Where the Heck is My Damn Lobbyist? (HB 1342) - Granite Grok

Where the Heck is My Damn Lobbyist? (HB 1342)

New Hampshire HB 1342 would prohibit towns and cities from using your tax dollars to hire a lobbyist to send to Concord.  This seems like a pretty good idea to me.   But not to the Committee which rejected it 12-2 sending it to the House floor as Inexpedient to Legislate. (It gets voted on tomorrow.)

I’m a bit puzzled by that.  I had this crazy idea that our selectman, town manager, mayors, or councilors (and bureaucrats galore) are already elected for the purpose of representing our interests.   We also have at a minimum,  two representatives in the actual legislature, one State Senator and one or more House reps, who exist to (what was that again?) represent our interests?   Why would we want to pay an additional third party lobbyist with more tax dollars, to lobby the legislature for our municipality?

As it turns out, House Rep Betsey L. Patten (R- Carroll 04), who appears to be an otherwise outstanding Republican Representative (speaking for the majority) had an answer for me that I didn’t much care for.

Excerpted from the NH House Record

“…to get information stating each viewpoint would we now expect our officials and employees to travel to Concord to testify on each issue or are we advocating that the state and municipal voices be no longer heard?”

But wait one damn minute Betsey!  Isn’t that what I have to do?  Every time I want to testify, I have to take a day off from work, probably lose pay, and bear the cost to travel back and forth to Concord, so that my viewpoint could be heard; particularity if mine differed from my taxpayer-funded-by-state-legislative mandate, Municipal lobbyist.

How unfair is that?  Is the majority on this bill saying that my not having my own lobbyist could be a violation of my right to free political speech or redress of grievances?   That my viewpoint can no longer be heard?  There’s a thought.  I have never testified, and it is because I just can’t  miss work.   They have this thing about me showing up, and I really do need the money.  And if you are correct, then my speech is being suppressed.  So where the heck is my damn lobbyist?

Or does the majority mean to suggest that duly elected officials should get special consideration?   That the legislature should protect their right to freely spend more taxpayer dollars, to hire an additional person(s), to express the “municipal point of view,” so that people who may have actually been elected for that purpose, won’t have to engage in the political process like some lowly, knuckle-dragging taxpayer?

Sounds a bit elitist, eh?

Here’s another thought.    Couldn’t we easily argue that this “municipal voices thing” is part of the actual job of representing the interests of the people who elected them, for which we are probably already paying them?

Someone elected you to represent them.  Do you need a lobbyist to represent you.  How about everyone else on the committee as well?   How about the whole damn New Hampshire House? Is that where this is headed?  You mean we could just pay lobbyists to do this stuff?

Having elected town officials speak for their town does seem a bit old fashioned.  But then town officials who felt inclined to abuse that part of their job description with a few too many day-trips, could be easily brought back into line of simply removed from office by local taxpayers.  That’s a little thing I like to call local control, something that–if we had more of it–would probably mean even fewer trips to Concord to make sure everyone’s “viewpoint was represented.”  Just think.  Fewer lobbyists.  Or do you like lobbyists?

And what if my town hire’s a lobbyist to lobby for things I am against?  Are Republicans now going to claim the state has the right to mandate that towns use taxpayer dollars to lobby for things we might be against?  Can the state also use our tax-dollars for abortions, free contraception, or (as Rep Burt pointed out), why not publicly funded campaign contributions?  Would you like to make me finance a few Democrat campaigns?  Hope not.  Is there a waiver program for this?  Waivers ar so popular these days.  I’d like a waiver please.

And are we, Betsey, really putting free speech at risk?  Do you mean to suggest that passing HB 1342 advocates silencing anyone?  This is New Hampshire.

You know what else? Twenty-first century speech is very dynamic.  We connect in ways the founders never imagined.  I have email.  We have PC’s, Facebook, Web sites, Skype.  I own a phone that I carry around with me.  So does almost everyone else.   Town officials and employees have phones.  Taxpayers are paying for some of them but they are not paying for mine.  So connecting doesn’t seem like it would be an issue. Getting heard is easier than it has ever been.  But I am to believe that with 400 House reps, two dozen State Senators, and thousands of elected town officials, that there is no official process for getting an opinion or position expressed and or onto the official record unless we all travel to Concord or hire a lobbyist?

We’re going to need more parking in Concord and a very forgiving approach to personal days, state wide.

Here is something else that troubles me.  Why would we, as Republicans, want to argue that a taxpayer-supported government hiring lobbyists with more taxpayer dollars, to lobby other parts of the government, presumably for more taxpayer dollars, is the only way to ensure every viewpoint is advocated?  That makes no sense to me.  Neither does forcing taxpayers to pay for a speech right to which they are not themselves entitled.

Every time a taxpayer in New Hampshire wants to testify, many have to take a day off from work, or leave their business, and risk losing losing income, to travel back and forth to Concord, so that their viewpoint can be heard.   Why must you insist that, given all the representation we already have, that taxpayers should have to pony up for lobbyists, on top of everything else?