After reading Rep. Weber’s op-ed (“A drive-in session in January? Welcome to the 1950s,” Dec. 31), I’d like to set the record straight.
She stated in-person Statehouse meetings are problematic, exposing her to COVID. I have news for her ... she’s been exposed to COVID frequenting the grocery store and other public places over the past nine months.
Despite what Rep. Weber cited, every safety concern for House meetings has been addressed. Current House leadership does everything possible to ensure safety of legislators and staff. Our UNH drive-in meeting was deemed safe and ADA-compliant by state medical professionals. Yet, with all the squawking about “House unity,” the minority party finds fault. We can, and should, go back to the Statehouse once air purification systems and UV technology are in place.
Rep. Weber crowed about the N.H. Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of remote legislative meetings. My view is just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I, for one, think we owe our constituents much more than “attending” Zoom meetings.
There’s a vast difference between meeting remotely versus face-to-face. Effective legislators need to gather to personally present, discuss, debate, react, vote and have focused time in committee or chambers. Engaging in discussion with one another is important. Legislating isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a voyeuristic activity. It’s a participatory activity; terms we accept when running for office. Constituents also need to be present and engaged.
Maybe Rep. Weber prefers the type of remote proceedings she ran as a committee chair; I attended one as a bill co-sponsor. She allowed some people to speak on legislation while muting others she didn’t want to hear from. I and others were silenced despite having information to share. Not exactly participatory, nor what we expect of our Legislature.
Yes, the 24-person N.H. Senate meets remotely, but it’s ludicrous to think that House sessions with 400 people, plus staff, can be done on a Zoom call with all House procedures intact. There are many concerns; among them: What about Internet stability and availability statewide? Being frozen/dropped during session is unacceptable. Can we ensure legitimate voting by members? Are day-long sessions on Zoom reasonable? Would legislators be able to voice timely objections, especially if they are muted?
I’m amazed by people who think making important laws affecting the lives of Granite Staters should be done remotely. As for me, I desire to be with my colleagues, face to face, to be fully there and engaged, and doing the work I was elected to do.
266 Forest Road
(This writer, a Republican, represents Sullivan County District 7 in the N.H. House.)