"Art. 31. Meetings of Legislature, for What Purposes. The legislature shall assemble for the redress of public grievances and for making such laws as the public good may require."
The above quote is Article 31 of Part One of the New Hampshire Constitution. It has been ignored for at least a century and many feel it has been ignored for the bulk of our history.
The Tea Partiers, Free Staters and Libertarians, often mentioned on these pages, decided in late 2010 to create a venue to enable such a forum to take place. During the transition to the new Republican majority in December of 2010, the transition team of which I was a member, decided to create a committee to implement the procedures for this program.
With another experienced hand Rep. Paul Ingbretson, as chairman, a new standing committee called the Redress of Grievances Committee was formed with 13 Republicans and five Democrats, the same ratio of membership as the full House.
You may have seen a derisive title ascribed to our efforts in this biennium as The Great Experiment. In some ways it has been. This is one example. Even though our 400 member House, the largest in the United States, brings the people closer to their government than any other state, we have taken the steps to create for the first time a venue for the airing of citizen complaints. Once again, it confirms the reputation of New Hampshire as the freest state in the union.
The committee performs a function not available in any other state to our knowledge. Any citizens who believe they have been aggrieved by a government entity, official or employee can petition his or her representative to bring an issue before the committee.
With representatives as sponsors, citizens can plead their cases to the committee, which will investigate the circumstances to decide if the complaint is well founded or not. The sponsor must ascertain that the complaint is with a government entity, is something the legislature can grant, and that the aggrieved parties have already pursued judicial or legislative remedies.
After the Redress of Grievances Committee chairman makes sure the grievance satisfies the above requirements and he accepts the petition, he can call a series of public hearings on the matter. These public hearings listen to both sides of the controversy listening to the aggrieved, those named in the grievance, and other members of the public who wish to speak to the petitionís merits.
The findings of the committee are then reported to the full House in the calendar for information. They are not voted on. If necessary, however, the committee will file legislation. How well has it worked? The jury is still out. Some have suggested that it is a waste of money. But most members think that giving citizens a voice in liberty is a worthwhile application of this long forgotten article in our Bill of Rights. We should perhaps refine the process a bit but continue to implement the concept. It could eventually benefit us all.
Top of this page
Rep. Winters' Archives
Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")