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The action now lies with the states

By Garry Rayno - InDepthNH | May 22, 2023

Garry Rayno

The federal government is broken when 20 or so far right extremists who represent an extremely small portion of the country’s residents, can hold the nation, the economy and the global economy hostage over what was once routine legislation.

The issue is not really to cut spending — that was not a problem until a Democrat became president — but to create havoc and chaos so President Biden and other Democrats will have a difficult time being elected in the 2024 election.

This is party over country at the core and Machiavellian to the extreme.

Those 20 or so people gained their influence when Kevin McCarthy so craved the power and prestige that comes with being House Speaker, he handed them the reins of the House for two years.

If Washington was in gridlock for years, now it is in a near death spiral with little time to stop the spinning.

With the chaos in Washington, the real political and governmental action is now in the states.

States have been handed control over a number of major issues by the US Supreme Court in recent years and have taken the opportunity to act.

Sometimes for the better, most not so much.

States have become the battleground for abortion, voting rights, gun laws, education, civil rights, discrimination, safety nets and very importantly free and fair elections.

If you do not have free and fair elections, all the rest of it is skewed by the illegitimate majority party setting the agenda.

The seeds of inequality and unfair elections have been sown through gerrymandering and voter suppression by those who have worked for decades to tilt the scale in order to move the country back a century and ultimately establish an oligarchy.

Under free and fair elections, the legislative and governing bodies should reflect the will of the majority of the electorate.

While New Hampshire’s Executive Council and State Senate are gerrymandered excessively, and the state Supreme Court is likely to acknowledge that, the House is only slightly gerrymandered in comparison due to its size and the constitutional amendment requiring every voting district with enough population should have their own representative.

Democratic candidates in the Executive Council, State Senate and House had more total votes than Republican candidates in the 2022 election, yet the Republicans hold the majority in all three bodies, the House just barely and becoming slimmer.

However, the House’s partisan makeup is closer to the real numbers in purple state New Hampshire, where Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans and independents or undeclared are the largest group of registered voters.

This year the House has been a perfect example of the old adage “it depends on who shows up.”

At certain times, Democrats have been able to rally enough members and — with a handful of old school Republicans — been able to control outcomes and yet on other session days, Republicans have the greater number of votes.

And that is the way it should be given the state’s partisan makeup.

Last Thursday Democrats were successful in having their way with two of the most impactful bills this session: the parental bill of rights and extending the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

Democrats were at first able to attach six amendments to the bill that would make it meaningless or would be poison pills to make some vote against it.

When the final vote came on Senate Bill 272, which passed the Senate on a partisan 14-10 vote, the Democrats were able to kill the bill on a 195-190 vote that also prohibits it from coming up for the rest of this year’s session and next year’s as well.

Just before the final vote and knowing what the outcome would be, an angry House Majority Leader Jason Osborne lashed out at public schools and reminded Democrats the Education Freedom Account program was expanded this session so more parents could use state taxpayers’ money for alternative schooling. He didn’t bring up the taxpayers’ money, but you can watch his rant on twitter put up by the Committee to Elect House Republicans here https://twitter.com/CTEHR/status/1659280251489333250.

Democrats on Thursday also killed about 20 of the more than 30 amendments Republican House members had introduced to Senate Bill 263 to extend the Medicaid expansion program or the Granite Advantage Health Care Program.

With the backing of business organizations, health care providers and advocates, the Senate had unanimously backed the bill removing the sunset clause from statutes, making the program permanent.

The House approved two-year budget extends the program for only two years.

The debate on the bill lasted more than three hours but was eventually approved as the Senate passed it on a 193-166 vote.

The bill is going to the House Finance Committee where it will come back with an amendment limiting the extension to either two or six years.

The Democrats will need to have everyone on board again when it is time to vote on the amended bill.

After Thursday’s vote, Republicans focused on the Democrats’ successful attempt to limit debate after about half of the amendments had been voted on and not the bill itself or the fact three Republicans tried to table the bill, which would have essentially killed it with the House not meeting again until June 8, which is past the deadline for bills going to a second committee.

Republicans have been successful in blocking attempts to put abortion rights into statute or the constitution as some other states have done after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

They were also successful in expanding the EFA program and have several other priorities waiting for votes in the Senate.

Other states have all but outlawed abortion, and many have passed legislation forbidding health care that would change a young person’s gender.

Some states have loosened restrictions on guns so that almost anyone can open carry or conceal a loaded firearm at a time when the number of mass shootings is exploding.

But on the other side politically, Washington state has banned assault rifles often used in mass shootings.

While the growth in states’ rights has largely come through the judicial system, particularly the US Supreme Court, it is an ideal long pushed by organizations like the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation and other Libertarian groups.

And some of the same funders for those organizations have funneled money — over $1 million in 2022 — into New Hampshire state elections, but they have not been able to make the Granite State the Florida or Texas of the North.

And while the Libertarian and Free State caucus has been able to drive the agenda, particularly in the last two years, the number of Democrats in the House has put a brake on their momentum making some of their legislation more reflective of all the state’s residents as it should.

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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