By Max Ledoux
Gov. Sununu is drunk with power. When asked on March 2 by NHPBS’s Melanie Plenda about legislation pending in the NH house of representatives that would limit a governor’s emergency powers, Sununu laughed maniacally and said, “No.”
In a press conference on March 11, in which he beneficently allowed his subjects to begin performing karaoke, Sununu said, “We are still keeping the mask mandate at this time.” (Yes, you have to wear a mask when singing karaoke.) His justification? “I keep repeating the very clear data point that virtually no one in the state has the traditional flu.”
The flu is not why Sununu seized power from the legislature and began rewriting statutes and overriding the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions.
His supposed justification was COVID. Not the flu.
If the legislature does not end the baseless state of emergency and reform the state-of-emergency law, then Sununu’s abuse of power will never end. Until he jumps to the US Senate, that is.
Future governors — and some will be Democrats — will have Sununu’s reign of terror as a model. What’s to stop a future Democrat governor from declaring a state of emergency and ordering the confiscation of guns?
Sound far-fetched? Hardly. Sununu has violated the First Amendment, why wouldn’t a Democrat violate the Second?
Sununu unconstitutionally limited the number of people who could attend church, condescended to instruct free New Hampshire residents how many people could hang out in a group, and even purported to have the authority to tell you whether you should leave your own home or not.
Obliterating the First Amendment was not enough for Sununu. He has sent law enforcement into private property — “including . . . without the consent of the property owner,” in the words of his Emergency Order 65 — to enforce his mask mandate, a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
A Democrat governor could — will, likely — use Sununu’s game plan to negate the right, supposedly protected by both the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions, to keep and bear arms.
The flu is never going away. Neither is COVID. So Sununu will never relinquish his power so long as he is governor. Will we allow him to order us to wear masks year-round forevermore? Only the legislature can restore the balance of power and free the people from Sununu’s oppressive, arbitrary, and capricious edicts. And by the way, if you want to wear a mask year-round forevermore, then go ahead. You can. You don’t need the governor to tell you what to do.
The legislature should immediately pass HCR2, which would end Sununu’s invalid and mission-creeped state-of-emergency declaration.
Sununu claims that the state of emergency allows the state to receive federal funds. That is a lie. The CARES Act and other federal legislation having to do with COVID are not contingent on a state of emergency at the state level. Other federal relief is available to states based on the current national state of emergency declared by President Trump a year ago. Furthermore, New Hampshire wouldn’t need federal aid if Sununu would take his boot off the neck of businesses and individuals who just want to open up and get to work.
In addition to ending the state of emergency, the legislature should modify RSA 4:45, the statute that Sununu used to seize power.
Currently, the governor can declare a state of emergency for 21 days. Then the governor can extend the state of emergency for another 21 days. Sununu has extended the current state of emergency every 21 days for an entire year.
There are legitimate reasons to declare a state of emergency, and the governor should have the ability to quickly react to dire crises. However, the power to extend the state of emergency should not rest with the individual who declared the state of emergency and who wields extra-constitutional power during the state of emergency.
The legislature should amend RSA 4:45 so that the governor may declare an initial state of emergency for 21 days, after which only the legislature, by a two-thirds vote, may extend the state of emergency for an additional 21 days. If it’s a genuine emergency, then the legislature will extend the declaration.
In the Live Free or Die state, of all places, our default position must always be freedom, not tyrannical declarations of emergency without end by a governor acting like a dictator.
Max Ledoux is a Republican voter in New Hampshire.