Opposing Opinions : Reps ‘Have the Floor’ at PHSMay 9, 2014
submitted by Alyssa Sandall and Tia Floyd, Pelham High School
Representative Charlene Takesian (R) and her husband, former New Hampshire representative Harold Lynde (D) and current town selectman, participated in a question-and-answer session hosted by Ms. Dube’s criminology class on April 21at Pelham High School to speak about current issues being voted on in New Hampshire’s legislative branch. Representative Renny Cushing (D–Hampton), sponsor of the Death Penalty Repeal Bill, was also invited to attend, but declined the invitation.
Current issues that were discussed included the death penalty repeal, marijuana laws, and a potential fetal homicide bill that may soon be in effect. School Resource Officer Brian Kelly of the Pelham Police Department was also present to speak on behalf of law enforcement in regard to the death penalty being repealed. Students asked various questions and offered their opinions about the three topics. Prior to the presentation, students did extensive research in order to learn more about each issue.
Rep. Takesian and former Representative Lynde helped students to understand more thoroughly what was currently being voted on in the legislative branch of New Hampshire. Rep. Takesian made students aware that in New Hampshire, unlike in other states, every request for a law change or a new bill is heard. Rep. Takesian explained that she has mixed feelings about the death penalty; she would keep it the way it is currently written and not repeal it because it is so seldom used and she sees no compelling reasons to repeal it. She believes that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent for crime.
Harold Lynde, on the other hand, is in favor of repealing the death penalty. He explained that from what he has heard from people directly affected, they say that the death penalty does not do anything to help them emotionally. He personally thinks it sends the wrong message to kill people on death row through execution. He stated that it would be more cost efficient to give defendants life without parole than to put them on death row, but he was unsure what the exact costs for each would be.
Although the death penalty repeal was deadlocked in the Senate and was not passed, Rep. Takesian explained that Governor Maggie Hassan would sign it if it passed the Senate only if it would not apply to Michael Addison who is currently on death row for killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.
Officer Kelly stated that he and most other law enforcement officers do not want the death penalty to be repealed. The last time a person was executed in the state of New Hampshire was in 1939. As the death penalty stands currently, a person is eligible for the death penalty for killing a police officer, kidnapping a person and a homicide is involved, a contract killing in which a person has been hired, and lastly if a homicide occurs during a home invasion.
As for an opinion on marijuana laws, Rep. Takesian said that she supports decriminalizing the drug, but she discourages young people from using it. She also said that a person should not be put in jail for the possession of marijuana. When asked if that promotes unhealthy habits, Rep. Takesian said “no” and that people should make their own mistakes. She recommends treating marijuana like the United States treats alcohol, legal over the age of 21, so it is not promoting younger use.
Harold Lynde, founder of the Pelham Community Coalition created as a response to substance abuse, advised students to “be aware, get informed, and make your own decisions.” He also said that one of five people will get addicted to marijuana.
On the issue of the Fetal Homicide Bill, Rep. Takesian did not know the current status of the bill since it was being voted on in the Senate. A fetal homicide bill would protect the rights of a pregnant woman’s unborn child. If a mother is killed and her unborn child is killed as well, depending on the provisions of the bill, the person that is responsible for the deaths would be charged with two homicides instead of one. Rep. Takesian explained that the bill passed in the House of Representatives was a compromise on the previously failed bill.
The current Fetal Homicide Bill states that a judge may use his/her discretion to add prison time to the defendant if the fetus was killed. That means that the judge will decide when and if a fetus is considered a life and if the defendant will be charged with one homicide or two.
Rep. Takesian also made students aware of another bill currently in the legislature that would mandate a 25-foot perimeter around a Planned Parenthood site. This bill would force protesters to be at least 25 feet away from the building while protesting. Overall, students were in favor of this bill not seeing it as breach of their First Amendment rights.
Among the many questions asked of Rep. Takesian was “when she voted, did she would vote in favor of her constituents’ opinion or with her own. She answered by saying that the hardest part about being a representative is voting with either her own opinion or with the opinions of the people that she is representing. She also explained that if people feel strongly about something, she would disregard her opinion and follow the opinions of her constituents. Therefore, the students learned that if they have a strong conviction about a certain issue, they should send Rep. Takesian a letter explaining how they feel as did everyone in Ms. Dube’s criminology class; each person’s opinions do make a difference!
The lively exchange of views that took place between the representatives and the students on current issues in New Hampshire was an interesting and informative “hands on” experience; students were able to take concepts from the textbook and integrate them with criminal issues being posed to the legislature of the Granite State.