Not going anywhere: New Hampshire rejects seceding from the United States

State House of Representatives voted 323-13 to reject proposed legislation to ask voters in the November elections to break ties with Washington.
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NewHampshireCapitol
The New Hampshire Capitol.
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A Republican-led proposal calling for a constitutional amendment allowing New Hampshire to secede from the United States has fizzled out.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 323-13 to reject proposed legislation that would have asked New Hampshire voters in the November elections to break ties with Washington, D.C. and become a seperate nation-state.

If cleared for the ballot, the referendum put to voters would have read: "New Hampshire peaceably declares independence from the United States and immediately proceeds as a sovereign nation. All other references to the United States in this constitution, state statutes, and regulations are nullified."

Republican lawmakers who backed the proposal cited the Biden administration's response to the pandemic and other examples of what they describe as federal overreach.

The bill's primary sponsor, state Rep. Mike Sylvia, R-Belmont, has argued that while succession would likely mean a loss of federal funding and other support from Washington, there would also be benefits for New Hampshire residents, such as not having to pay a federal income tax. New Hampshire has no state income tax.

"There are a lot of people very unhappy with D.C.," he said. "The federal government has totally perverted the ends of our desired government, and it’s clearly time to make a change."

The ill-fated move was backed by a conservative group called Liberty Block, which published a list of more than 70 reasons New Hampshire should secede from the union – ranging from federal "anti-gun laws" to "corona-facsism" and violations of civil rights by federal agencies – and suggested the state is able to go it alone.

Rep. Timothy Smith, D-Manchester, ripped the effort as an attempt to "destroy" the U.S. Constitution and said voting for the measure would amount to "treason."

"That is beyond shameful," Smith said in remarks ahead of the vote. "It is beyond disgraceful and it is a stain on the proud history of this state that we even have to entertain this."

Last year, lawmakers involved in the succession push signed a statement calling Republican Gov. Chris Sununu a “tyrant,” and declaring New Hampshire’s government illegitimate.

New Hampshire isn't the only state where lawmakers have proposed succession.

In California, Texas and Utah, lawmakers have proposed similar measures in recent years seeking to sever ties with the federal government. None have gained much traction.

Scholars have questioned the legality of states to secede, pointing out that rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court dating back to the Civil War have deemed it to be unconstitutional.