Portion Of N.H. DOJ Funding Request Denied, Setting Off Partisan Fight

Jan 10, 2020

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Democrats on the state’s Fiscal Committee rejected a portion of a Department of Justice funding request, saying they didn’t want additional state money going toward lawsuits defending bills they opposed.

The Attorney General requested an additional $1.2 million in funding pay for ongoing litigation, including prosecuting criminal cases and defending two controversial election-related bills passed in previous sessions by Republicans. 

[You can read NHPR's previous coverage of the SB3 voting law here.]

The committee voted along party lines to allocate about $720,000 to the DOJ, rather than the full requested amount. 

Democrats say the money approved is enough to cover the agency’s immediate expenses, and told MacDonald that he should make additional funding requests as needed.

Republicans countered that to not fully fund the agency’s request was an unprecedented action by the committee, and that it would undermine the ability of the Justice Department to function as needed.

The DOJ has spent approximately $575,000 to date defending the law known as SB3, which changed voter registration rules in the state. That law remains the subject of ongoing litigation brought by the League of Women Voters and the state Democratic Party. 

MacDonald told the committee that he is constitutionally mandated to defend laws passed by the state legislature, as long as those laws aren’t patently illegal or unconstitutional. 

The litigation over SB3 is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of additional dollars as it works its way through the legal system. A separate challenge to a law that changed the definition of “residency” in the state is also drawing resources from the Department of Justice.