Most Granite Staters could have moved previous the “masks and lockdowns” part of COVID-19, however state Democrats are nonetheless pursuing their months-old lawsuit concentrating on state Home Republican management over pandemic insurance policies. And of their newest submitting, Democrats have raised the rhetorical stakes, insinuating that Republicans are answerable for former Home Minority Chief Renny Cushing’s dying.
Lengthy-standing Home guidelines require members to attend classes in particular person with a purpose to take part. Since February 2021, Democrats have been in court docket trying to power Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) and GOP management to permit members to conduct enterprise — together with casting votes — remotely on account of fears of COVID-19. “They nonetheless need to do all the things by Zoom,” Packard to NHJournal. “It simply doesn’t make any sense.”
The lawsuit, initially filed by Cushing and 6 different Democratic legislators, has repeatedly been shot down in court docket within the face of expansive lodging by Home management. For instance, throughout the top of the pandemic, Home classes had been held on the New Hampshire Sportsplex in Bedford, a 50,000-square-foot facility. Earlier than that, members met at UNH’s Whittemore Heart.
In March, the First Circuit Court docket of Appeals in Boston denied New Hampshire Democrats an injunction in opposition to Packard. Home Minority Chief Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) responded by saying he would proceed the lawsuit.
Cote, 61, lives with cerebral palsy amongst different well being points and, regardless of holding the title of Assistant Minority Chief and now Minority Chief, he has not been to Harmony for a vote in additional than two years.
Packard efficiently argued that, as speaker. he enjoys “legislative immunity” and is exempt from following the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which was the unique foundation for the lawsuit’s enchantment for lodging
The brand new grievance, filed in the USA District Court docket in Harmony, notes that two of the unique plaintiffs, Cushing and Rep. Katherine Rogers (D-Harmony) have since died. Each Cushing and Rogers had been identified with most cancers.
Whereas the lawsuit doesn’t say the place or how Cushing contracted COVID-19, it claims the virus was the complicating issue that resulted in his dying. Cushing, affected by stage 4 prostate most cancers, had been responding effectively to progressive most cancers remedies. There was hope that, with additional remedies, he would be capable of recuperate and return to his duties full-time till he acquired COVID this yr, Democrats claimed within the submitting.
“Regardless of being absolutely vaccinated, his well being took an nearly quick flip for the more severe, and he was by no means capable of recuperate effectively sufficient to renew the immunology remedies at Mass Basic [Hospital] as a result of critical affect of COVID-19. The untreated most cancers difficult by COVID-19 brought about his dying shortly thereafter,” the lawsuit states.
At the same time as Cushing battled most cancers, and fought to get distant entry, he continued to point out up in Harmony for votes and different legislative enterprise, in line with the lawsuit. Rogers, who suffered from degenerative joint illness, additionally got here to the Home to conduct enterprise. The lawsuit additionally blames her dying on the GOP coverage.
The lawsuit additionally contends that for the reason that majority of the legislators in search of distant entry had been Democrats, the Republican Speaker was engaged in partisan politics, not defending the principles of the Home.
“Motions to explicitly permit distant attendance have repeatedly been selected a partisan foundation,” the lawsuit states. “In essence the Defendants have intentionally created a rare dilemma for the disabled—they’ll both place themselves and their households at an excessive danger of dying, or they’ll forgo participation in democratic establishments, thus leaving their constituents unrepresented.
“That is actually not essentially completely different from pointing a gun to the heads of the Particular person Plaintiffs to dam them from coming into the Home. Given the prepared availability of measures to supply cheap lodging, the refusal to take action just isn’t solely of a rare character however shocks the conscience.”
Packard says what is basically stunning is that Democrats would use such inflammatory rhetoric, significantly on a difficulty that has been largely resolved. “It’s disappointing they’d make an insinuation like this about Renny Cushing and Kathy Rogers. It’s unbelievable to me they’re selecting to go down this path.”
Packard stated the most recent submitting “has quite a lot of inaccuracies and statements that simply aren’t true,” however he’s ready to listen to from the legal professionals earlier than elaborating additional.
“We’ll be assembly with the lawers later this week to go over the submitting in full and resolve what our subsequent step needs to be,” Packard stated.