Some Granite State Republicans want to make sure people know where they're going before they cross the border into the Bay State.
There would be little doubt about what lies ahead if a proposed bill makes it into law.
Six GOP lawmakers want the Department of Transportation to erect signs along every unmarked road leading from New Hampshire into Massachusetts, stating: "Warning: Massachusetts Border 500 Feet."
The signs would be sponsored by businesses that want to help protect their customers from unwittingly breaking the law because they aren't aware what state they are in, several of the sponsors said.
Cross a state line and laws change. That's especially true between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Laws relating to seat belts, guns, cellphones, motorcycle helmets, fireworks and knives are among those lawmakers want to warn people about. That's not to mention alcohol and tobacco prices and New Hampshire's tax-free shopping.
"It's always a good idea to let people know when they're in New Hampshire because it's the best place to be," said Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, a bill sponsor. "We're very proud of our state, who we are, what we do. We think it's the best place for people to live, work, raise their families."
The warning signs would let people know they were "no longer in the Live Free or Die state," she said.
Offer people a warning
The signs, according to lead sponsor Rep. Jennifer Coffey, R-Andover, would give people fair warning and perhaps help them avoid being pulled over by Bay State police for activities that became illegal the second they crossed the state border.
"It was brought to my attention a number of roads are not marked and people didn't know they were leaving the state," Coffey said. "If they were not wearing a seat belt or helmet and ended up in Massachusetts getting pulled over, they could subsequently get into trouble and have to pay fines, fees."
The warning signs would do just that, Coffey said, warn people they are leaving New Hampshire.
"If you don't have a helmet on, pull over and put it on. If you don't have a seat belt on, buckle up," she said. "If you have a firearm in your possession, maybe you need to turn around."
Signs would be privately funded
The lawmakers are hoping businesses associated with helmets, cellphones or cars might be interested in sponsoring a sign — to help their consumers and get a little highway advertising.
The state DOT would erect the signs, under the proposal, but no taxpayer money would be used to pay for them. Instead, individuals or businesses would pay the cost, estimated by Coffey as "a few hundred dollars," and have their name on the sign.
Coffey said it would be a "win-win" for industries.
It wouldn't necessarily be a win for Massachusetts, something that wouldn't bother Coffey at all.
"We don't need to be building Massachusetts revenues," she said.
Beyond fines, some people may find themselves in court, facing felony charges if they operate in Massachusetts, but think they're in New Hampshire.
The lawmakers cited a story about a decorated New Hampshire veteran, licensed to carry a handgun in New Hampshire, who took the weapon with him across the border.
He had an encounter with Bay State police, pleaded guilty to a firearms violation there and was put on probation for two years, according to the lawmakers. That's just the kind of situation they hope these warning signs would prevent.
Rep. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, said there's nothing "evil or sinister" about the proposal, it's simply a matter of giving people fair warning.
"We are different states, we have different rules," the 85-year-old former Massachusetts resident said. "I've never had a ticket, and I don't want one."
None of the lawmakers knew exactly how many roads might need border signs, but Griffin said there are "a lot" of back roads people might unwittingly follow into the Bay State.
A warning is only fair
As for the wording on the proposed signs, Coffey said it's enough to issue a warning.
"The word 'warning' has a tendency to get people's attention," she said. "You've been forewarned. If you continue on and violate Massachusetts law, then what happens happens, you've had fair warning."
Democrats weighed in on the proposal Friday.
"Republicans were supposed to be focused on job creation; instead, they are wasting taxpayer time and money with frivolous bills," said Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "No wonder voters have self-identified the Republican Legislature as one of the three most serious problems facing New Hampshire in three consecutive (University of New Hampshire) polls."
But these lawmakers are taking the idea seriously.
"I think the response I've heard from people initially is they think it's silly or funny," Coffey said. "But then, once people understand why, it's not funny anymore. It's not funny when someone has to spend hundreds of dollars or loses a day's work. It's not funny when someone becomes a felon."
"People should know the rights we hold dear here in New Hampshire might not be here for you when you leave New Hampshire," she said. "Be aware states have the right to create laws and not everyone has good old New Hampshire common sense when it comes to creating laws."