Last week, the NH House had a marathon 2-day voting session that dealt with 500 bills. The sessions began at 9 am. On Thursday (day 2) afternoon the Sergeant–at-Arms was instructed to lock everyone in, in order to keep a quorum. The House sessions are live-streamed, so I was able to watch some of the evening sessions. A stranger to NH would never have realized that NH has serious infrastructure problems, including 300+ bridges on the red list for structural impairments. They would never have known that our tax system is a disaster, causing young people to flee our state, because they can’t afford to buy houses – and old people to flee the state, because they can’t afford to keep their houses. That stranger would have thought that guns and abortion were the most pressing issues in our state.
There were a dozen abortion related bills. Not one of them was written by anyone with even a scrid of medical competency, but all were written by men. These are men who bray about the “nanny state” when it comes to their own lives. Nanny state good for women. By far, the most disturbing speaker was Rep. Warren Groen from Rochester. Readers may recall Groen from the red tailed hawk incident last year. He was the one who felt compelled to give 4th graders visiting the legislature a lesson in abortion from the House floor. Listening to him describe abortion, even with flat affect, it seemed that for him, this is a near pornographic turn on. It was disturbing.
As we know, the NH Republican party has been hijacked by a roiling mix of Tea Partiers, Free Staters, and John Birchers. The results of this takeover are increasingly obvious, as we see in the events of the last two weeks. State Representative Kyle Tasker, a Republican from Nottingham, was arrested recently for trying to solicit sex from a 14 year old over the internet. The 14 year old proved to be a cop. Tasker sent her texts to set up a meeting while he was at a committee hearing. He served on the Child and Family Law committee. His house was full of drugs and guns, and he was armed when he went to meet up with the 14 year old. Would he have forced himself on her at gunpoint? We will never know. Most of his colleagues in the legislature were appalled by his actions, but Rep. Max Abramson, a Free Stater from Seabrook has repeatedly insisted that Tasker was set up. One wonders how the voters in Abramson’s district feel about his public defense of a 30 year old man trying to arrange sex with a 14 year old. Before he could be expelled, Tasker resigned. There were plenty of warning signs that he was a loose cannon, but they were ignored, and now everyone claims horrified surprise.
Next, Jerry DeLemus, (former GOP candidate for “Constitutional Sheriff”) from Rochester, was arrested by the feds for his role in the Bundy ranch debacle. It seems the feds didn’t take kindly to a bunch of armed yahoos pointing their weapons at law enforcement, and finally decided to prosecute. There is much bleating from his supporters about “federal land grabs.” Cliven Bundy is a moocher who wasn’t paying the extraordinarily low grazing fees he is assessed for allowing his cattle to graze on public lands. That was the issue and it had nothing to do with land grabs, or Jerry DeLemus, for that matter. He seized the opportunity to ride out to the Bundy ranch with his sniper rifle, which he stopped to have sighted along the way. We are now expected to believe he was there as a “peacemaker.” There are 9 federal charges against DeLemus, who also went out to the Bundy occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Sanctuary in Oregon. Where there are guns and cameras, there is Jerry DeLemus. His wife, Susan, is a state representative, who recently was in the news for referring to Pope Francis as “the anti-Christ.” Rochester.
Republican State Representative Don Leeman of Rochester (where else?) moved out of the ward that elected him to the legislature, in December. He went back to the House in January and told no one. On February 9, he voted in the NH primary – in his old district – the one he didn’t live in any more. That was noticed. An inquiry began. The House Legislative Administration committee found that he didn’t live in his district any longer; therefore he wasn’t qualified to be a representative any longer. Leeman sauntered in with a note from his new landlord, saying he was moving back into the district he’d vacated months earlier, and Speaker Jasper allowed him to stay. This is the very same Republican Party that continually howls about voter fraud. Yet (as we’ve seen before) when one of their own commits it they get whiplash looking the other way. The Union Leader congratulated Leeman on keeping his seat. The NH Republican Party has forfeited the right to ever say another word about voter fraud in this state.
There are signs of an attempt by residents of some towns to stem the tide of reactionary politics. The towns of Rollinsford, Bow, and Dunbarton all voted against eliminating town meeting in favor of SB2. Rollinsford and Dunbarton both voted against a tax cap. Dunbarton voted to hire a part time clerk. Last year they eliminated the position, and everyone in town got a hard lesson in the reality that there’s a lot more to the job of the town clerk than motor vehicle registrations. My favorite town meeting story this year comes from Dunbarton, where a state legislator was running unopposed for the position of town moderator. The town had a candidate’s night on the Saturday before town meeting. The candidate appeared with his sidearm attached. A voter asked if he’d be moderating with a gun, and he said he always wears it. The people in attendance decided they did not want a moderator at the podium with a gun, so they drafted another candidate, and launched a write-in campaign. The write-in candidate won. JR Hoell lost while running unopposed.
As for what’s going on nationally – President Trump is certainly what we deserve, though I don’t think we’re going to like it very much.
published as an op-ed in the March 18 issue of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper