"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Do not municipal officials have free speech rights?"

The New Hampshire Municipal Association during the NH Legislative session, publishes a weekly Legislative Bulletin, which highlights the happenings in the NH House and Senate.
The current edition focuses on a few bills, some in regard to the Assessing Standards Board (ASB) which the BoS discussed on Thursday. The impact of these bills could cost NH municipalities billions of dollars in lost revenue made up by increased property tax bills.
The BoS on Thursday authorized the Town Administrator to send a letter to Concord opposing passage of these bills.

Lobbying is another point of this post. The NHMA lobbies for its member towns and cities and as Moultonboro is a paying member of that organization, I have learned over the past few years of the numerous benefits it entails, such as the issue with ASB bills.
 There is another bill that seeks to "  Muzzle Local Officials"per the NHMA. The Legislative Bulletin highlights just one other bill this week, HB 223 , sponsored by Rep. Cordelli, Carr. 4; Rep. F. McCarthy, Carr. 2; Rep. Avellani, Carr. 5; Rep. Comeau, Carr. 5; Rep. McConkey, Carr. 3; Rep. Spillane, Rock. 2, seeks to prohibit the recipient of a grant or appropriation of county or municipal funds from using such funds to engage in lobbying activities."Typically these bills are directed at NHMA, but depending on which rumor you listen to, this one has either the School Boards Association or the Association of Counties as its target."
Considering the lead sponsor, I would be fairly certain that the bill is intended to stifle counties and schools from opposing and perhaps even testifying against legislation these elected bodies disagree with.
It would prevent  NHMA and many other municipal organizations ( NHMA lists the Police Chiefs Association, the Association of Assessing Officials, the Water Works Association, and the City and Town Clerks Association among the many such organizations) from advocating on behalf of their members.
Another organization that has lobbied on behalf of Moultonboro, although it is not as active as it once was, is the Coalition of Communities, which led the fight to lobby against donor towns. Over the years we have paid fees to to them to have our voice be heard in Concord on behalf of our taxpayers.
As NHMA states: "Do not municipal officials have free speech rights?"

It is quite disingenuous for the most vocal opponents of anything, good or bad, that "infringes" on local control, then want to use the power of the government to take away our local control when it gets in the way of their personal agenda.
Town meeting should be the arbiter of these decisions to keep local control, not the State of NH. Lets keep it that way.


Joseph Cormier said...

I don't know if this will get posted, but it looks like whomever wrote that piece of Bulletin #3, Jan. 13, 2017 regarding HB 223 is a bit hysterical, or disingenuous.

“no recipient of a grant or appropriation of state, county, or municipal funds may use the funds to lobby or attempt to influence legislation, participate in political activity, or contribute funds to any entity engaged in these activities.”

That is already state law for state, only: See RSA 15.5

HB 223, in essence, only adds-in "county and municipal" to "state".

It is a lobbyist bill.

Moultonboro Blogger said...

The bill adds county and municipal government funds to the existing statute and thereby seeks to decrease the ability of counties and municipal governments to expend public funds to either directly or indirectly lobby for or against legislation that is not in the best interests of constituents. One author of the bill is apparently miffed that his bill was defeated last session after the county testified against it as did the Association of Counties. It is an anti-lobbying bill.