In New Development, Governor Virtually Signals That His Powers Supersede Those of the Legislature
EAST DERRY, N.H.—On the heels of the governor’s dismissal of the Legislature for deliberating on what is proper public policy, it has come to light that Gov. Chris Sununu’s unlawful emergency orders have somehow managed to be incorporated into the state statues that are posted on the N.H. General Court website.
“Limited, legitimately exercised power a year ago has become a prolonged abuse of power, and this new development pushes an already unlawful situation into a constitutional crisis,” said Andrew J. Manuse, chairman of RebuildNH. “Whomever is responsible for adding the governor’s unlawful emergency orders to the state’s online law record has improperly elevated them to something they’re not. Emergency orders are not laws, but adding them to the state’s law site misleads the public into thinking that they are, when in fact they are just arbitrary and unconstitutional edicts from the executive branch.”
“Just yesterday, the governor showed his disdain for the Legislative process as it held public hearings on bills that would limit his self-proclaimed unlimited power, and now it seems that the bills cannot be passed soon enough,” said Melissa Blasek, executive director of RebuildNH. “Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents alike should be alarmed by the governor’s brazen hubris and come together to do whatever is necessary to rein-in his abuses of power.”
House committees heard testimony for 11 bills yesterday that would clarify that the governor cannot suspend state law or the constitution and cannot create new policy by emergency order, but none of the bills would be effective until the State of Emergency is lifted. Arguably, it is already unconstitutional for the governor to do this under Part 1, Article 29, which ensures only the Legislature can suspend or enact state law. The governor told WMUR, “These bills would jeopardize our response to COVID-19 and hinder our ability to vaccinate our most vulnerable citizens as fast as possible,” but his statement has absolutely no basis in fact.
Ironically, while the governor is taking shots at legislators for doing their job, someone has managed to manipulate our online statutes to incorporate his unlawful emergency orders, elevating them above our state laws.
“All citizens should be appalled when public policy is being incorporated into state statute without Legislative approval and outside the Constitutional process,” said JR Hoell, treasurer of RebuildNH. “On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the governor’s State of Emergency, the executive branch seems to be moving to lock-in this new, unconstitutional process as our new way of doing things. It is even more critical now that the Legislature takes back its power and reestablishes its proper constitutional role to create public policy.”
In the most startling example of the emergency order references in state statute, view RSA 21-P:47 within the General Court website (you’ll have to scroll down) or view the attached screen shot. This section, duly adopted by the Legislature, creates a misdemeanor penalty for violating an emergency order written by the governor during a State of Emergency. Importantly, a misdemeanor charge can be fought in the Circuit Court, and the accused can confront his accuser and bring his own evidence to support his defense. Directly above this law on the General Court website, the following is now appended: “See Emergency Order #65 … related to the Covid-19 State of Emergency, for potential impact on the terms of this section.” The ellipsis here represents the several updates to emergency orders and executive orders that are also referenced on the state’s online law record.
“The governor has directly violated RSA 21-P:47 by creating his own adjudication process with Emergency Order 65, and now the official state website is implying that the governor’s orders supersede duly passed state law,” Manuse said. “I can’t stress this enough: This should alarm everyone in the state who cares about the rule of law. No governor should ever have this kind of power, regardless of the circumstances. He is claiming the power to write the laws, enforce the laws, and adjudicate the laws without any check on his power.”
Several businesses are currently challenging fines levied by the Attorney General’s office under Emergency Order 52 using the process laid out in Emergency Order 65, which brings them before the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services to appeal their fine. Importantly, the Attorney General is offering hearsay evidence to support the fine and using anonymous accusers, two things not allowed in a misdemeanor trial.
“The people of New Hampshire deserve a fair trial, and they deserve representation in their Legislature,” Manuse said. “If anything, this latest move to normalize the governor’s emergency orders should send shock waves throughout the entire system. It is clear that changes to state law are needed to prevent Gov. Sununu’s abuses of power and the State of Emergency needs to end now to strip this governor of the undue power that he now has. Anything less, and the public liberty is manifestly endangered.”
RebuildNH, also known as ReopenNH, is a PAC made up of concerned individuals devoted to getting New Hampshire back to work through a restoration of balance and reason in state government.