Additional commentary by
(member of the House Petitions & Redress Committee)
last revised November 20, 2012
Here is information on the thirteen petitions submitted to the New Hampshire House's new Petitions & Redress Committee during calendar year 2011.
The 2011 petitions are numbered #1 through #18. #11 was introduced on January 4, 2012. I don't know exactly what happened to Petitions #12, #15, #16 and/or #17.
Until the fall of 2011, these petitions were officially made available to the public (and to legislators, as well) only in hard copy and were not placed anywhere online. To get those documents online I had to scan them and run them through an OCR (optical recognition program) which was a pain in the petition, if you know what I mean. The resulting PDF files were about 20 times bigger than they needed to be.
I am (still, last I heard) a member of the committee, but these web pages and accompanying materials are strictly an unofficial effort. Any opinions are my own.
PDF files of these petitions: I originally had to rescan them from hard copies, so they looked bad and they were 10-20 times bigger than they need to be. I did manage to get searchable text into them, and they could be printed. I was later able to make better PDFs for all of them (except #1, #2 and #5.)
Hudson School District
Elena Katz & Arnold Grodman
Greg and Sarah Clarkson
Frank W. Handibode
David Vandenberg (2012 petition)
(as proposed by House staff on June 2, 2011)
New Hampshire House of Representatives
Redress of Grievances Committee
1. A citizen who has been aggrieved by a government entity may request a legislator to sponsor a petition for redress of grievance. The Sponsor must ascertain the following:
Assurance that complaint is with a government entity and not a private dispute.
Parties aggrieved are in agreement to pursue petition
Relief being sought is something legislature can grant
Parties pursued alternative administrative, judicial or legislative remedies
2. The legislative sponsor shall file a petition drafting request with the Office of Legislative Services which shall include:
Name of petitioner (aggrieved party) including address and government entity including address
Succinct summary of grievance
3 - 5 page description of the issue and description of remedy being sought
3. The completed petition shall be reviewed for acceptance by the Chairman of the Redress of Grievances committee to insure that the petition meets the criteria. After bill deadlines, introduction must be authorized by the House Rules Committee.
4. Upon acceptance of the petition, the following shall occur:
Copies of the petition will be available at the House Sergeant-at-Arms office.
Notice shall be sent to affected parties named in petition.
Petition hearing shall be scheduled in the House Calendar.
Petition shall be posted on the General Court webpage.
3 - 5 page description of the issue and remedy being sought made available to committee members
5. The public hearings shall be convened by the chairman for the following purposes:
Introduction of the petition by the legislative sponsor
Opportunity for the Respondent/affected parties to address the petition
Members of the public to speak to merits of petition
Committee members to inquire about the merits of the petition
6. The committee shall hold an executive session to make the following recommendations to the House:
Grievance Founded with Committee Recommendation
7. The committee is also responsible for furnishing committee findings/report to the full House; minority findings/report is also appropriate.
8. Appropriate remedies recommended by the committee and considered by the full House may include:
Recommendation for removal of public official
Recommendation of invalidation of prior decision/order
Payment to prevailing party
At some point, someone said something about the Redress Committee's work to the Legislative Ethics Committee. They issued a ruling (their first of the 2011-2012 biennium) on June 17th. It was a commonsense ruling— which frankly surprised me a little. We haven't been hearing much commonsense at the New Hampshire House these days.
LEGISLATIVE ETHICS COMMITTEE
The Legislative Ethics Committee has voted unanimously to issue the following interpretive ruling, which is printed below in its entirety.
INTERPRETIVE RULING 2011-#1
(JUNE 17, 2011)
Obligations of Legislators in Connection with Proposed Petitions for the Redress of Grievances
Questions have arisen regarding the obligations of legislators who receive requests from members of the public to present petitions for redress of grievances on their behalf. Specifically, the questions are (1) Whether legislators are obliged to "present" (i.e sponsor) a petition simply at the request of a member of the public; and (2) Whether legislators are obliged to keep the content of a proposed petition confidential prior to its presentation. The Committee has reviewed applicable provisions of the New Hampshire Constitution, statutes, rules, and Ethics Guidelines governing the conduct of legislators in the performance of their duties as such, and interprets them as follows.
1. Obligation to present a petition. No such governing provision requires a legislator to "present" a petition simply because the legislator was requested to do so by a member of the public. On the contrary, as with any matter a legislator may be asked to sponsor, legislators must be free to exercise their best judgment about sponsoring it. As Edmund Burke, a great English legislator of the 18th Century put it: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
2. Obligation to keep confidential the content of a proposed petition. No such governing provision requires a legislator to keep confidential the content of petitions or other legislation the legislator is asked to sponsor by a member of the public, prior to its presentation. In the absence of express agreement by the legislator to hold the information confidential, there is no reasonable expectation that the content of a proposed petition will remain confidential. On the contrary, as with other proposed legislation, legislators should be free to pursue appropriate due diligence to evaluate the merits of a proposal before sponsoring it, which may well involve consultation with third parties about the relevant facts and other considerations.
For the Committee,
Martin L. Gross
I will just mention at this point that I turned down one constituent's request for a petition— on the grounds that his argument didn't make much sense to me. He had one key allegation which was between 99% and 100% false: he alleged that the state's child support laws discriminated against men when they are in fact scrupulously gender-neutral. Another good reason for turning the petition request down was that my constituent blamed the family law system for some dreadful federal tax problems he was having. It turned out that he and his ex-wife were blatantly violating a basic (and not especially incomprehensible) rule regarding which parent gets the deduction after a divorce.
Rep. Kevin Avard interviews Dot Knightly on his TV Show "Speak Up!" (Ms. Knightly originally wrote the questions the AG objected to.)
Official Petitions & Redress committee page (not much to see here)
May 10, 2011 House Rules Committee Minutes (with details of future petitions)
Kevin Avard's "Speak Up!" videos: