As the era of mandated COVID-19 restrictions comes to a close today in New Hampshire, it is important to recognize that the threat to our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms remains within the executive branch so long as the governor’s declared and extended state of emergency continues to be renewed.
For more than a year, we have lived under a system of government that would horrify our founders; one in which a single man has claimed the authority to do whatever he pleases without any oversight. The chief executive has violated the N.H. Constitution on numerous occasions and the Superior Court has opined that this is lawful.
As James Madison wrote, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
It is not our primary concern that one man with unlimited authority has abused his power, but whether we are satisfied with a government that rules without the checks and balances our Constitution sets up to ensure that the best decisions are made. Our elected leaders in the Legislature were delegated the authority to pass laws, not the executive. The wisdom of 425 elected men and women who deliberate what is just law provides protection to the population against the whims and thoughts of one person. Power corrupts, which is why we have these checks, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this is the threat of our current state of New Hampshire government so long as the state of emergency continues.
To date, Governor Chris Sununu has issued 90 emergency orders that are assumed to have the color of law, despite several of them being clearly unlawful. That is 90 orders that he has made only with guidance from unelected bureaucrats and without the authority of the Legislature. That is 90 orders issued by decree for over a year.
Emergency authority is meant to be used in only the most limited and stringent of circumstances, and only for a short time period. There is no justification for emergency powers that last for more than a year.
We have fought wars while viruses raged through the army camps without such unlimited authority granted to the executive branch, and yet today, we have allowed a treatable virus to devolve our precious Republic into authoritarian rule. New Hampshire is not unique; 48 states are in an active state of emergency. Such laws were not created to manage an endemic virus; they were meant to oversee short-term situations such as a hurricane, a terrorist attack, or a toxic spill. Lawmakers never intended their state of emergency statutes to be twisted to create the perverted form of government we are now living under.
As we face the biggest constitutional crisis of our lifetime, Governor Sununu insists he needs to retain emergency powers to receive the rest of the federal aid and stimulus money. As I’ve previously written, this is simply not true other than the exception of the temporarily expanded food-stamp program. Other stimulus money was not written with the stipulation that the state must have an active state of emergency, and because the United States is under a national state of emergency, New Hampshire can continue to receive FEMA aid. One only needs to look to Michigan or Alaska as evidence, since both states are no longer in states of emergency, and they are still receiving federal aid to manage the COVID-19 aftermath. This begs the question: Is Governor Sununu unaware of the details of federal statutes, or does he simply want to retain his unbridled power?
Today, the N.H. The legislature is working to reform the state of emergency laws and create safeguards from future abuses of government. And while this work is important in itself, it does not solve our current predicament. The Legislature must continue to fight to end the state of emergency, despite the emergency orders expiration today to restore the full functioning Republic that our Constitution calls for. It is time to ponder whether this Legislature will have the courage to restore the Constitutional Republic that has been shredded in the name of a false and perceived sense of safety right before our eyes or become the accomplice to the death of the New Hampshire Republic. The pivotal time to make that choice is today.
Melissa Blasek is executive director of RebuildNH, which is also known as ReopenNH, a grassroots group devoted to restoring the rule of law and rebuilding the economy and a state representative from Merrimack.