Impeachment and legislative reform aimed at Gov. Sununu’s executive powers largely ‘symbolic’ says UNH professor

By Elyse Kelly | The Center Square

A small group of libertarian-leaning Republicans in New Hampshire’s Legislature recently switched tacks in an effort to curb the executive powers of the governor.

Initially, seven of the 213 Republicans in the House, led by Rep. Andrew Prout, R-Hudson, announced a resolution to impeach Gov. Chris Sununu. However, one week later they decided to shift their approach to legislative reform, according to NH Journal.

Their gripe with the governor stems from what they argue is an abuse of executive power and an overstepping of constitutional authority in the governor’s response to COVID-19.

Gov. Chris Sununu/Facebook

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu

Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and associate professor of Political Science, told The Center Square that the original plan to impeach had zero chance of success, but rather was a symbolic gesture by members of the legislature to assert their ideological objections.

“They’re a small libertarian group, they’re unhappy with the governor, they have ideological reasons to be so, but it wasn’t going anywhere to begin with,” Smith said.

Their decision to move to a legislative approach likely comes from pressure within the Republican caucus to follow a more standard pathway to reform, which will give leaders more control over what happens, Smith said. But this route too he considers to have no significant chance of success.

“I think that what you’re going to see is that once the COVID virus situation passes, and that seems likely to be sooner than late, that a lot of these issues become moot,” Smith said.

The issues raised by libertarian Republicans concerning state executive branch overreach, however, are important, Smith said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a follow up afterward, after the immediate crisis is gone, which looks at the governor and the state’s authority to do things in special circumstances,” Smith said. “How long can you claim there’s an emergency going on? What are the restrictions on emergency declarations? Do they have sunset dates built into them? Who has some authority to check the power of the governor in those sorts of situations?”

Image courtesy of Gov. Chris Sununu/Facebook