Senate should not ignore the House

The N.H. House’s HCR 2 resolution calling for Congress “to begin the process for a Constitutional amendment establishing that human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights” is a no-brainer. That’s why it was puzzling to find that this resolution isn’t posted on the N.H. Senate’s docket.

The resolution is a step in the right direction when it comes to getting corporate money out of politics. HCR 2 spells out clearly that money is not speech, and the right to assemble peaceably and to petition the government for the redress of grievances does not extend to corporations.

Campaign finance reform was near and dear to Doris “Granny D” Haddock’s heart and by extension ours. Haddock, a Dublin resident who passed away in 2010 at the age of 100, spent years advocating for reform. She took her cause on the road in 1999 with a walk across the country; she went on to challenge Republican Judd Gregg in the 2004 U.S. Senate race, but was unsuccessful in unseating the incumbent. Haddock continued to work tirelessly for legislative change that would provide public funding for campaigns.

A recent poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, showed that two-thirds of those polled were in favor of overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that permits unlimited spending in elections on the part of corporations. But the state Senate isn’t taking up the matter as far we can tell.

A search of HCR 2’s status at the N.H. General Court’s website shows the House adopted the resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment on March 20; below, the space provided for information about the bill’s status in the Senate is completely blank. Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord wrote in a blog posted on the N.H. Democratic Caucus website on April 18 that the Senate has refused to consider HCR 2. A new rule established this year requiring a two-thirds vote in order to hear resolutions in the Senate, Larsen wrote, has allowed the resolution to fall on deaf ears.

N.H. Senate President Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) was unable to comment on the issue by press time Wednesday.

It’s unfortunate that New Hampshire politics has come to this. Both the Senate and the House have a responsibility to review each body’s proposed bills and resolutions. The situation with HCR 2 reminds us of what happened in Washington in April when a gun bill was blocked in the U.S. Senate.

We often lament the inability of legislators in Washington to get together to solve problems. It’s no secret that political coffers are loaded by corporations. (You want proof, check out OpenSecrets.org.) The more money corporations dump into the political process, the less of a voice we all have.

A resolution from our state wouldn’t overturn the increased influence of corporations in our political process. But it’d at least be a very public acknowledgment that it’s time to change.

It takes courage to take that type of stance. Granny D understood that. Hopefully the Senate will, too.

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