There are 2 bills that will be heard in Executive Sessions in the New Hampshire House tomorrow; both could silence free speech. The first bill is SB 120 – This bill seeks to limit free speech but forcing small organizations to provide donor lists and information if they dare seek to support candidates or legislation and vice versa. The second bill is SB 319 – the ‘Buffer Zone Bill’ which attacks free speech by creating a buffer zone only around abortion clinics in New Hampshire.
SB 120 is titled: "AN ACT relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees." But the Senate also decided that individuals are subject to this bill. This means that any individual who decides to fight for or against legislation or who decides to support a candidate is subject to the same rules as actual political committees or legislative organizations. How anyone thinks this isn’t going to stifle free speech is unknown.
Of course, the large ‘super PACs’ will still be afforded the same protections as currently exist under federal law. This will hurt smaller organizations and individuals in New Hampshire because often people want to support causes but would prefer to remain on the sidelines. Since we've recently seen people attacked for their legislative or political support across the country, this will force people to re-think contributing to the political debate arena. How many individuals will unknowingly break this law if they dare speak up against or for legislation?
The ‘Buffer Zone bill’ is one of the most egregious bills to come out of the legislature this session. It literally creates a 25 foot ‘zone’ while on public property around abortion clinics. So you’ll be able to protest in front of your representatives’ offices; unions will be able to protest their employers and you can protest anything anywhere on public property without a ‘buffer zone’ unless it’s at an abortion clinic. Protesters are already not allowed on the private property but can protest on the sidewalks. The only state that has this law currently is Massachusetts and it is being challenged in the Supreme Court at this very moment. That tells you all you need to know right there.
Both of these laws threaten to silence free speech in New Hampshire. Granite Staters will no long reside in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state if these pass. They will be living in the ‘Live (sometimes) Free and Shut Up’ state. Neither political speech nor personal protest should be silenced. These are the very things that get discussions going and call for public debate. It doesn't matter if you are pro-choice or pro-life or even involved in political debate. If they start silencing free speech of a particular type, what free speech will they stifle next? Why any legislator would ever seek to stifle their own constituency borders on tyranny. Every representative in the House should be called and emailed (while you still are allowed to) and told these bills should be killed. Granite Staters enjoy being active in the political process and public debate. Their free speech should not be silenced.