Kuster Helps Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance System

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Democracy for All Amendment would restore state and federal authority to limit money in political campaigns

Ann kuster head shot LGWASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), has helped introduce a constitutional amendment that would reform the campaign finance system by giving Congress and state governments the right to pass legislation to limit the influence of money in federal elections. H. J. Res. 119, the Democracy for All Amendment, would largely overturn the controversial Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC., which ruled that corporations and Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts of money to benefit political campaigns.

“The Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme court decisions made a bad situation much worse by opening the floodgates for even more outside spending and undue influence on our elections,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “For our democratic government to be truly accountable and responsive to the American people, we must reform our electoral system so that every American can play an active and equal role in our elections. This amendment will go a long way towards restoring the voices of everyday people in our democracy.”

“I additionally urge Congress to pass the Government by the People Act, which would help return the power to the people by implementing a number of initiatives to boost the voices of small, grassroots donors. Together, this bill and the Democracy for All Amendment would help return us to the days when individuals, not corporations, had the greatest sway over our election results,” Kuster continued.

The Democracy for All Amendment is the House companion to S. J. Res. 19, an amendment that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 10, 2014, and is scheduled for a vote in the U.S. Senate later this year.

In January, 2014, Congresswoman Kuster helped introduce the Government by the People Act, legislation that would amplify the voices of individuals by creating a number of public financing alternatives for grassroots donors and candidates. As part of her commitment to curbing special interests in the electoral system, Congresswoman Kuster also hosted a roundtable earlier this year with Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03) and other stakeholders to discuss the importance of campaign finance reform.

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Bernie Sanders: Progressives are the Majority (InZane Times)

Bernie Sanders (Arnie Alpert)

 

“The views that most of us hold are not minority views”

Bernie Sanders (Arnie Alpert)

Image by Arnie Alpert

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Warner, New Hampshire, and Bernie Sanders didn’t need much time to warm up the sympathetic crowd outside Bookends.

“I think that old fashioned politics, I think the politics of big money dominating what goes on in Washington, the old status quo is not good enough,” began the Vermont Senator.  “In my view, and I say this very seriously, we need a political revolution in this country.”  The audience of perhaps one hundred people applauded enthusiastically.

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Image by Arnie Alpert

Senator Sanders would sign copies of his book, The Speech, afterwards, but this is no more a standard book tour than are the recent appearances of Hillary Clinton.  Bernie, as he is commonly known, is considering a run for President, and this was his second campaign-style trip to the state that hold the nation’s first primary election.

Sanders’ speech, like one he delivered at the NH Institute of Politics a couple months ago, ran through a menu of issues he referred to as the “progressive agenda.”  The growth of economic inequality and its pernicious effects, the threat of global warning, the need to end wasteful military spending, the need for universal health care, and the importance of free, public education each received a couple paragraphs of stump speech, as did the importance of political reforms to take the government back from the 1 percent and the corporations they own.

“Last year alone the Koch brothers saw a $12 billion increase in their wealth struggling under the despotic Obama administration,” he said with more than a touch of sarcasm.  Going on about the Kochs, he said, “When you have an extreme

ideology and you are prepared to spend as much as it takes you can buy the political system. And that is what this disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United has enabled them to do.”

“Here’s what I think,” Sanders continued in his characteristic conversational style.  “Number One we have to overturn Citizens United,” the Supreme Court decision that

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

solidified Court precedents behind the notions of corporate personhood and protection for corporate rights to spend money to influence elections.

“Second issue, equally important, we need to move toward public funding of American elections,” Sanders said.

A week before the NH Rebellion’s next gathering, in which hundreds of local residents are expected to walk from Hampton Beach to New Castle to protest the corrupting influence of big money on our political system, Sanders’ comments were affirmed by the audience.

“We are part of the vast majority.”

As a positive example, Sanders described how efforts to cut Medicare benefits and weaken or privatize Social Security have been rebuffed by organized citizens, despite the propaganda of the deficit hawks.  “The reason we have a deficit today is two huge wars were not paid for and tax breaks for the rich,” he said, again getting approval from the audience.

The job of progressives, according to Bernie Sanders, is to educate people about what is really going on in the economic and political systems.  And that means going outside of our comfort zones to talk to people with whom we don’t always agree.  The right-wing specializes in division, he said.  Progressive need to bring people together.

“One point I want to reiterate today — the views that most of us hold are not minority views,” Sanders said.  “They are not strange views. Our views are what the vast majority of the American people believe in. It is the Koch brothers and right-wing Republicans who have the fringe ideology.”

“Our job politically is to rally the American people around an agenda which speaks to the needs of the vast majority. And we are part of the vast majority.”

A veteran of who knows how many dozen town hall meetings in Vermont, Bernie Sanders is clearly comfortable with the type of give and take that can animate a New Hampshire Primary campaign.  Of course, he would have to join the Democratic Party in order to compete in that arena.   But he’s already been to Iowa once, and when he left Warner yesterday he was headed for a fundraising dinner for the Hillsborough County Democrats

 

12 GOP Senators Stand With Corporate Funders Over Granite Staters

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Shameful: 12 New Hampshire Senators Stand Against New Hampshire Residents, Kill Bill Calling for a Constitutional Amendment to Curb the Influence of Money in Politics

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Campaign Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

It’s shameful. Today, because of roadblocks put up by 12 Republican New Hampshire senators, the Committee of Conference killed a measure (SB 307) calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and to curb the influence of money in politics. This violates the will of New Hampshire residents.

On two previous occasions, the same 12 Republican senators defeated proposed language calling for an amendment. Instead, they repeatedly tried to move forward a hollow version of SB 307 that would merely create a committee to examine the impact of the Citizens United ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation. Last year, they refused to even take a vote on a similar resolution that had passed the House.

In contrast, the New Hampshire House of Representatives on May 15 voted by a 2-to-1 margin – 183 to 87, with a strong bipartisan vote – to move forward a version of SB 307 that would have made the Granite State the seventeenth state to call for a constitutional amendment.

Fifty-four New Hampshire towns have passed resolutions (52 this year) directing the state Legislature to call for a constitutional amendment, and a poll in support of a constitutional amendment was overwhelmingly supported by a 3-to-1 margin across party lines.

Today’s vote was only a temporary setback for those of us who do not want to pay the price when our government is bought and sold by wealthy interests. The fight continues across the state, and the issue will come up again in the next session.

The People Of NH Want The Senate To Do The Right Thing On SB 307 (Citizens United Amendment)

Jonah Head Shot
Jonah Head Shot

Jonah Minkoff-Zern Campaign Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

The people of New Hampshire and across the nation are outraged at corporate and wealthy interests, including individuals from the left and the right, spending billions of dollars to control the politics of our state and our nation. They are understandably opposed to having no right as a state to prevent this money from flooding our elections.

That’s why when polled, they support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics by a 3 to 1 margin across party lines. And that’s why 54 New Hampshire towns have called for you, the New Hampshire Legislature, to join 16 other states and call for a constitutional amendment.

These individuals did not call for a study committee. They called for action from the Legislature.

SB 307 was written with a clear directive: The New Hampshire Legislature calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases. It then creates a study committee to review the 16 different amendments that have been introduced in Congress to decide which ones of those, if any, are the right ones to recommend to the New Hampshire delegation (they can be viewed at www.united4thepeople.org).

SB 307 was not written to do what the Senate amendment does: simply study the issue. There is no doubt among the people of New Hampshire and our nation that our democracy is severely corrupted by the influence of big money and that the only way to reduce that influence is for a constitutional amendment to allow government regulation. There is no other way to address this problem, as there is no other way to undo what the Supreme Court has done in releasing a flood of money into our elections with Citizens United  v. FEC and more recently McCutcheon v. FEC.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that this amendment would attack or undermine the First Amendment. It would make clear that our founders intended to protect speech, not money that amplifies that speech. Further, even if campaign spending were a form of speech, our nation allows all sorts of regulation of speech. I cannot come into a legislator’s office with a megaphone and yell until she or he listen to me. I can’t get up and interrupt a Senate session. I cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater. I am not free to threaten any one. And the ultra-wealthy and mega-corporations should not and cannot spend literally billions of dollars to buy influence and power over our nation. That is not a democracy. In fact, a Princeton study just showed that we are now literally living in an oligarchy.

This week, when SB 307 comes to conference committee, New Hampshire senators should heed the will of the House who voted by a two to one margin, the 12 senators who voted for language calling for a constitutional amendment, the hundreds of New Hampshire residents who organized and passed 54 town resolutions, and so many others to be heard. This has not been such a partisan issue in other states, such as Maine, which passed a resolution with overwhelming bipartisan support and was sponsored by a Republican senator who is passionate enough about the issue to have written New Hampshire legislators testimony asking for their support. It is not a partisan issue when New Hampshire residents are polled or when they vote in town meetings. There is no reason this should be a partisan issue in the New Hampshire Senate.

This week’s conference committee should vote for language that calls for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics and restore democracy to the people. There have been hearings, marches, town meeting discussion and overwhelming votes, op-eds and letters to the editor. There has been ample time to study. It is time to act.

Sincerely,

Representative Bob Perry, Strafford

Ellen Read, Newmarket

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Campaign Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

New Hampshire House Responds to People’s Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

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Written on May 15, 2014

Note: Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted with bipartisan support to pass by a 2-to-1 margin an amended version of SB 307 that calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are finally responding to the people’s call to rein in the torrent of money that is flowing into our political system. We applaud them for it, and we urge Senate lawmakers to follow suit.

In March, the state Senate moved forward SB 307 as a hollow bill that created a committee to examine the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation. But it did not explicitly recognize the need for a constitutional amendment. Citizens United gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Today, the House voted to pass a version of SB 307 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment. This is in line with what the people of New Hampshire have been calling on their elected officials to do.

In March, residents made it crystal clear that they want to free elections from corporate influence and mega-donors when they overwhelmingly passed warrants at 48 town meetings calling for the state Legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling. And the momentum is still building. On Tuesday, both Hanover and Peterborough passed town resolutions calling for the Citizens United ruling to be overturned. On Wednesday, New London and Sanbornton passed similar resolutions. This brings to 52 the number of New Hampshire towns calling for a resolution this year.

The bill will head to conference committee where the Senate now has a chance to follow the will of their constituents and pass the amended language. If passed, New Hampshire would become the 17th state to call for an amendment to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

View more information about the efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in New Hampshire.

Our State Senators Are Not Listening To Us On Campaign Finance Reform

We the corporations

Written by Ellen Read

Ellen Read

Ellen Read, Newmarket, NH

For the jaded among us this isn’t a surprise.  We’re cynical because we know our government is bought and paid for by the highest bidders.  Our legislators no longer have constituents, they have investors—groups not even from legislators’ districts with whom legislators spend 70% of their time fundraising, and who donate in order to obtain favorable policy.  A recent Princeton study showed definitively we no longer have a democracy, but an oligarchy—rule by the wealthy few.  It showed that public policy is dictated by the 0.000042% of Americans who give substantial contributions, not by the People, as we all believe.  But we don’t have to resign to apathy.

New Hampshirites, true to our independent spirit, are trying to restore government to the People.  Building on work of years past, this March resolutions were on 61 Town Warrants calling for a constitutional amendment that would:  1) guarantee the right of the people to regulate political spending, and 2) clarify that artificial entities such as labor unions, SuperPACs, and corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as actual human beings.  Out of the 61 towns, 48 passed the resolution —and most by an overwhelming majority. The people of New Hampshire have spoken.

Yet when this same resolution, SB307, came before our State Senate, twelve Senators rejected the original language, gutting it—although 32 of the 48 towns that passed warrant articles were in these Senators’ districts.  For example, Senator Forrester voted against the purpose of the bill, but seven of the nine towns in her district passed similar resolutions.  And although all five towns in Senator Bragdon’s district and all four in Senator Bradley’s district also passed these resolutions, both of them also voted no.  Why aren’t they listening to us?

A UNH Poll revealed 75% of New Hampshirites, across all political lines, want a constitutional amendment to return control of government to the People.  New Hampshire cares about this.  A lot.  There is a movement building in response to government corruption, and it stems from our collective innate sense of what democracy is–from the wisdom of leaders from James Madison and Teddy Roosevelt to Warren Rudman and John McCain.

It’s tempting to be apathetic, thinking the system is rigged.  It is rigged; that is why we have to fix it.  SB307 is now passing the State House, so it will go back to conference with the Senate, where our senators may try to weaken it again.  We have to make our State Senators hear us, on this more than anything else, because this is the one issue that decides whether we have a say in any other.  No matter your politics or cause, if you want to have a say in it then we have to get big money out of politics.  No one should have to have money to have a voice–not in a democracy.

 

Ellen Read, Newmarket

Bob Martens, Bridgewater

George Blaisdell, Bridgewater

Max Stamp, Bristol

Nancy Dowey, Bristol

Maria Weick, Dorchester

Herb Moyer, Groton and Exeter

Pam Martin, Plymouth

Kenneth McKenzie, Eaton

Richard Devens, Sandwich

Penny Voyles, Wakefield

Michelle Russell, Hancock

Gerald Debonis, Sharon

Lucy Edwards, Northwood

Peter White, Nottingham

Scott Abercrombie, Salem

George Manos, Danville

Carol Croteau, Kingston

Evert Lamm, Stratham

Joseph Bagshaw, Conway (passed previously)

State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, District 21, Sponsor of SB307

New Hampshire House Committee Responds to People’s Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

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New Hampshire House Committee Responds to People’s Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Campaign Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Today, the New Hampshire State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee voted 8-to-5 in favor of adding language into SB 307 that calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

In March, the state Senate moved forward SB 307 as a hollow bill that created a committee to examine the impact of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation; however, it did not recognize the need for a constitutional amendment.

The committee’s bipartisan vote today to add language calling for a constitutional amendment is in line with what the people of New Hampshire want. Residents made it crystal clear that they want to free elections from corporate influence and mega-donors when they overwhelmingly passed warrants at 48 town meetings calling for the state Legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling. This decision gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, drowning out the voices of everyday Americans.

The full House is expected to pass the amended language with similar strong support and send the question back to conference committee. There, the Senate will have a chance to follow the will of their constituents and pass the amended language.

It is important for the New Hampshire Legislature to listen to the overwhelming majority of New Hampshire residents and pass a version of the bill that includes language calling for a constitutional amendment. If passed, New Hampshire would become the 17th state to call for an amendment to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

View more information about the efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in New Hampshire.

The Supreme Court: LOOKING for Trouble?

TruthOrConsequences

TruthOrConsequencesCan’t help noticing… when SCOTUS goes looking for a case, the Justices can get themselves really far into the weeds.

Case in point:  two years ago, the Court indicated a willingness to “revisit” long-settled precedents on labor unions.  And they ended up with Harris v. Quinn – which could have all kinds of unintended consequences.  (Are they really going to rule that employers can’t fire workers based on who they associate with?  How’s that going to work, if a Homeland Security employee decides to join Al Qaeda?  Or will they rule that Illinois can’t decide the employment conditions of its own employees?  How are all those “States’ Rights” folks going to swallow that?)

The Harris decision is still pending… and it sounds to me like the Court is looking for even more trouble.

According to press reports, SCOTUS is now targeting state laws that prohibit lying about political candidates.  Here’s the WaPo story from yesterday:  Supreme Court suspicious of Ohio law that criminalizes false speech about candidates.

Ok, so… We’re still reeling from a presidential campaign where the concept of “truth” lost big time.

People’s trust in politicians is pretty much at an all-time low.

And now the Supreme Court wants to go after state laws that prohibit lying during political campaigns?  Really gotta wonder.

If the standards used in the Ohio statute sound familiar – “knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not” – well, that’s probably because those same standards are used in libel law.

So… If the Supreme Court rules that corporate-money groups trying to influence elections have a First Amendment right to recklessly disregard the truth about political candidates… wouldn’t that also throw a whole lot of libel precedent out the window?

(Can’t help but notice that there are some high-dollar libel lawsuits pending in lower courts.  MediaMatters’ story:  Libel: Will Defamation Suits Doom Three Right-Wing Media Outlets? How will the Ohio decision affect those cases?)

The judiciary is still the most-trusted branch of the federal government.  But that, of course, could change.  Observers describe an increasingly pro-business tilt to SCOTUS decisions.  (How the Chamber of Commerce conquered the Supreme CourtSupreme Court Hands Chamber Of Commerce Blockbuster Pro-Corporate Term)

And, according to researchers, the rest of our government already represents business interests, rather than the average citizen.

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

So… what happens if (when?) Average Americans lose trust in all branches of their federal government?

Can’t help but wonder how this is going to play out, long term.

NH Senate Moves Forward With A ‘Study Committee’ Instead Of Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United

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New Hampshire State Senate Moves Forward Hollow Bill, Legislature Needs to Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

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Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Senior Organizer, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Today the New Hampshire state Senate defeated proposed language calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get corporate money out of politics. Instead they moved forward a hollow bill, SB 307, creating a committee to examine the impact of the Citizens United ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation.

New Hampshire residents made it crystal clear that they want to free elections from corporate influence and mega-donors when they overwhelmingly passed warrants at 48 town meetings calling for the state Legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This ruling gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, drowning out the voices of everyday Americans.

The amended language was voted down 12 to 12 by a near party-line vote, with all Democrats voting in favor and all but one Republican – Senator Russell Prescott – voting against.

Thirty-six of the 48 towns that voted to pass a resolution were in Senate Republican districts, showing bipartisan support for a constitutional amendment. Polls have also shown that the call to overturn Citizens United is popular among a wide swath of New Hampshire residents, no matter their political party. According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll (PDF), 72 percent of New Hampshire residents oppose the Citizens United ruling (81% Democrats, 70% Independents, 64% Republicans) and 69 percent of New Hampshire residents support a constitutional amendment that limits campaign contributions and spending (75% Democrats, 73% Independents, 61% Republicans). This shows the Republican Senators are out of step with their constituents on this issue.

The bill that was passed today now moves to the New Hampshire House of Representatives for a vote. The House has the opportunity to amend the bill to include the statement that the New Hampshire Legislature recognizes the need for a constitutional amendment – essentially the backbone of the bill. If the House passes a version of this bill including that powerful statement, the bill would then move back to a conference committee.

It is important that the House listens to the overwhelming majority of New Hampshire residents and pass a version of the bill that includes language calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, which would set New Hampshire on the path to becoming the 17th state to calling for an amendment to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

For more information about the efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in New Hampshire visit www.nh4democracy.org.

UPDATED: More Towns Join In With 30 NH Towns Calling for a Resolution to Overturn Citizens United

We the corporations

We the corporationsStatement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Senior Organizer, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Town meeting votes this week confirmed what many already knew: The people of New Hampshire want to free elections from the choke hold that corporations and mega-donors have on our democracy. So far, at 30 town meetings, citizens have passed – most by a vast majority – a warrant calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. More votes are coming; citizens in at least 19 towns vote on resolutions this week and results are still outstanding from towns that have held votes.

Given this clear indication of strong support by the people of New Hampshire, it is time for the state Legislature to follow their lead by passing similar legislation and make New Hampshire the 17th state to call for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. That ruling gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, thereby drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. The influence of corporations and the wealthy was starkly apparent during New Hampshire’s 2012 gubernatorial race, when outside groups spent $19 million – almost five times what the candidates spent themselves.

Polls show the call to overturn Citizens United is popular among a wide swath of New Hampshire residents, no matter their political party. Seventy-two percent of residents have said they oppose the Citizens United ruling, and 69 percent would support a constitutional amendment that limits corporate campaign contributions and spending, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll. Additionally, more than 100 New Hampshire residents recently marched across the state in the dead of winter to show their support for campaign finance reform.

With the voting results, the polls and grassroots organizing, it is crystal clear that the residents of New Hampshire want to join the nationwide movement to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

For more information about this effort, and to find out how towns voted, visit www.nh4democracy.org.

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UPDATED 3-18-14

Below is an update from Jonah Minkoff-Zern on more towns joining the movement. 

The final tally for the New Hampshire town meeting votes is 47 Passed 12 Defeated and 1 Tabled. Thus, they passed at a 4 to 1 margin. This includes one town council (Newmarket) that voted in favor a few weeks prior. (The complete list is at www.nh4democracy.org)

All the results are in for towns that we are aware of – though it is very possible that there were other votes, as we still learned for 2 more towns not on our initial list from word of mouth over the last week.

More towns will be voting at town meetings that occur later this spring – at least 5 (Chester, Hanover , New London , Peterborough and Sanbornton already have it on their ballot) but likely many more as petition gathering is still occurring, and cities – there also 13 cities that have city council votes that can still bring it to their city council: Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Rochester, Somersworth)

The next step is for the New Hampshire Senate to pass SB 307 with amended language that calls for a constitutional amendment – the state legislature should follow the clear will of the people.”