For anyone concerned with a lack of transparency in government, last week’s Executive Council meeting should have set off some very, very loud alarms. The 603 Alliance is encouraging you to take action, as outlined toward the end of this article. But first, some background information.
On Wednesday, November 10th, the Governor added a late-breaking item to the Executive Council agenda, calling for the acceptance of $22.5 million in CDC funds to be used for hiring 13 new DHHS employees to promote COVID vaccines. In fact, the Executive Council had already voted to reject the grant… twice.
The manner in which this was brought for a third vote is deeply concerning, and members of the Executive Council owe the people of New Hampshire an explanation.
In case you’re just coming up to speed on this issue, here’s the synopsis:
This federal grant comes with some major strings attached. Grants are generally issued in the form of a legally binding contract. In this case, the grant contract calls for the State of New Hampshire to “comply with existing and/or future directives and guidance from the Secretary regarding control of the spread of COVID-19.” In other words, the acceptance of this money obligates the state to do whatever the US DHHS tells us to do with respect to COVID 19, now or at any point in the future. It’s a blank check; we don’t even know yet what we are committing to.
The Executive Council has previously voted twice to reject this federal COVID money. After the first failed attempt, NH Attorney General John Formella issued a statement assuring all concerned that the grant in fact “does not bind the State to any broad and sweeping federal mandates.” That opinion is plainly contradicted by the language in the contract itself, as cited above. Nevertheless, the Executive Council voted a second time to reject the funds on October 13th. That meeting was notable for the fact that nine members of the public, all of whom appeared to be sitting quietly in their seats, were arrested for allegedly disrupting the meeting.
On November 10th, the Executive Council took a third vote, this time accepting the grant. That acceptance was paired with a non-binding resolution aimed at assuring the public that if the feds do anything we don’t like, we’ll challenge them in court; and that if we subsequently lose in court, the Governor and Executive Council will simply return the grant money (which will already have been spent) to the CDC.
The public was never notified of the upcoming vote taking place at the November 10th meeting. It did not appear as an agenda item, or even as a “late agenda” item. It was added at the last minute, without notice to the public.
Following these events, we believe it’s important to have some answers. Specifically:
- What is the proper legal procedure for adding an agenda item to the Executive Council agenda after the initial agenda has been published?
- Was that legal procedure followed?
- Has there ever been an instance in the past in which an agenda item was added in this way, without any prior notice to the public?
- In the face of contractual language that compels the state to “comply with existing and/or future directives and guidance from the Secretary regarding control of the spread of COVID-19,” how would the resolution passed on November 10th empower the State of NH to do otherwise?
TAKE ACTION: WE CAN STILL STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING.
STEP 1: Contact members of the Executive Council and politely and respectfully ask for clear answers to the four questions above. Their contact information is here. If you get a response, we encourage you to send a copy to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEP 2: This contract still needs to be approved by the Joint Fiscal Committee. Contact them today to voice your opposition to the federal COVID grant. Their next meeting is this Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 at 10:00 AM.
STEP 3: If you can attend Friday’s hearing of the Joint Fiscal Committee, please do so. We would like to see a packed room at the State House for that hearing. Be there if you can. (Tentative location is Room 210-211 of the Legislative Office Building.)
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