Political Conversation is Alive and Well in Andover

By Kent Hackmann

Letters in the May and June issues highlight two contrasting political positions. 


On the moderate Democratic side, Ken Wells reported in May on his legislative activity in the New Hampshire General Court.  He has a clear commitment to measures that benefit all of us. I highlight three:

  • Funding for education to reverse the many years of downshifted costs to the towns. 
  • Local property tax relief.
  • Support for mental health, addressing the opioid crisis, and support for women and children’s services.


In June, Wells gave an informative description of his specific role on the Science, Technology, and Energy committee.  To that group he brought his valuable professional knowledge of theoretical and applied science as well as his ability to explain complex matters to lay persons.   He also described the process of public hearings that included input from concerned citizens to paid lobbyists. (I am personally concerned about the role of the latter, especially those funded by the infamous “dark money.”) 


In all I judge his two reports informative and educational.  They suggest an understanding of New Hampshire’s needs and a vision for the state’s future.


Letters from Louise Andrus and Steven Bowers voice the “Live Free or Die” Republican side.


In her May letter, Andrus recalls General John Stark’s famous toast in 1809. The liberals and radicals of the French Revolution of 1789 had already popularized the “Live Free or Die” motto.  I wonder whether the legislators had the French radicals and the reign of terror in mind when the state adopted it as its official motto in 1945, 136 years after the toast.


Her June letter references the New Hampshire State Constitution’s two parts, the Bill of Rights, which guarantees fundamental rights, and the form of government. The writer suggests that legislation in the current session creates, in her view, the slow erosion of “our freedoms,” that is, those set out in the Bill of Rights, with the result that new laws will “control us.” 


Andrus then recites, as she did in her May letter, the voting record of David Karrick and Ken Wells on 25 house bills and 10 senate bills.  The tabulation of the votes shows that both legislators were consistent in voting on issues about which Andrus has strong views.


The editorial liberty that Andrus takes in describing the pieces of legislation is worrisome because they are so off the mark.  Three random examples illustrate my concerns.


HB564, she wrote, “will change our State forever” and that the bill was for “protecting criminals by disarming law-abiding citizens.”  That hyperbole, I suggest, is greatly misleading because HB 564 simply prohibits carrying a firearm on school property. 


I want safe schools.  At the 2017 Andover town meeting, parents and others were genuinely worried about school safety and some called for funding a school resource officer at AEMS.  I voted with the town to remodel the school for greater security, particularly against outside threats. HB 564 is one measure to protect the school. 


HB 2-FN-A, according to Andrus, created “an income tax, and new taxes on capital gains, vaping, and sports betting; increasing business taxes.” 


I cannot find an income tax in any of the bill’s 109 clauses “relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.”  HB 2 is actually the NH House budget bill for everything except Capital items. HB 2 is the legislation that goes to the Senate and then to conference to iron out differences before being sent to the Governor. 


HB 696, which she describes as “creating a guilty until proven innocent standard.”  I wonder what she is talking about because the Act establishes a protective order for vulnerable adults.  The bill seems to have nothing to do with guilt or innocence.


Under the banner of “Live Free or Die” seems to be a fear that legislation will cause us to “lose control” by restricting our right to carry a gun on school property or our freedom from  income and other taxes, and by limiting our freedom in various ways. I understand the strong partisan views on guns and taxes. I also understand that some people daily live in fear.


I prefer a more positive view grounded in the notion that as a citizen in the state I enjoy the blessings of liberty as well as rights and responsibilities.  One of the latter is defending the Constitution against all enemies, which I did actively years ago as an Air Defense Artillery (missiles) officer. Another is taking part in the political process by voting.  A third is paying taxes, especially for schools and public services that are essential for the health of the community. 




Kent Hackmann

Andover, NH