CONCORD, NH – Could New Hampshire become an independent country? One piece of legislation at the State House this year says yes.
On Jan. 12 State Representative Jason Gerhard (R-Northfield) provided testimony to the New Hampshire House of Representatives State-Federal Relations and Veterans’ Affairs Committee on CACR 20, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require New Hampshire to declare its independence from the United States of America if the national debt reached $40 trillion.
As of Friday, the national debt currently stood at approximately $34 trillion.
Gerhard believes that the nation’s debt was never meant to be paid off and references secession movements other parts of the U.S. such as Texas as proof that the concept has popular support.
“It’s not like this is some new idea or simply isolated to little New Hampshire. This is already going to happen, it’s simply a matter of how it happens,” he said. “I think we need to get the conversation going.”
While Gerhard’s primary reason for the bill might be the federal government’s spending policies, he said that others he has talked to who agree with his beliefs have different reasons for supporting New Hampshire’s independence.
For Carla Gericke, Chairwoman and President Emeritus of the Free State Project, one of the primary reasons is a fear of the United States dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency, which would drastically harm the U.S. economy if it occurred.
Both Gerhard and Gericke believe that the separation would be peaceful with Gerhard stating that the move would emulate portions of the New Hampshire Constitution already in place such as Part 1, Article 10, which guarantees the “right of revolution.”
Gericke told the committee that the state should have the right to peacefully secede from the United States through democratic means and felt that the violent is a tool of authoritarianism, something she believes this legislation is meant to circumvent. Following the hearing, she stated that if federal response to secession was violent then it would serve as proof that secession was needed, comparing it to a domestic abuse victim blaming themselves for being abused.
“If the answer (to secession) is that (the federal government) is going to murder us because they don’t agree with our positions, then it’s probably a good time to leave the relationship,” she said. “When someone is abusing you and then tells you, ‘You can’t leave or I’m going to kill you,’ that doesn’t seem like a healthy relationship.”
She added that with the ability for people to “vote with their feet” making it easier for many to reject the values of governments in places where they might currently reside, Gericke agreed with Gerhard that the move toward greater local autonomy of some sort everywhere is inevitable.
“I think we’re just so caught up in these fear paradigms and in these little boxes that we just look at the world and we’re like ‘this is how it was and this is how it must be’, but I’m like ‘no, what can we do?’” she said.
While testimony at the hearing was primarily in support of the proposal, opposers outnumbered supporters 30-13 in online testimony submissions, with more opposition from stemming from those that did not testify such as Sebastian Fuentes, Political Director of the Rights and Democracy Project.
“What a disturbing scene to witness State Representatives, elected by the people of NH, ask New Hampshire to secede from the Union. Even most disturbing, the same Representative sponsoring this bill is running to be a Sheriff. Now I am an immigrant who waited close to 15 years to become a U.S. Citizen. It was indeed one of the proudest moments of my life, watching these folks take that for granted is problematic,” he said. “What message are we sending to NH Veterans who sacrificed their lives for this nation? Who is going to manage the benefits that many receive from the Federal government? What about federal funding for housing and education? This selfish bill should go directly to the paper shredder.”
A similar piece of legislation came before the House in 2022 and was found inexpedient to legislate by a vote of 323-13.
As a constitutional amendment concurrent resolution, the proposal must receive a three-fifths approval vote from the New Hampshire House of Representatives and another three-fifths vote New Hampshire Senate unless the Senate and House approve a constitutional convention under Part 2, Article 100 of the State Constitution. Additionally, the proposal must receive a two-thirds approval vote from voters at the next scheduled state election after it receives approval in Concord before it is added to the state constitution.