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 424-odd legislators. 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 House after a session adjourns. Believe it or not, criminal threatening like that 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;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.
(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.
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 violation.
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 of bullying?
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!]