Along with Rep. Horrigan's January 9, 2012 response
and some other stuff
additional commentary by Rep. Timothy Horrigan; January 15, 2012
On January 6, a somewhat threatening letter went out over the signature of House Petitions & Redress Committee chair Paul Ingbretson. Its voice just doesn't sound like his voice to me. I think someone from the Speaker's Office wrote it for him:
January 6, 2012
Dear Representative Horrigan:
After thinking we had an understanding it is greatly disturbing to have heard further complaints from petitioners before the Redress of Grievance Committee regarding what they believe is an attempt to disparage, intimidate, or influence the results of their petitions. As you know one petitioner indicated that she withdrew her petition entirely because of your postings. Now, having been forwarded your recent internet postings, I can understand their frustration. Because this Committee depends more than most on the need for its members to appear and to, ideally, remain objective I am going to ask that you terminate the public critiques of our citizens who are making use of the petition process and their petitions. Failing that I will request that the Speaker remove you to another committee per my authority in the Rules of the House. This is the only warning I will be giving.
On one level, I see where my chairperson is coming from; but on another I find this totally baffling. In 2011, our committee received 13 petitions. We took dispositive action only on Petition #1, and even then we waited an inordinately long time. We found out within the first 10 minutes of the hearing that the ostensible sponsor (the Hudson School District) had not in fact asked the sponsor to bring in the petition. It was probably illegal for us to even be considering this petition. The petition also had some major factual and logical flaws. But the hearings still continued for two or three hours, and the chair allowed the committee to take a vote only after the House Counsel came in at a later meeting and stated the obvious (i.e., that this was a very bad petition.)
The petition which was withdrawn is apparently Petition #7, filed by Denise-Marie McIntosh of Nashua. My take on the situation is that there was a mixup with her sponsor, and he for whatever reason filed something almost identical to her 2010 petition (which was Petition #1.) She was expecting something significantly different to be filed, and when she saw the 2011 petition on my website, she jumped to the conclusion that I deliberately falsified the text of the petition to discredit her. Ironically, I liked the petition she didn't get filed for 2011 better than the petitions which actually were filed on her behalf.
The rules about petitions are unclear, but presumably they are one of several legislative vehicles which fall under the rubric of "resolutions." The way I read the rules, in the New Hampshire House, resolutions (just like bills) cannot be withdrawn once the committee gets them: they can only be killed by having a hearing and sending it back to the full House with a recommendation such as "Inexpdient to Legislate." There have in fact been two hearings on Petition #7, the first one lasting about 10 minutes (devoted entirely to lambasting me) and another one for which no witnesses at all showed up.
I sent the following response on January 7, 2012 by email to Rep. Ingbretson as well as the Speaker and the Minority Leader. The vote I refer to was on the proposed constitutional amendment CACR 11 "Relating to terms for state judges. Providing that all state judges be commissioned for renewable 5-year terms." 159 Republicans and 1 Democrat (me) voted for it, which was 79 short of the 239 votes needed to get it passed:
Chairman Ingbretson (who is a very nice man) was apologetic when I saw him at the weekly session day: he wants me to be able to stay on the committee. He referred specifically to a letter which I sent one Michael Brewster (the complainant behind 2011 House Petition #3) back in October 2011. In retrospect I can see why Mr. Brewster would have preferred a different response from me.
Petition 1: ostensible grievance of the voters of the Hudson School District (filed by Rep. Lars Christiansen without an actual vote from either the voters or the school board)
Official Petitions & Redress committee page (not much to see here)