Just one week after NHJournal first broke the news of their plans, seven NHGOP lawmakers are dropping efforts for an impeachment resolution against Gov. Chris Sununu.
Instead, they’ll shift gears and aim to change the underlying law that granted the popular Republican emergency powers in the first place.
“By enacting meaningful reform to the emergency powers [law], we can ensure that even in our most trying crises our Constitutional form of government, with checks and balances, stays intact,” Melissa Blasek (R-Merrimack) told NHJournal.
Last week, Blasek and 6 other GOP House members co-sponsored a resolution that would allow an investigation into Sununu over his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For more than eight months [the emergency powers] law has been abused — there’s no question — but we can accomplish the most good by reforming the law being abused,” Rep. Scott Wallace (R-Danville) said. Wallace, who co-sponsored last week’s impeachment resolution, called the existing law “a clear problem for our republic.”
Sununu’s handling of the pandemic earned broad bipartisan approval through the first eight months — which also translated into votes on November 3. Sununu won more votes than any statewide candidate in New Hampshire history, and the highest percentage for Governor since Governor Lynch earned a staggering 73.5 percent in 2006.
In recent weeks, Attorney General MacDonald stepped up enforcement of Sununu’s Emergency Orders — citing multiple businesses with violations. Sununu then issued a mask-mandate one week after saying he had no plans to do so.
“Our small businesses are hurting. Our communities are hurting. Our families are hurting,” said Rep. David Binford (R-Bath).
“This pandemic should be a time we work together as a community. Instead, the governor has chosen to pit neighbor against neighbor and pit the government against the people it’s allegedly attempting to ‘help.’”
“We will be seeking legislative relief for any business fined for failure to follow these emergency orders,” added Rep. Kevin Verville (R-Deerfield). “We will continue to hold Governor Sununu accountable on overreaching emergency orders, including the destructive fines levied by his administration through Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.”
Andrew Prout, a Hudson Representative, was the prime sponsor and architect of the impeachment investigation resolution. Despite dropping the effort, Prout is optimistic about the chances to amend the laws in question.
“The new legislature begins this week,” said Prout. “We will immediately get to work to protect our citizens, our businesses, and our vulnerable. One of New Hampshire’s strengths is that it has 430 elected state officials making sure the whole picture is seen and we get things right.”
Prout insists the impeachment investigation wasn’t personal, but rather a response to a broken process.
“It’s completely predictable that one overworked person issuing orders according to the crisis of the day would be a failure. That’s why the Democrats put Governor Sununu in that position, and he took the bait instead of calling on the Legislature to do our job. The new Republican majority won’t do that. It’s time for Governor Sununu to realize reinforcements have arrived.”
That’s how Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) sees the issue as well.
“Hinch, unlike Speaker Shurtleff, will not abdicate legislative duties to the executive branch. We will do our jobs, where the previous Democrat majority chose not to,” Sylvia explained. “With a Speaker Hinch at the helm, we have full faith that the House of Representatives will assert its constitutional role moving forward. Speaker Hinch and Leader Osborne have our full faith and trust at this time to ensure the proper role of the House is not ignored.”
The governor’s office did not respond to requests from NHJournal for comments on this story.