|Title:||20,000 activists may make N.H. a permanent home|
20,000 activists may make N.H. a permanent home
by Adam Leech 07/11/03
PORTSMOUTH - New Hampshire and Maine are on a small list of states that a group of 20,000 advocates of limited government will choose from to organize their attempt to reduce the size and scope of government.
In September, the 5,000 members of The Free State Project will vote on which state to move to, where their plan is to increase its membership, reduce state and local law, reform state and local laws and end federal mandates.
The eight other states that are being considered are Idaho, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. Eventually the 20,000 members of the group will move to the state which has been chosen.
According to Elizabeth McKinstry, vice president of the project, of the 10 states there are five states that are the most likely candidates. She said while Maine is not in the upper tier, New Hampshire is one of the most intriguing possibilities.
"New Hampshire is definitely one of the top contenders," she said.
McKinstry said New Hampshire's long history of small government and limited tax burden are two of its most appealing features.
"New Hampshire has a strong position on liberty and independence," she said. "Also, it is absolutely gorgeous, which many members recognize."
The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire formed the Welcome to the Granite State Committee to promote New Hampshire as the most desirable Free State candidate.
"I'd like to think we're in the lead," said Michelle Dumas, a member of the committee. Dumas said the project is not necessarily a Libertarian movement but many of the goals of the project are in line with those of the party.
"It would make sense that we would work together," she said. "We're not trying to change anything, we're actually trying to make New Hampshire more like itself."
Dumas said the 400-member State Legislature offers the best representation of any state in the nation.
"It's a government for the people more than any other state," she said.
According to The Free State Project Web site, of the 16 variables that are considered most important in choosing a state, New Hampshire ranks in the top three in 12 categories; Maine ranks high in three. Out of the variables New Hampshire got the top ranking in six, the most of any state; three more than runner-up Wyoming.
New Hampshire received the highest rank in:
- low federal dependence
- low crime rate
- smaller state and local government sector
- livability ranking
- low percentage of National Education Association/ American Federation of
McKinstry said among the states being considered all have a population under 1.5 million. Maine and New Hampshire have the highest populations of the candidates, which is considered a negative attribute.
"Obviously a state with less population will be easier to make an impact on," she said.
Maine is not considered to be a top candidate, according to McKinstry.
Dumas pointed to the high tax burden in Maine as a reason why it is not as attractive as New Hampshire.
"Maine has a lot of good points," she said. "But their are a lot of advantages in New Hampshire that doesn't seem to be part of [the Maine] culture."
McKinstry said Maine's wilderness and open space is enticing to project members.
"[Maine] has a lot going for it in terms of quality of life issues," she said.
Rep. Daniel Itse, R-Freemont, said he would not be opposed to the project settling in New Hampshire because they are free to move as they please. He said his stance on "small government" is politically close to the project's, as well.
"For a group of people to pro-actively [move to a state] is a lot better than the state we have where people ignore politics and don't think they can control it, so they don't do anything about it," he said. "This is the antithesis."
Rep. Richard Morris, R-S.Hampton, said he is also in favor of less government and he would welcome discussion with anyone who has ideas on how to reduce taxes.
"I promote everybody's position of opportunity, if someone thinks something should be changed then more power to them," he said. "That's one of the things that makes this country great."
Itse said he thinks the project could have a significant impact because the House has become more conservative as of late, but he said their impact could not be overwhelming.
"In a state of 1.3 million, a group of 20,000 may be able to shift a handful of towns," he said. "But ultimately the public's displeasure with the state government is what will force change."
Itse said the state currently has 80 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives and the movement might be able to push that to 100.
Morris said some of the country's greatest feats were realized by people who did what they believed, regardless of what anyone had to say to them.
"If you look back historically it was the people with the perseverance and tenacity who had a passion for their cause that implemented change," he said.
McKinstry said she expects the project to draw people to the state once it is established, which she expects to take a couple decades.
"We're not looking to do anything radical right off," she said. "Things like that take time."
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