by By NH State Representative L. Mike Kappler
RAYMOND – On the General Election ballot on November 6th, there will be two very important questions. If two-thirds (2/3) of the voters vote ‘yes’ on these items, our New Hampshire Constitution will be amended as per the question. Both of these questions went through the NH House and Senate this term as “Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution (CACR) bills using the powers of the legislature which has the authority to consider and recommend changes to our NH Constitution. Below are the two questions exactly as they will appear on the ballot; I added an explanation under each one.
I ask you to vote ‘Yes” on both. The first question forbids an income tax, and the second one clears up the confusion that continues to fester in our state government.
Question #1: Are you in favor of amending Part 2, Article 5-b of the NH Constitution by adding Article 5-c?: Notwithstanding any general or special provision of this constitution, the general court shall not have the power or authority to impose and levy any assessment, rate, or tax upon income earned by any natural person; however, nothing in this Article shall be construed to prohibit any tax in effect on January 1, 2012, or adjustment to the rate of such a tax.
An explanation: This proposal will explicitly forbid the Legislature from imposing any new income tax on personal income.
Question # 2: Are you in favor of amending Part 2, Article 73-a of the New Hampshire Constitution ? [Art.] 73-a. [Supreme Court, Administration.] The chief justice of the supreme court shall be the administrative head of all the courts. The chief justice shall, with the concurrence of a majority of the supreme court justices, make rules governing the administration of all courts in the state and the practice and procedure to be followed in all such courts. The rules so promulgated shall have the force and effect of law. The Legislature shall have a concurrent power to regulate the same matters by statue. In the event of a conflict between a statue and a court rule, the statute, if not otherwise contrary to this constitution, shall prevail over the rule.
An explanation: Article 73-a was amended in 1978, which now says the chief justice, with the concurrence of a majority of the supreme court justices, make rules governing the administration of all courts in the state and the practice and procedure to be followed in all such courts. The rules so promulgated shall have the force and effect of law. This amended article causes much confusion over whether legislative statute or court rules shall prevail. Under the recommended amendment, the Supreme Court will still have rule-making authority, but the Legislature will have concurrent power to regulate the administration of the courts. Also if there is a conflict between legislative law and a court rule, the law will prevail, unless it conflicts with the constitution.
This problem really came to light with the recent budget cut when the chief justice closed courts, postponed jury trials, and made other administrative moves which caused serious consequences for everyone. Legislators set the policy, but the 1978 amendment stripped that authority, so they had no control over these moves. Question # 2 will correct that, extending their power only to administration rules, not court decision making.
Question # 3: Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the Constitution?
An explanation: The third question on the ballot will be about whether or not you think we need a Constitutional Convention. The NH Constitution Part 2 Article 100, requires that the Secretary of State puts the question on the ballot at least every 10 years. The last time was in 2002, so it must appear this year, to meet that requirement.
There are two ways to amend our state constitution: through a CACR bill passed by the legislature and put on the ballot, and the other is through a Constitutional Convention. If question # 3 passes by a majority vote on this ballot, then convention delegates are voted on the same as voting for a State Representative. The convention is called and the debate and recommendations are proposed. For a convention recommendation to go on general election ballot, it has to pass in the convention by three/fifths (3/5) of the members. Then once on the general election ballot, a convention recommendation, just like the legislative recommendation, has to pass by 2/3 of the voters.
This convention process was popular 50 or 60 years ago, and happened every ten years for awhile. But with the Legislative ability to make changes through the CACR bill process going to the voters, I believe a convention now is unnecessary and a waste of time and tax payers money. But, yes, as required it will be back again in 10 years. I will be voting “No” on question #3 and urge you to vote “No” also.
(Editor’s Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)