Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham); November 22, 2011
(I wrote this because I was planning to testify before the House Special Committee on Educational Funding on the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving, November 22, 2011. But then the White House called me and invited me to see President Obama in Manchester. So I choose to attend that event instead, and I emailed this testimony.)
I would like to register my opposition to the proposed amendment to CACR 14.
Firstly, the process by which this amendment was introduced is grossly flawed. The Governor asked for the introduction of a CACR similar to this amendment, but he and the Executive Council did not call for a special session. The members of the legislature did not call for one either, which could have been done using a procedure outlined in RSA 16. It is unconstitutional and a violation of House rules to take up new business during the legislative "offseason" (i.e, the second half of the calendar year.) It is especially improper to use a tabled bill which has not been taken off the table yet as the vehicle for a new legislative proposal.
There is no good reason why this matter cannot be taken up at the proper time during the upcoming second-year session. There certainly is no time pressure: the only time the people of our state can vote on Constitutional Amendments is at the biennial General Election. Regardless of whether we pass a CACR this year or next, the people don't get to vote on it till November 6, 2012.
Secondly, the proposed amendment undermines the authority of the judiciary and executive branches, and makes a mockery of one of the most important sections of the Constitution, Part II, Article 83. It empowers the legislature to pass unconstitutional educational-funding legislation while preventing the executive branch from challenging it and the judiciary from overturning it. This sets a very dangerous precedent.
Thirdly, the proposed amendment is designed to perpetuate the current gross inequities in our educational system, which is funded almost entirely by the property tax. Things are bad enough now, where property tax rates can be three or four times as high in one town (for example, my town, Durham) as in another (for example, Newington, which borders Durham) We take this discrepancy for granted, but it is unfair and it makes little sense— just like it would be unfair and senseless for the Durham House of Pizza to charge a 9% rooms and meals tax while the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant on the other side of the bay only charges 3%.
Things are bad enough now, when there are no uniform standards for valuing properties, and where each town has to pay for its own assessors and tax collectors.
Things are bad enough now, where families in our less affluent communities are denied the basic educational opportunities taken for granted by those in the more affluent communities. But things will be even worse if this amendment passes.
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House Petition #9: The Handibode Petition (about property tax assessments)
Speaker O'Brien & Governor Lynch