New Hampshire Buckles Up

New Hampshire is the freest state in America, according to a Mercatus study by Jason Sorens and William P. Ruger.  This study ranked the 50 states by degree of economic and personal freedom:

New Hampshire comes out on top as the freest state in the United States. It achieved this ranking due to its excellent fiscal policies and moderate levels of regulation and paternalism. However, as with all of the states, even New Hampshire has room for improvement, and post-2006 political changes in that state may mean that its ranking in this study will fall the next time we update the data and rankings.

It seems, however, that New Hampshire is in danger of losing its number one spot.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the “Live Free or Die” state is considering passing a seat belt law:

The Granite State has long been known for its plucky Yankee self-sufficiency — it was the first colony to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776. Today it is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a law requiring adults to wear seat belts. It has resisted efforts to pass one for 30 years, and has been the proud lone outlier since 1995, when neighboring Maine became the 49th state to buckle.

But now, legislators are close to passing a seat-belt law under a push by Democrats who gained control of the state Senate, House and governorship in 2006 for the first time in a hundred years. The Democrats have been boosted in the polls by a wave of migration from other states, including famously liberal Massachusetts, over the past decade.

A growing budget deficit in New Hampshire may be the reason why legislators are contemplating the law:

One key factor in the buckle-up bill is that the state, like others, is strapped for cash. The law would qualify New Hampshire for $3.7 million in federal money offered to states that pass or update seat-belt ordinances by July 30.

The money would come from a law passed by the Bush Administration in 2004 to incentivize the passage of seat-belt laws.  In addition to the federal money,  fines would also raise revenue for New Hampshire.  The bill calls for a $25 fine for first time offenders and $50 fines for second offences.