The past nine months have been a whirl of activity, largely due to political events that have changed the legislative landscape both here in New Hampshire and in the nation.NH Rebellion and Open Democracy are committed to developing and promoting legislation that will strengthen democracy, increase transparency, and improve accountability. All these principles are threatened in the current political climate. Throughout the past year, our Legislative Committee has been meeting regularly to assess these challenges, while our Open Democracy Action group has been defending and advocating for our priorities. The following is a summary of past highlights.
In September, Executive Director Olivia Zink was a panelist in a session at the National Citizen Leadership conference in Washington, DC. For three days, she met and networked with leaders in citizen engagement and explored the possibility of collaboration in the future. At the concluding dinner, the NH Rebellion was presented with the group’s National Citizen Leaders award, a significant recognition of the efforts and dedication of everyone involved in the NH Rebellion.
During the month of October, 17 performances of “Granny D: The Power of One” were presented by Dixie Tymitz, a professional actress, singer, and storyteller. Dixie plays the character of Granny D telling the story of her incredible journey across the country on behalf of campaign finance reform. Through this project, we have given schools, senior centers, community centers, and libraries across the state the opportunity to encourage their audiences to become engaged in their government and to understand “the power of one.”
In preparation for the opening of the State Legislature, our Legislative Committee was busy analyzing hundreds of potential bills. Open Democracy Action, our 501c(4) arm, targeted six campaign-related bills for special attention and added another five dealing with fair elections and redistricting. At that time, we were encouraged becausea poll [we had commissioned from UNH??] had found that two-thirds of New Hampshire adults supported public funding of elections to reduce the influence of money in politics. (Only 7 percent were opposed, while 26 percent did not take a position.) The results of the November general election greatly dampened our optimism.
On January 11, Open Democracy Action launched its Reform Caucus with a free luncheon to which reform-minded State legislators were invited. The turnout was encouraging, and ODA began producing a weekly Legislative Update, reporting on key bills the group agreed upon. (In all, 20 issues would be circulated during the session). January also saw the beginning of almost weekly protest rallies, Open Democracy supports and Olivia managed to make an appearance at most of them.
Several of our members even sold Granny D. books at the huge January 21 “NH Unites” event (elsewhere known as the “Women’s March”). We gain hundreds of new signatures on our “We the People” petition.
We hosted a great Granny D birthday celebration in Dublin where Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky read the proclamation from Governor Chris Sununu declaring January 24 “Granny D Day.”
In January, Olivia testified in favor of HB 115, a bill that would have closed a major LLC donation loophole, and her remarks were carried over the NHPR airwaves. We also hosted a well-attended workshop on Big Money in Politics and voting rights in Goffstown, and Olivia was later invited to speak on these issues in Brookline.
In the month of February, we had spokespeople at the Legislative Advocates Day, the President’s Day rally, the Voting Rights rally, and the Faith and Action Day event. A dozen pieces of legislation were introduced with our support. Three of the bills were about establishing an independent redistricting commission or stopping gerrymandering; others involved reforms such as closing loopholes, requiring disclosure, and overturning Citizens United. We prepared testimony for both House and Senate committees on these bills as well on the numerous bills calculated to disadvantage NH voters.
Spring was especially busy as we kicked off April with our Voting Rights March and Rally on April 2. (The march was originally scheduled for April 1, but a freak snowstorm closed the roads in Concord to our marchers!) Following the rally, we held advocacy training across from the Capitol. We also participated in or helped organize other events, including the March for Science held on Earth Day. We helped the Voting Rights Campaign turn out a great crowd on April 18 for public testimony on Senate Bill 3, otherwise known as the “Voter Prevention” bill. Upwards of 250 people showed up to testify and the hearing had to be moved to Representatives Hall.
On April 27, we sponsored a legislative luncheon with Alabama Republican John Pudner, chair of Take Back Our Republic. About 50 people attended, including 16 Republican reps and one Republican Senator. The following week we hosted a “cookies and coffee” reception in the Legislative Office Building for Andy Bossi of the Maine Coalition for Clean Elections. Meanwhile Olivia spoke at New Wave Summit in Concord, in Canterbury and at a Monadnock Progressive Alliance meeting. At the request of the World Affairs Council, she also found time to talk to Indian and African leaders about our work.
On May 11,we brought Andrew Bossie from Maine Clean Elections back to NH. Who brings knowledge, excitement and New of clean elections from Maine over to our supporters.
Several house parties have been held throughout the year. These brought together friends and neighbors to share conversation and expand awareness about our efforts. A special thanks is extended to all those who hosted, co-hosted, and attended these fundraisers. We could not function without their support. We also thank the many volunteers have manned phone banks to put people in touch with their legislators; local activists and town moderators have been contacted, and we have been forging a network of support that will carry us into the future.
“It’s been an uphill battle legislatively, but Open Democracy is keeping track of the votes. The plan is to create a scorecard so our legislators can be held accountable…”