Voters going to the polls on Tuesday, November 6, will have three questions, including two amendments to the New Hampshire Constitution, to vote on in addition to choosing candidates. The first proposed amendment, Question 1 on the ballot, would prohibit a state income tax, and the second, Question 2, would allow legislators to write rules for the judiciary branch of state government. Both require a two-thirds majority to become part of the state Constitution.
A vote “No” on Question 1 is not a vote in favor of an income tax but permits a future New Hampshire legislature to consider this source of revenue; a “Yes” vote would prevent all future legislatures from considering an income tax.
Supporters say the amendment will make permanent the state’s long opposition to the income tax. Opponents say tax policy does not belong in the Constitution and that the existing tools of regular elections and the legislative process are better ways to deal with such tax and budget issues.
A “Yes” vote on Question 2, the second proposed amendment, would empower the New Hampshire legislature to set administrative rules for the courts. A “No” vote would leave the balance of power as it is. If passed, the legislature would hold concurrent power with the New Hampshire Supreme Court to write administrative rules governing the court. In the case of a conflict, the legislative statute would prevail.
Supporters in the New Hampshire Legislature say it is a way for the public to hold the courts accountable. Opponents, including the New Hampshire Bar Association, say it is a legislative intrusion by the political legislative branch into the independent and non-political judicial branch that would erode the traditional balance of power among the three branches of state government.
League Of Women Voters
The non-partisan League of Women Voters of New Hampshire has studied both amendments and called them both short-sighted. They recommend a “No” vote on each.
Question 3 asks voters whether to convene a constitutional convention in order to amend the state constitution. The New Hampshire Constitution mandates that this question be asked of the voters every 10 years, and 2012 is the 10th year. Voters last approved a constitutional convention in 1982, which was held in 1984.
According to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Web site:
“The New Hampshire Constitution may be amended in two ways. The Legislature may submit proposed amendments to the Constitution to the people for their approval, or a specially-elected constitutional convention may submit proposed amendments to the people for their approval….
“If a simple majority of the voters who vote on [Question 3] vote “Yes,” the 2013 Legislature will set a time for election of delegates to the convention. Delegates will then be elected in the same manner and in the same number as the members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
“Should the voters elect to hold a convention, delegates may, by a three-fifths vote, propose amendments to the Constitution. However, just like proposals for amendments made by the Legislature, such amendments only become effective if they are adopted at a later election by two-thirds of the voters.”