“All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, at all times accountable to them,” states Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution.

This means citizens are the most powerful entity in the state – more powerful than the governor and executive council, Legislature and courts.

On Nov. 6, the people have the opportunity to assert that power by approving CACR 15, a constitutional amendment that corrects a terrible 2014 decision by the New Hampshire Supreme Court that says unless a taxpayer’s personal rights were impaired by a decision of government, that taxpayer does not have standing to challenge the decision in court.

The Supreme Court set this precedent in the 2013 case Bill Duncan et al. v. the state of New Hampshire. In that case, Duncan, a New Castle resident, champion of the state’s public schools and former member of the Board of Education, sued the state over its approval of a voucher program, which authorized the state to give tax credits to businesses that contributed to the voucher program.

Duncan and his co-plaintiffs, including the ACLU, won in Superior Court, where the judge wrote: “New Hampshire students, and their parents, certainly have the right to choose a religious education. However, the government is under no obligation to fund ‘religious’ education. Indeed the government is expressly forbidden from doing so by the very language of the New Hampshire Constitution.”

The state appealed the case to the Supreme Court which, instead of weighing the merits of the case, ruled Duncan et al. had no standing since they were not personally damaged by the voucher law. The point here is not to re-litigate the school voucher issue but rather to defend Duncan and others' right to be heard by the courts.

Since that 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court opinion has led to similarly bizarre outcomes in other cases including alleged charter violations in Manchester and a tax-cap case in Nashua that was particularly galling to state Republicans.

In a letter to the editor this week, former Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas pointed to a recent case in Dunbarton where taxpayers were denied the right to be heard in court about a School Board decision to put $1 million from an accounting error in a reserve account rather than returning it to the people.

“For over 150 years taxpayer suits have held governments accountable in our state because we the citizens are in charge,” Douglas wrote. “We are not peasants in a medieval kingdom but, rather, the government is our agent, and we are in charge.”

CACR 15 will undo this mistake by the Supreme Court by adding language to Article 8 of the state Constitution, which says in part: “… any individual taxpayer eligible to vote in the State shall have standing to petition the Superior Court to declare whether the State or political subdivision in which the taxpayer resides has spent, or has approved spending, public funds in violation of a law, ordinance or constitutional provision. In such a case, the taxpayer shall not have to demonstrate that his or her personal rights were impaired or prejudiced beyond his or her status as a taxpayer.”

Both the House and Senate passed the constitutional amendment with bipartisan, overwhelming margins. Now it needs two-thirds of voters in the state to approve it. We urge all New Hampshire voters to approve this constitutional amendment on Nov. 6.