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ACLU Hails New N.H. Amendments



Valley News Correspondent
Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is lauding citizens for overwhelmingly passing two amendments to the state constitution during Tuesday’s elections.

One amendment returns “standing” to taxpayers in their right to bring suit against local governments and state government that the ACLU said was taken away by the state Supreme Court in 2014. The second gives constitutional privacy rights to personal information.

“Government accountability goes to the heart of our democracy, and taxpayer standing is a key mechanism for citizens to challenge unconstitutional government action in courts,” the ACLU-NH said in a statement.

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of ACLU-NH, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that the easy passage likely was because the amendments are “good policy” and had strong bipartisan support in the Legislature. He also credited the advocacy work of the ACLU and others for informing voters on the amendments and their purpose.

Bissonnette said the first amendment “remedies” a Supreme Court decision that said “taxpayer injury was not sufficient to bring a lawsuit.”

“Now, taxpayer injury will be sufficient,” Bissonette said. “Taxpayers fund government services, so they should have the right to bring a lawsuit. The door is no longer shut if the government is using money inappropriately. This is necessary for government accountability.”

Asked whether the amendment could lead to a lot of frivolous suits, Bissonnette said it was unlikely, noting that there was no influx of suits during the lengthy time when taxpayer standing previously existed in New Hampshire.

On the second amendment, which gives citizens “explicit” privacy protections, the ACLU said it is needed given new technologies.

“On a partisan day, Granite Staters came together to add an explicit right to privacy to our state constitution,” Jeanne Hruska, ACLU-NH policy director, said in a news release.

Hruska said with new invasive technology — including DNA harvesting, facial recognition and iris scans, none of which the state’s founders could have envisioned — it is important that privacy of personal information be “as robust as our tech.”

“New Hampshire has demonstrated again why it is a national leader on privacy,” Hruska said.