I am embarrassed to report that a bill recently introduced
in the New Hampshire General Court has been receiving
some national attention. I found it via Radley Balko's Agitator
blog. It will cause ridicule to rain upon our fair state.
The bill is HB
1533, advertised as "prohibiting bullying in the state house and
legislative office building." But not just any bullying.
The only bullying they care about is that directed against "any member
of the general court." I.e., any of the Granite State's
The bill is sponsored by 10 members; by my count, five are Democrats,
five are Republicans, all are Idiots.
What does the bill consider to be "bullying"? Well, it's not
threatening to beat up a legislator in the back alley behind the State
after a session adjourns. Believe it or not, criminal threatening
is already against
the law in New Hampshire, and said law protects everyone, not just
424 special people.
According to the legislation, bullying can be a "single significant
incident". Or a "pattern of incidents". The bullying can take the
form of "written, verbal, or electronic communication". Or even
a "physical act or gesture". Or—let's not leave any possible
base uncovered here—"any combination thereof".
The bullying can be any of those activities that:
(A) Physically harms a member;
(B) Causes emotional distress to a member;
(C) Interferes with a member's legislative opportunities;
(D) Creates a hostile environment; or
(E) Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the general court.
Obviously, the big loopholes here are (B) and (D). Who's to say
what's going to cause "emotional distress" to a thin-skinned pol?
Especially the sponsors of this legislation! I mean, they already
seem to be a little on edge, and no doubt have some people in mind
who they think have been creating a "hostile environment" for them.
They'd like to get into those people into trouble right now
What kind of trouble can a "bullied" legislator make for a
"perpetrator"? He or she shall sic the Attorney General on
them; the AG is obligated to investigate. And, if the AG
finds that the perpetrator ran afoul of the extremely broad
and vague definition of bullying, civil suit shall be brought
against the miscreant, to the tune of not less than $2.5K per
There are obvious First Amendment problems with the bill. That's
bad enough, but
we don't even have to get to that.
Parts of the legislation seem to imply that the
target is specifically legislator-on-legislator
bullying. It's unclear (however) that it is limited to that.
But the legislation does, unambiguously, single out a class of 424 souls
for special protection, beyond
that afforded to the citizenry of the state. That's obnoxious.
Or, put another way:
the bill would
grant a small group of people
special powers to bring misery to others (in the
form of an official AG investigation) based on their
arbitrary whim. Isn't that the definition
I am reminded very much of what Harry Truman never came
close to saying about politics: "If you can't stand the heat,
get the Attorney General to bring civil suit against the
guy who turned up the kitchen stove."
By the way, one of the bullying tactics specifically mentioned in the
legislation is "websites". Like, uh, this one.
[Update: Let the record show that Granite
Grok was all over this legislative travesty last month.
Pun Salad: slow on the uptake!]