Consider it settled. Debating at the grown-ups table, at least for the remainder of the 2012 session of the New Hampshire House, will not be misconstrued as “bullying.” HB 1533, an Act to turn heated State House debate you disagree with into a crime punishable with up to a $2500.00 fine, was killed 224-78. (That’s right cry-babies, I said Killed!)
While the biggest goof with the Boo-Hoo Towel bill should have been Rep. Susan Emerson (:-( – Rindge) using the legislative process to get even after “somewun hurt her feewings,” there are two greater embarrassments that I believe must take precedence.
The first, and lesser of the two, are the 97 co-sponsors the bill was reported to have had back in January of this year. I’m no Sheldon Cooper but 78 is about 20% less than 97. I’m not even sure where that number came from, although even Reuters has used it.
This is important because there are more than 78 cry-baby Democrats in the House, and easily another dozen cry baby progressive (r)republicans. Did they all see the bill coming and decide it was a great time to check out former NH House Speaker Terie Norelli’s $70,000.00 dollar bathroom remodel, or to fetch a refreshing beverage? And did they do it for the right reasons? (Which brings us to the second and greater embarrassment.)
The biggest problem with this off-Broadway failure was something I articulated on January 20th, in “Order Your Susan Emerson Commemorative Boo-Hoo Towels Today.”
This bill does not fix that problem (of Bullying), no bill could. What it does do is create an atmosphere built on tension and self imposed censorship, where healthy debate and disagreement becomes almost impossible without fear of being branded a bully backed up by the threat of a $2500.00 fine (per incident) and the stigma of criminal proceedings.
Intentionally or not, and it makes no difference which, Emerson’s HB 1533 would intimidate speech. Speech in the New Hampshire House would be defined by those who don’t just decide what civility is but do so arbitrarily, based on a wheel of emotional misfortune, where only the victims are the arbiters of intent. The accused would no longer have any say in what they themselves meant, and those with political ambitions or grudges, and the worst sort of character, could frame or discredit opponents at will. And yes, it would happen.
This puts Emerson’s effort in the same league with the Sullivan/Hassan silence small business/anti-free-speech bill that John Lynch was willing to sign and the Democrat majority almost passed into law.
While Rep Emerson probably wasn’t trying to silence speech as a policy goal, her (presumed) inability to grasp that potential is a critical failure in judgment. And this instructs us as to the danger of a process that permits people to throw caution to the wind based on some transient emotional moment, thinking that the side effects are irrelevant.
But then that is why we have 400 House reps. To make it more difficult to push legislation through. And while the left still pines for a smaller professional legislature, if we had had one, the Republicans might have gotten everything they wanted. (Democrats and Emerson have a lot in common. That might be why they were all willing to support her to be House Speaker.)
It is a shame there is no roll call vote posted for this. I’d really like to know who the 78 House reps are who voted to save HB 1533. I think the people of New Hampshire deserve to know who those folks are.