The New Hampshire Community Rights Network
Informing and empowering communities and elected officials about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social and environmental justice, including the rights of nature.
Many have the impression that New Hampshire, with its town meeting form of local governance, is closest to what this nation’s Founding Fathers envisioned and experienced when they spoke of “local democracy.” Here, like nowhere else, people participate directly in governing – in practice, not just in concept. Every citizen is a local legislator at a town meeting.
Yet as Granite State citizens have discovered when they’ve endeavored to adopt local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare by curtailing the application of sewage sludge on farmlands, corporate water withdrawals and privatization, fossil fuel pipeline infrastructure, unsustainable green-energy projects, toxic waste dumping, and water contamination, local democratic control has been stripped away by the combined effort of legislators who adopt corporate-lobbied laws, and the courts that uphold them. The current structure of law and government in New Hampshire makes it perfectly legal for commercial and industrial projects that residents consider to be dangerous to human and natural communities, to operate in neighborhoods despite community opposition. Industrial-scale commercial operations are all decided by State regulations that legalize corporate harms to the community.
People who are involved with the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) have recognized this system as illegitimate and unjust. The work of the NHCRN is to assert fundamental rights and drive state constitutional changes that liberate local community self-government from such systemic constraints.
It was during the 2016 New Hampshire Legislative Session that for the first time in the U.S., a legislative committee heard testimony on a proposed state constitutional Community Rights Amendment. Presently, our state legislative framework is being used to favor corporate privilege and deny Community Rights. Oppressive control of this framework by commercial and property interests, subordinates the rights of community members and natural environments and subjects them to harm.
The proposed NH Community Rights state constitutional amendment, advanced by the NHCRN, recognizes the authority of people in towns throughout the state to enact local rights-based laws protecting individual and communities’ rights. It empowers people to use their local governing authority to protect the health, safety, and welfare of both humans and natural environments. It removes communities’ vulnerability to state and corporate power, safeguarding them from corporate exploitation, as well as state preemption and oppression at the hands of the very government that is charged to protect them.
The NH Community Rights amendment received bi-partisan sponsorship during multiple NH Legislative Sessions and it received support from a legislative subcommittee with a recommendation of “ought-to-pass” in 2018. During its debate on the House floor, the Amendment received support from one-third of the body present and voting – more than halfway to the required three-fifths majority needed for advancement to the state Senate.
Until the people of New Hampshire demand that the State liberate local law-making to prevent our communities from being used as mere resource colonies for profit, we will continue to fight every battle in a vacuum, while being denied the authority we believe we have, subject to a corporate-driven agenda.
The NH Community Rights Amendment will be reintroduced as many times as it takes to pass it. We know from prior people’s movements that fundamental change takes persistent, unrelenting pressure. As corporate threats grow in the Granite State, more communities are joining the Community Rights movement.