HART'S LOCATION — Local Democratic state representatives denounced libertarian Republicans and their "wackadoodle bills" during a virtual forum that drew about 40 people on April 1.
Thursday's Zoom-based event was called "Ask Your State Reps anything." Hosted by former state rep. Ed Butler (D-Harts Location), it featured representatives Anita Burroughs (D-Bartlett) Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom), Chris McAleer (D-Jackson) and Steve Woodcock (D-Conway).
Burroughs and Knirk referred to some partisan Republican bills as "wackadoodle," although Woodcock later said he didn't like the term "wackadoodle" because most of the lawmakers who file bills are sincere in their intent.
Burroughs specifically referenced HB 544 “relative to the propagation of divisive topics,” of which Rep. Glenn Cordelli of Tuftonboro was one sponsor.
She said the bill would limit free speech and is unconstitutional.
According to the Concord Monitor, HB 544 aims to "limit public schools, organizations or state contractors from discussing topics related to racism and sexism, and would specifically ban teaching that the state of New Hampshire or the U.S. is racist or sexist."
Knirk noted that an amendment that could hurt the governor's ability to respond to the pandemic was put in the state budget and Gov. Chris Sununu said the budget process was going 'off the rails."
"Last year, we were unhappy with Sununu vetoing so many bills because they were our bills," said Knirk. "This time, we're looking to have him as our savior to save us from all these wackadoodle bills that he's not fond of either."
Attendee Chuck Brooks asked for clarification on what Sununu meant by "the budget going off the rails."
Butler replied that some provisions stuffed into the bill would take away the governor's emergency powers.
“The House budget process has gone completely off the rails,” Sununu was quoted as saying recently. “They passed a budget that is not fiscally balanced and packed with non-budgetary items that have no place in HB 2. Nevertheless, we trust the Senate will do the right thing and pass a final budget that is fiscally sound while delivering tax cuts for the people of N.H.”
Brooks asked the legislators if they felt that the "Free State Project," a group of Republicans who sought to move to New Hampshire, were successful in their effort to "colonize" the Granite State.
"Right now the Republican Party in some ways is being commandeered by the right wing, including the Free Staters," said Burroughs. "It's just kind of startling how many of them won elections this time.
Mount Washington Valley Republicans Chairman Steven Steiner asked about abortion as well as about student voting rights.
He asked whether the Democrats would sanction letting a pregnant woman "kill" her 5-month-old fetus.
Burroughs replied "absolutely not" if the baby was viable.
Knirk added that abortions at that stage are extremely rare and happen as a result of serious medical complications such as severe deformity that would render the baby non-viable anyway.
Earlier in the event, Knirk spoke about a bill that would force parents and doctors to keep alive babies with fatal defects.
"If a baby is born with anencephaly, the lack of a brain and most of the head, which is incompatible with life, that baby will be snatched from their mother's arms and placed on a ventilator rather than letting the mother hold her new infant during its last minutes," said Knirk.
The Sun noted asked the Democratic lawmakers how they plan to win over voters in 2022.
"I actually think that the people of New Hampshire are going to be both surprised and dismayed at some of the bills that have been passed" by the Republican-majority Legislature, said Burroughs, adding, "I'm feeling that this is going to help move the electorate back towards the Democrats in New Hampshire in 2022."
McAleer seemed to share that opinion.
"When people realize that the wool has been pulled over their eyes, I think we're going to be in a much better position," he noted.
Knirk said next election, Democrats need to switch up their style of campaigning if they hope to do well. Republicans knocked on doors while Democrats weren't doing as much face-to-face interaction due to the pandemic.
"At our level, particularly the state representatives, you have got to get out there and talk to people," said Knirk.
"We didn't do this. And I think that's a real loss. And I think that's one of the reasons that we did not do well in the these lower ballot races."