A New Hampshire superior court judge was correct this week in rejecting Democratic legislative leaders’ court challenge to the statute giving Gov. Chris Sununu emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sununu has used those extraordinary powers in a sensible, transparent, and inclusive fashion in doling out more than $1.2 billion in federal funds.
That doesn’t mean that the Democrats were wrong or frivolous in making their challenge. We are in unprecedented and uncharted waters here. The issues deserved a full hearing.
Judge David Anderson rightly pointed out that if the Legislature wanted the governor to have to go through the General Court’s Fiscal Committee in order to spend these funds, it could have written the 2002 law that way. The law, coming after the 2001 terrorist attacks, was intended to prohibit bureaucracy and politics from standing in the way of true emergency needs.
If Democrats — or independent-minded Republicans, for that matter — wish to put some restraints on the governor’s spending powers, let them propose them in the upcoming legislative session. In a state that prides itself on small government and a “weak governor” system, a healthy debate over the issue may prove fruitful. But finding a way to provide sensible reins without hobbling a governor in a time of crisis may prove a bit tricky.