Down in Concord

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” — Mark Twain

Down in Concord, our State Reps have filed 581 bills, State Senators 142. Public hearings have been held on 308, another 195 are scheduled for this week. The full House has voted on 26, and will vote on another 49 this Wednesday.

Perhaps none of these bills is a danger to our lives, but many are a threat to our liberty or our property. Some few bills would expand our liberty and protect our property but those likely will not pass. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

One of the earlier and stranger bills was HB 148, which proposes to change the way New Hampshire casts its votes for President. Those who remember their civics know that each state casts a number of electoral votes – New Hampshire casts four votes – and that candidates try to win enough states to total 270 electoral votes. In almost every state, the winner of that state gets all that state’s electoral votes. HB 148 would change that so that our four votes would go to whoever won the national popular vote. Even if we voted overwhelmingly for one candidate our electoral votes could go to the other candidate. New Hampshire voters would find that their votes might as well not be counted. HB 148 is inexpedient to legislate and I hope the committee will agree.

Democrats filed five bills to increase taxes: CACR 2 provides that taxes may be graduated, HB 168 increases the beer tax, HB 330 would allow counties to adopt a county income tax, HB 490 increases the tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes, HB 659 increases the tobacco tax.

Republicans filed five bills to REDUCE taxes: CACR 1 would require a super-majority of the legislature to increase taxes, HB 335 repeals a scheduled increase in the tobacco tax, HB 354 gradually reduces and then eliminates the Business Enterprise Tax (BET), HB 434 similarly reduces the BET but over a twenty year period.

Senate Republicans filed SB 1 to reduce the Business Profits Tax (BPT) by increasing the R&D tax credit. House Democrats filed a similar bill, HB 240.

Polls show overwhelming support for voter ID laws. The Washington Post reported that, “Almost three-quarters of all Americans support the idea that people should have to show photo identification to vote.” Yet Democrats have filed two bills to repeal our mild form of voter ID. HB 287 would repeal the requirement to show ID when voting; HB 466 would repeal the need for an ID when registering. A related bill, HB 119, would allow a person to claim to be domiciled in New Hampshire but not residing in New Hampshire. Another bill in the Election Law committee, HB 250, would institute public (i.e. taxpayer) financing of elections.

Democrats have filed four, count ’em four, bills to increase the minimum wage: HB 127, HB 241, HB 501, and SB 77. In their fantasy world all it takes is a stroke of the pen to increase someone’s pay. But if that is all it takes, why not raise the minimum wage to $15, $30, or $50 per hour? Shouldn’t everyone earn more than average pay? What these wishful-thinking legislators ignore at our peril is the law of unintended consequences. And that is one law that can never be repealed.

In the real world, the minimum wage is zero. The unintended consequence of feel-good legislation is that some people will earn $0 – they will lose their jobs. Some people have not yet learned the skills to earn more than minimum wage. And that is why teen unemployment is around 25%. When the minimum wage is increased, unskilled people are the first to lose their jobs, and the last to be hired.

Many jobs can be done by a combination of unskilled labor at lower wages, skilled labor at higher wages, or machines. As the price of unskilled labor is forced higher and higher, many businesses will replace unskilled workers with skilled workers or with machines. Some businesses will simply go out of business, killing jobs for all of their employees. As jobs for unskilled workers become fewer and fewer, some kids can end up in a permanent underclass never having the chance to learn skills that would let them move up the ladder.

The right school can help a kid learn skills and get a job. School choice can help parents find the right school for their kids. Sadly, Democrats are pushing HB 370, which would repeal school choice for lower income families. Hundreds spoke against repeal at the public hearing.

While HB 370 endangers the ability of some children to get a good education, HB 135 endangers lives; it weakens our fundamental right of self-defense. In these dangerous times, more and more women are carrying concealed weapons to defend themselves and their families. In most cases, merely brandishing a weapon can deter a bad guy. HB 135 amazingly makes it a crime even to brandish a weapon. The victim’s first duty is to run away and hope the attacker won’t pursue. If the victim decides she cannot safely run away and fires her gun, she is subject to second-guessing and criminal charges by an overzealous prosecutor.

There are some good bills. HB 271 and HB 323 would protect our pocketbooks and our liberty. Obamacare expanded Medicaid eligibility but the Supreme Court ruled that states could not be forced to accept the expensive program. It would cost New Hampshire taxpayers tens and eventually hundreds of millions of dollars. HB 271 declares that New Hampshire declines to adopt expanded Medicare. Democrats like to spend other people’s money, so it is unlikely that they will pass HB 271.

HB 323 gives workers the freedom to choose whether to join a labor union and pay dues to it. Currently, the government makes that choice for tens of thousands of public employees. Those workers must pay union dues or lose their jobs. Democrats claim to be pro-choice but they oppose almost all choice so they will surely defeat this bill.

And finally, there is one good bill that has a chance of passing. Hundreds of thousands of New Hampshirites enjoy playing poker in their homes or friends’ homes. They break the law every time they do. HB 459 would make it legal to play poker in a private residence.

Is it possible that the New Hampshire House, Senate, and Governor will actually give a slice of liberty back to the people?