OP-ED: Why won’t Governor Sununu debate over CACR 22 (Marsy’s law)

Yesterday, Governor Sununu held a “panel discussion” surrounding Marsy’s law. The word discussion, as used by the Governor, means talking about an issue with likeminded people. I posted on the Governor’s Facebook page that I would welcome a debate with either him or the Attorney General. Sadly, at that “panel discussion” the Governor said: “This is not a debatable issue.” I don’t anticipate him accepting my offer.

Why is this not a debatable issue? Is it because he doesn’t want to answer the tough questions? Does he not want to say how much he has been paid by Marsy’s Law PAC/Proponents (I do not know if he received money as it is not publicly available yet. To my knowledge the Governor has not denied receiving money from them) Is it because he wants the legislature to vote just on emotion and not the law or facts? Sadly, we will probably never know.

Since the Governor won’t likely accept my debate offer, I will use this opportunity to respond to some of the statements he made at that “panel discussion.”

Too many think of the politics.

Last I knew it was a politician’s job to think of politics. I guess the Governor would rather us just stamp our approval on a proposal that is backed by an out of state billionaire.

The attacks on Marsy’s Law are baseless.

If the Governor accepted the offer to debate he would have the opportunity to answer my questions that went unanswered during testimony of this bill. I sit on the House Judiciary committee. Just this week we had a joint committee hearing on Marsy’s law. That hearing lasted more than seven hours.

The Governor came in to testify. He took one question before deciding he had more important things to do. The question he was asked by a committee member was: “How will the state pay for the 10s of thousands of victims Marsy’s law may create?” His response in part was: “If all you look at is the cost of dollars, that’s the old way of doing business”.

Given that the Governor’s budget had a larger increase than our former Democrat Governor, I am not surprised he doesn’t care about the cost. However, if we properly funded our present victim’s bill of rights, we wouldn’t have as many prosecutors violating the present law. It is also interesting to point out that legal scholars testified that Marsy’s law would require the State to provide an Attorney to victims when they can’t afford it in all criminal cases. New Hampshire does not even provide a public defender presently to those who are charged with Class B misdemeanors because it would cost the State too much money.

It takes a lot for the Governor to come down and testify.

Good. Our government has something called a separation of powers. The Governor should never be testifying on a bill. Does he allow the legislature to come and testify before he signs a bill or makes any other executive decision?

The ACLU is putting in a lot of money and a lot of passion so this doesn’t happen for our citizens.

The ACLU has publicly disclosed how much money they spent lobbying on this issue. The Marsy’s Law PAC refuses. The Governor won’t say how much he received. Senators won’t say how much they received. I was going to ask during the committee hearing but it appeared the senators always had somewhere more important to be and they all took limited questions. When they did answer questions, often the answer was they would leave it up to someone more knowledgeable to answer.

Justice Conboy railed against it for 45 minutes, and I was appalled. She could not be more wrong.” “The gist of her argument is that judges get it right. She’s dead wrong.

Justice Conboy is a former justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court. As far as I know Governor Sununu does not have a law degree. When it comes to matters of constitutional interpretation, I think one is more qualified than the other.

The other side is very tone deaf.

If the Governor accepted my debate offer he would be able to address my concerns. Of all the committee members hearing this issue I asked the most questions. Many of the people who testified did not have answers to questions. Having sat through more than 7 hours of committee testimony, and having a background as a criminal defense lawyer, I am significantly familiar with Marsy’s law and all of its problems. Calling your opponents tone deaf while failing to address their concerns is not the way we should be taking such a drastic measure like amending the State Constitution.

The amount of money they have put against us is already significant.

Again, NH ACLU disclosed how much they spent. (I believe it was around $12,000). Justice Conboy did not take or spend a single cent lobbying (The former Justice who supports Marsy’s law did). I did not take a single cent in campaign contributions (For full disclosure I did attend a meeting put on by the NH ACLU where food was served. I similarly attending two separate meetings put on by the proponents of Marsy’s law where they served food as well).

Marsy’s law is being promoted by an out of state billionaire. I have been told around $2 million has been allocated to fight for Marsy’s law. They refuse to disclose how much they spent. Governor Sununu has not said how much he received.  I asked a lobbyist for Marsy’s law and while he could not tell me how much Marsy’s law PAC spent lobbying, which includes donating to politicians, he did state he personally received $5,000 to lobby on their behalf.

I didn’t even get into why Marsy’s law is a terrible idea of New Hampshire in this article. I will be addressing that during executive session next week. If the Governor wants to address my concerns he can accept my offer to debate him. I recognize it isn’t fair for a criminal defense lawyer to debate the constitution with someone who doesn’t have a legal background.

Accordingly, I invite the Governor to have the New Hampshire Attorney General join him for a 2 on 1 debate. Because Governor Sununu said he doesn’t want a debate, and not a single person from the Attorney General’s office even bothered to show up for the house committee session on Marsy’s law, I do not expect either of them to accept my offer.


Dan Hynes represents the town of Merrimack and sits on House Judiciary. He is a member of the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.