A person familiar with the man whose data-driven approach animated his work at UNH’s Paul School of Business could have been forgiven for being surprised by the approach taken by the Dan Innis since his election to the New Hampshire Senate in November. HIs approach to chairing the Commerce Committee in a packed Representatives’ Hall provides an example. In the face of data, anecdote, and personal testimonials, Innis seemed deaf to any criticism of controversial right-to-work legislation being heard by the committee. Impatient with testimony from over 100 labor leaders, small businessmen, and economists and eager to defend the endorsements of SB 11 by lobbyists and national right-wing activists, Innis seemed, not only to have his mind made up, but unwilling to listen to any facts that might change it.
Chairman Innis also used his new position to encourage his fellow senators to put any concerns which might have arisen during the four hours of public testimony that they had just heard out of their minds. With gavel in hand, Chairman Innis shut down debate among his colleagues after a mere hour and got the result he wanted. The committee recommended that the full Senate pass the Koch Bros. number one legislative priority for the states. Republican orthodoxy and right-wing ideology had overcome the opposition of a vast majority of attendees at the Senate hearing, with Sen. Innis’s support.
Sen. Innis’s unlikely emergence as a right-wing champion hasn’t been limited to his work as a committee chair. He also put his support behind legislation that allows anyone to carry a concealed weapon by sponsoring SB12. This bill, which was opposed by police chiefs and public safety advocates throughout the state, passed the Senate days after a freshman GOP legislator inadvertently dropped a gun on the floor during a House hearing on the measure.
A glance over the legislation Innis has sponsored this year further demonstrates that the hotelier and academic would NOT serve as a moderate Republican in the mode of Nancy Stiles, his GOP predecessor in District 24, but rather as an ideological, Tea Party legislator. Another example is a bill he is sponsoring entitled SB44, an act prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of Common Core standards. Common Core, a set of educational goals and measurements developed by state and local governments to make comparisons between school results clearer and to designed to measure both student learning and critical thinking skills, has become a favorite target of right-wingers from Glenn Beck (who wrote a sci-fi novel suggesting an enslaved future thanks to Common Core) to legislators and activists who fear that Common Core teaching leads to homosexuality.
These may merely be the efforts of a freshman legislator to court his party’s far-right base, but in a year with a new governor who seems equally susceptible to trends among the national right-wing, his votes have consequences. Seacoast voters would be well advised to ignore the Dan Innis who has carefully cultivated a reputation as a reasonable community leader and pay close attention the Dan Innis who is voting in Concord. They might not recognize him, but they should recognize the impact of the right-wing voting record he is compiling.