New Hampshire legislature fights over secession bill virtually nobody supports

New Hampshire legislature fights over secession bill virtually nobody supports
Associated Press

You may not have heard about this, but there is a bill currently on the table in New Hampshire that would radically amend the state constitution, causing the Granite State to secede from the nation and form its own independent country. One big reason you probably haven’t heard about it is that almost nobody wants to talk about it except to say how unconstitutional and, frankly, stupid it is. And yet, the bill somehow received 170 votes this week to bring it to the floor for a full debate and a vote. Even in a country that has become rife with political theatrics, this is some of the most awkward stage management seen in governmental circles in quite some time. (New Hampshire Journal)

When state Rep. Timothy Smith (D-Manchester) took to the floor to debate a constitutional amendment for New Hampshire to secede from the union, he was visibly upset by the notion.

If there has ever been any support in the State House for this legislation — technically CACR 32, “PROVIDING THAT: the state peaceably declares independence from the United States and proceeds as a sovereign nation” — it’s been invisible.

Under House rules, every bill that is offered must get a committee hearing. CACR 32 came out of the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee with a 21-0 vote of “inexpedient to legislate” (in plain English, “Kill this now!”)

This bizarre turn of events appears to have been caused by a combination of New Hampshire’s libertarian, utopian legislative rules and a wave of political opportunism in a midterm election cycle. There was almost nobody in favor of seeing the state actually secede from the nation, but the rules say that any bill that is submitted by a member has to at least be given a committee vote. The bill only attracted seven hard-core libertarian co-sponsors and the committee considering the bill voted 21-0 to effectively kill it.

But when the Republicans in the legislature attempted to table the bill, 17 of their own (libertarian) members joined with 153 Democrats to advance the bill to the floor for a full debate and vote. There is almost zero support for this bill and it’s been widely viewed as something of an embarrassment to the state, but it’s going to move forward anyway. The reason is both simple and obvious. The Democrats want to pin everyone down and put them on record, probably because they are hoping to unseat some of the libertarian Republicans in the fall.

It’s a safe bet that the origins of this nascent secession movement can be found in New Hampshire’s radical libertarian sector. These are the remnants of what was famously referred to as the Free State Project from a couple of decades ago. National Libertarian Party members convinced roughly 20,000 of the faithful to move to New Hampshire, one of the smallest and already independently-minded states in the country, and attempt to basically take it over.

They did manage to take over the Town of Grafton and do away with most of the existing codes and laws. They were pretty much running the place until their new utopian paradise was overrun by bears (literally) because of all of the food and other waste they were scattering around. But there are still plenty of libertarians and their sympathizers in the state, so you can see how some of them might push for secession.

What will all of this add up to in the end? Not much, really. New Hampshire residents may want to live free or die, but if they were to operate the state like an independent nation with no federal resources available, they would go under pretty quickly. And I’m fairly sure most of the residents know this. But they’ll force this vote just to have another talking point during the elections this fall. And if nothing else, they’re providing us with some entertainment during a pretty depressing period of time.

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