What's more, the importance of balancing responsibilities and rights is exactly why our Constitution enumerates specific rights. The Framers sought to ensure that these rights would not be obliterated by the kinds of "responsibilities" that too many majorities have imposed upon minorities throughout history.
Other Democrats have suggested the CLDA is overly broad. They emphasize the definition of "civil liberties" in the bill refers to "any guarantee against… an imposition, intrusion, fine, punishment, or penalty." But this reading is incomplete. The rest of the definition makes clear that it only includes guarantees provided by "the New Hampshire bill of rights [or] the United States Constitution" under binding law.
If Democrats think protecting all civil liberties is excessively broad, they must believe there are certain rights that a governor must be able to suspend. But which rights are these?
Look over the Bill of Rights and decide for yourself: which rights are essential in times of emergency and which should we deem expendable? For example, should we protect freedom of speech, but allow future governors to suspend the right to "public trial, by an impartial jury?"
And don't forget about the New Hampshire Constitution. Should we protect the Article 22 right to "Liberty of the press," but let governors suspend the requirement that "All elections are to be free"? Critics of HB 440 have not told us which rights should be off-limits to suspension and which rights are optional.
Less than two decades ago, a large faction of Democrats stood with libertarians in defending civil liberties. Now that Democrats have an increasingly firm grip on the federal government, this faction has fallen conveniently silent. Last week's vote is an important reminder that—even at the state level—many Democrats are rapidly becoming reflexive and brazen supporters of authoritarian power.
State Rep. Matthew Simon, who gave a floor speech in favor of the CLDA, called upon the House to think about the future. "We don't know what the future holds, or what kind of person will wield emergency powers," he said. "I ask that you shore up our constitutional defenses during a state of emergency so that the responsibility for any potential future abuses will not rest upon our shoulders."
The CLDA is now before the New Hampshire Senate. Call your state Senator and ask him or her to support HB 440 as passed by the House.
Ian Huyett is the General Counsel and Director of Policy at Cornerstone, a Christian advocacy group in New Hampshire.
This story was originally published by the NH Journal, an online news publication dedicated to providing fair, unbiased reporting on, and analysis of, political news of interest to New Hampshire. For more stories from the NH Journal, visit NHJournal.com.