Peterson filed an “emergency petition for redress,” calling for removing the 189 from office for “breaching their oath” and for their criminal prosecution for “violating federal law.”

The offense?

Voting for legislation that would reset the standard for self-defense to what had existed with little fanfare for more than three decades. They claim any change would violate their right to bear arms to protect themselves and their property.

On March 27, a divided House of Representatives voted, 189-184, to pass HB 135, a bill that would repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law, which was enacted in 2011 by the Republican-led Legislature.

The repeal bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D-Penacook, would strike the 2011 provision that allows individuals to use deadly force “anywhere he or she has a right to be.” Instead, if in public, they would be required to first try to retreat from the confrontation, if it were possible to do so “with complete safety.”

Now, we are already on record in favor of the repeal bill on the grounds that similar laws in other states suggest they are just as likely to endanger public safety as to enhance it. (Jan. 27: “Time to roll back deadly force law”).

But we certainly acknowledge there is room for a legitimate policy debate on the critical issue of self-defense without resorting to cockamamie calls for the removal or prosecution of those who disagree with us.

Based on the emergency petition of redress, the misguided lawmakers demand:

n The immediate removal from office of the 189 “disqualified” members of the House – 186 Democrats and three Republicans.

n The nullification of all votes taken by these lawmakers during this session.

n And the scheduling of a special election to replace the 189 legislators with individuals “qualified” to fill those seats.

And if that weren’t kooky enough, former Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball and several similarly offended lawmakers filed criminal complaints last week in the Hillsborough and Strafford county sheriffs’ offices against Shurtleff, the sponsor of the bill, and the 188 lawmakers who supported it.

Fortunately, it is clear House Republican leaders want nothing to do with this embarrassment. When asked about it Friday, House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, of Bartlett, said not only hadn’t he read the petition, but that it had “nothing to do with the caucus leadership in any form.”

With November’s rejection by voters still ringing in their ears, who could blame them?