The Courage of Their Convictions

The Senate Committee has unanimously recommended "OTP" for HB1582!

Action Item: See the speech that initially turned the tide in the House here. Read about why you should oppose REAL-ID in NH here. Read the Manchester Union Leader editorial. Grab flyers with Committee members' contact info here and here. Then get your Senator's contact info here (or start here if you need to determine who your Senator is). Contact your Senator and encourage him or her to follow the House's stirring example and support HB1582. With enough input from the public, it can pass the full Senate next week as well, and soon wind up on Governor Lynch's desk for a signature, to which he has already publicly committed!

See some images from the wildly successful
"No to REAL-ID" Rally at the State House on April 22nd!

And while you're good and steamed, read more about it at Granite State ID and Real Nightmare: "The Real ID Act of 2005 would turn our state driver’s licenses into a genuine national identity card and impose numerous new burdens on taxpayers, citizens, immigrants, and state governments while doing nothing to protect against terrorism. As a result, it is stirring intense opposition from many groups across the political spectrum. ..."


Here's the thrilling NH House story...

It was a quiet day in March, late in the afternoon. Hundreds of Representatives filled their hall in the New Hampshire State House, shifting in their seats, weary after a long day of floor debates and partisanship. Finally the Speaker of the House, Rep. Douglas Scamman announced that the last bill of the day would be considered. House Bill 1582, a bill regarding New Hampshire's participation in the federal REAL ID ACT, would now be considered on floor of the House Chamber.

Months earlier, the bill had been introduced by Rep. Dick Marple, a fiery defender of the Constitution. At the public hearing on the bill, he spoke at great length to the injustice of submitting to a de facto National Identification Card. Others had followed in the same vein, demanding that New Hampshire House follow the lead of Montana’s House, which had also declared that they would not participate in the REAL-ID ACT. The Chair of the Transportation Committee was Rep. Sherman Packard, who likewise declared his hatred of the federal act. But after careful consideration, the committee decided to follow the lead of the Chair, deciding their responsibility lay not in standing up for the rights of our state, but in succumbing to the peer pressure of other states, to grumbily comply for now, with the hope it could be changed later. With only one dissenting vote, they voted overwhelming to recommend ITL ('Inexpedient To Legislate') for HB1582. It was lined up on the Consent Calendar for March, where it sat quietly condemned to death. Hope was fading, but not yet lost.

On March 7th Rep. Dickinson arose in the House Chamber. One of the longest serving Representatives, "Crow," as he was know to his friends, demanded that HB1582 be debated and discussed there in Representative's Hall. And on the following day, late in the afternoon, the moment of truth arrived. Could the citizen legislature of New Hampshire, a state whose very motto declared their commitment to freedom, find the temperament to overturn the committee's near unanimous recommendation?

Now a champion stepped forward. Rep. Neal Kurk, a man with 20 years experience in the legislature, stood up to speak before his peers. First, he graciously acknowledged the hard work of Rep. Packard, who had provided for the assembly specific reasons why it was easiest to go along with this Federal mandate. Then he said, “I rise to ask you to overturn that report."

"There are times, Mr. Speaker, when we must look beyond the mundane and the pragmatic, and take a stand based on our values, and our vision for the state we are, and the kind of state we wish to become. And I believe this is one of those times...."

"I don't believe that the people of New Hampshire elected us to help the Federal Government create a National Identification Card. We care more for our liberties than to meekly hand over to the Federal Government the potential to enumerate, track, identify, and eventually control. But there is a price to be paid for such independence. If we don't participate the REAL-ID system, we will have to use passports or other similar documentation to gain access to federal properties and to use air transportation. If we don't participate in the REAL-ID system, we may lose a 3 million dollar earmark [federal grant] to update our motor vehicle department computers to make them REAL-ID compliant. There is little doubt that both these consequences will impose real burdens on our citizens."

His voice rose. "But I ask you, what price liberty? If I may adapt the words of an American patriot whose resounding sentiments moved the Virginia House of Burgesses to action in 1775,

'It is in vain, Mr. Speaker, to extenuate the matter. Members may cry "Peace!, Peace!," but there is no peace. The war on our civil liberties is actually begun. Will the next gale that sweeps from Washington bring to our ears the sound of Federal boots on the march? Why stand we here idle? What is it that members wish? What would you have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, oh mighty God, I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!'

Our state motto, Mr. Speaker, is equally eloquent, 'Live free or die.'"

"I urge members to overturn the ITL, and pass this bill to protect the liberties, the freedoms, of their friends, their families, their neighbors, and their constituents."

As his words died away, applause thundered through the chamber. At the head of the chamber, the Speaker furiously banged his gavel, demanding the House to come to order, which it did. Now Rep. Packard rose to speak in favor of the motion to kill the bill, repeating that it was best to go along for now, and hope that things would change. Then it came time to vote. Normally, the hundreds seated here would be polled by the sound of their voices. But today, Rep. Dickinson had requested a roll call vote, asking that the individual votes from each representative be recorded and shared with the public. House rules required multiple seconds for a roll call vote, and across the sea of chairs, Representatives stood to signify their approval. Throughout the halls of the State Capitol, the cry of 'Roll Call' echoed. Members hurried to their assigned chairs.

At the announcement from the speaker, the assembled group considered the buttons in front of them. Pressing the green button would signify their willingness to go along with the REAL-ID Act, while the red signaled 'stop' to the growing federal involvement with state matters. Up above in the gallery, concerned citizens watched the forest of lights below, attempting to discern the intention of those who had volunteered to represent them. After thirty seconds, a buzzer sounded.

The Speaker announced the results: 84 votes had been cast in favor of killing the bill. But a resounding 217 had pressed the red button, demanding a stop to federal meddling in the internal affairs of the Live Free or Die State. There were no party lines here; friends of freedom took action on both sides of the aisle. It was a decisive counter attack by the forces of liberty. Rep. Kurk stood again, grinning as he spoke, ready to deliver a finishing blow. "Mr. Speaker," he announced, "I move 'Ought To Pass'."

"All in favor?" called Rep. Scamman.

"Aye!" came an overwhelming response.

"The 'Ayes' have it," the Speaker declared. And it was accomplished. These few hundred men and women, representing hundreds of thousands of free citizens from the Merrimack River Valley to the Atlantic Ocean to the hillside where the Old Man once looked out on us, these representative had taken a stand. This time, Washington D.C. had pushed too far.

We are thankful to the good men and women of the NH House for their actions. But now, in order for HB1582 to move forward, new champions must be found among the Senate. This time, there may be no last minute reprieve. This time, the Senate may decide it is easier to go along with things for now.

The citizens of New Hampshire must take action! We must demand our Senators continue that tradition set forth by Patrick Henry, fight the good fight like General John Stark, and stand up to those who dictate from afar. Just as the Sons of Liberty did in Boston Harbor. Please, don't let this bill die in New Hampshire.

Follow the link above to find your State Senator. I'm asking you, personally, to pick up the phone and call him or her. Ask them to pass HB1582, to refuse to take part in the REAL-ID Act. And let them know that you are watching, and that you expect them to do the right thing. (Remember, it's an election year.) Find out where they stand. Then, tell your friends and neighbors. Print this out and give it to them.

It's always easy to go with the flow. Standing up for what's right, sticking to your principles, is usually harder. But it's worth it. As our Founding Fathers knew, a freedom you have earned tastes even sweeter for your victory.

Joel Winters