Concord – House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli released the following statement on today’s House Session.
“Today, the House Republicans continued to make a mockery of our once respected Legislature. Instead of focusing on economy and jobs, House Leadership attached a number of failed proposals to Senate Bills.”
“Extending the research and development tax credit is supported Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature and the business community. The House attached an amendment establishing a 24-hour waiting period for abortions legislation, already killed by the Senate, to the research and development tax credit bill.”
“This shows the continued trend that Republicans in the Legislature are willing to sacrifice jobs and bipartisan agreement in pursuit of their extreme anti-choice agenda. The Legislature should not be interfering in women’s health care at all and Republicans certainly shouldn’t be holding a jobs bill hostage in pursuit of their anti-choice agenda.”
Speaker William O’Brien
New Hampshire House of Representatives
107 N. Main St.
Concord, NH 03301
Monday, May 14, 2012
Dear Mr. Speaker:
It was with great concern when I first learned about Bob Mead, an employee of the House Majority Office, billing taxpayers for Republican recruiting trips – reimbursement requests that were approved by your chief of staff, Greg Moore. The taxpayers of New Hampshire deserve an immediate apology from you for this abuse of their money.
The people of New Hampshire, as well as the members of the House, also deserve answers to questions raised by Mr. Mead’s reimbursement requests:
· Who reviews reimbursement requests for House staff members?
· Who assigned Mr. Mead the responsibility for tracking House Republican recruitment?
· Who requested that Mr. Mead attend local Republican committee meetings to recruit Republican House candidates? Were Mr. Mead’s plans to attend these events approved in advance by the Speaker, Majority Leader or Mr. Moore?
· The Concord Monitor quotes Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper as saying: “To the best of my knowledge, he (Mead) is keeping track of which Republicans are planning on running. Beyond that, I’m really not sure what he’s doing.” Specifically, what other duties does Mr. Mead perform?
· Is Mr. Mead responsible for keeping track of recruitment efforts of the House Republican Caucus or any other electoral work? How much time does he spend per week on this function? Is there another employee of the Republican State Committee or the House Republican Caucus who is responsible for recruitment efforts?
· Did Mr. Mead receive comp time – funded by taxpayers – for his attendance at Republican committee events outside the normal working week?
Charging taxpayers for Republican political recruiting trips is an abuse of the public trust and of taxpayers’ money. While Mr. Mead made the reimbursement request, the responsibility for his actions rests with the Speaker and the Majority Leader. The public deserves an apology for your actions and explanation of who authorized Mr. Mead to recruit Republican candidates on the taxpayers’ dime.
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli today congratulated New Hampshire’s Department of Education for attaining national recognition with the awarding of the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation.
“New Hampshire is being recognized for our efforts to keep high school students engaged in their education and their future. Democrats worked hard to pass a law requiring young people to stay in high school until age 18. Democrats also ensured success for our students by offering alternative programs, including night school, internships and vocational education,” said Norelli.
“Reducing the state’s drop-out rate is an excellent achievement that benefits our students, our families, New Hampshire businesses and our economy. This is the type of policy that creates jobs for New Hampshire.”
“Congratulations to New Hampshire for the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation and to our hard-working and dedicated teachers and students.”
Larsen, Norelli: O’Brien, Republicans Should Not Put Big Oil Before New Hampshire Taxpayers, Consumers
CONCORD – Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen and House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli said today that Speaker Bill O’Brien, Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt and other Republicans should not be putting the interests of big oil companies ahead of New Hampshire taxpayers and consumers.
New Hampshire, like many other states, has a taxpayer-funded petroleum cleanup fund. Twenty-five states have filed lawsuits against big oil companies for double dipping on cleanup costs – collecting money both from taxpayers and their insurance companies for the same cleanup expenses.
Attorney General Michael Delaney has presented a request to the Legislative Fiscal Committee for New Hampshire to join these efforts. O’Brien and Bettencourt viciously attacked the request, joined by their allies at Americans for Prosperity – which is reportedly funded by the Koch Brothers, who have significant oil interests.
“O’Brien and House Republicans are putting the interests of big oil before New Hampshire taxpayers,” Norelli said. “Big oil companies should not be able to make a profit off of polluting New Hampshire’s environment. Why does O’Brien think it is okay for oil companies to charge New Hampshire taxpayers for the same costs they are getting reimbursed for by their insurance companies?”
Unfortunately, O’Brien and Bettencourt’s statements are part of a larger pattern by the current legislature to put out-of-state corporate interests ahead of New Hampshire consumers and taxpayers. This legislature voted to allow out-of-state companies to charge 300 percent interest rates; to cut the tobacco tax by 10 cents at the same time it cut funding for higher education in half; and even against protecting customers who pre-pay for their home heating oil.
“New Hampshire taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill while big oil companies rake in the bucks from their insurance companies,” Larsen said. “We will support the Attorney General’s efforts to protect New Hampshire consumers, and we hope that reasonable Republicans in the legislature will join us in putting consumers first.”
Representatives Terie Norelli, Steve Shurtleff, Gary Richardson, and Cindy Rosenwald held a press conference today to talk about how Republicans had promised to focus on the economy and jobs but instead they have focused their attention on social issues and a radical agenda.
Below are the Prepared Remarks:
Thank you all for joining us today. My name is Terie Norelli and I am the Democratic Leader in the New Hampshire House.
With “Crossover” completed, we wanted to recap the highlights and lowlights of the first half of the session.
But before we recap the first half of the session, I feel it is important to address an incident that happened recently in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. Unfortunately, it epitomizes the misplaced priorities and insulting attitude that this Republican majority has demonstrated to people from across New Hampshire.
In discussing a bill that would have updated our rape statutes to remove the term “mentally defective,” Rep. Ken Kreis said of a rape victim with disabilities, “she had her whole life to get used to being called defective.”
Rep. Jason Antosz also supported keeping the phrase, saying “defective” and “retarded” are “just words.”
These were outrageously insensitive insults – to rape victims and to people with disabilities. I don’t believe they represent New Hampshire values. But unfortunately, these words and actions epitomize what we have seen from this Republican majority — insults and attacks for anyone who disagrees with them, and disregard for the needs and rights of women, as well as people with disabilities.
And this bill, which had already been recommended by the Criminal Justice committee, was sent back to committee, reportedly by Republican leadership.
Speaker O’Brien has made it a point to punish legislators who disagree with him — even removing from their committee members who disagree with him and stand up for their constituents and their communities.
Speaker O’Brien should condemn these outrageous comments by Representatives Kreis and Antosz. I am left wondering if the Speaker will remove them from the Criminal Justice committee as it appears that these representatives have no interest in listening to or serving the needs of crime victims.
Finally, I call on the Speaker to support immediate passage of this legislation.
The actions of the Republican majority speak louder than their words. The Republican majority has undermined efforts to bring new jobs to New Hampshire.
Republicans had promised to focus on the economy and jobs. Instead they have focused their attention on social issues and a radical agenda, with multiple bills attacking women’s health care; legislation to upend contracts between workers and their employers; an effort to take over Medicare; even more efforts to dismantle public education; and bills that undermine basic public safety.
Republican leadership moves forward with every bad idea they can find. They have even pushed through multiple bills that their own committee leadership has determined are harmful … like the plan to take over Medicare, defund planned parenthood, repeal workforce housing, and the list goes on and on.
From refusing to give public notice of votes, to taking seats away from disabled legislators for disagreeing with him, to overriding Republican committee recommendations, Bill O’Brien has corrupted the legislative process.
In the past three months alone, this House has passed:
7 gun bills
8 bills cutting women’s access to health care
8 bills undermining the rights and safety of workers
5 bills attacking public education
At least 5 attacks on the judicial branch
And even one bill planning for a state takeover of Medicare for seniors.
Representatives Shurtleff, Richardson and Rosenwald will address more specifically a few policy areas of particular concern.
House Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff:
Good morning. My name is Steve Shurtleff, and I am the House Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader and a retired US Marshall.
Under the House Republican Leadership, working-class families have been called names and their livelihoods have been attacked. This is no way to treat our police officers, firefighters, teachers, and thousands of other workers across our great State.
House Republicans have passed several bills that would upend the contracts between workers and employers, which forces State Government into the employer – employee relationship.
Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to pass an amended version of HB 1677 – turning this year’s version of “right-to-work” into the identical twin of the right-to-work legislation. And today the Senate will vote once again on last year’s so-called right-to-work bill.
Last fall, House Democrats worked with House Republicans to sustain Governor Lynch’s veto on this out-of-state special interest backed bill. After not getting their way last year, Speaker O’Brien just can’t take no for an answer, but I am confident that if the Senate passes this bill, the House will again sustain the Governor’s veto.
When they are not attempting to force “right to work” for less onto New Hampshire, State House Republicans are undermining public safety in pursuit of their guns first agenda.
It began last year, when they voted to allow guns in the State House, and the House chamber, and then passed “Shoot first” legislation opposed by law enforcement and vetoed by Governor Lynch. This dangerous law allows the use of deadly force on street corners, in shopping malls, public parks, and in retail stores.
Drug dealers and other felons who brandish weapons will be further emboldened to use their weapons, while prosecution of those criminals will be made more difficult because of this bill’s expansion of the right to use deadly force.
I remember a few weeks before Governor Lynch vetoed that terrible bill, I read that a man was arrested for brandishing a shotgun in a Pembroke park after a drug transaction turned into an argument. Luckily, no one was harmed in that case but what if that drug dealer had felt threated he would be justified in the use of that deadly force.
That’s not right. That’s why the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Sheriffs Association, the New Hampshire State Police, representatives of over 40 local law enforcement departments and the current and former Attorney Generals warned it would jeopardize public safety.
This year, the House Republicans have continued their focus on guns, passing an additional 7 bills – including one that would have mandated guns be allowed in the dorms and classrooms of public colleges.
New Hampshire has always had a tradition of common sense and responsible public safety laws; however, House Republicans have passed rules and laws that jeopardize our safest state in the Nation status.
House Democratic Floor Leader Gary Richardson:
Good morning! My name is Gary Richardson and I am the House Democratic Floor Leader.
In its quest for power, House Republican leadership has repeatedly violated the separation of power between the three co-equal branches of government by passing unconstitutional legislation and corrupting the rule of law in New Hampshire. There has been bill after bill seeking to force the Attorney General to engage in lawsuits against the federal government or preventing cooperation with the federal government. There have been at least 5 bills attacking the independence of the judiciary, including a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the ability of the judicial branch to make its own rules.
The Speaker has sought and obtained the power to subpoena witnesses as part of his effort to control Health and Human Services, an executive branch agency, and in the process invade the confidentiality of child protection proceedings – a confidentiality based on protecting the rights of children. The Redress of Grievances committee is acting like a grand jury conducting McCarthy style investigations far beyond anything ever contemplated in our constitution.
House Republican leadership likes to claim it is focusing on jobs, but most of its attention this year has been given to a narrow, Tea Party agenda that will undermine our future economic growth.
Last year, at the same time that this legislature cut the tobacco tax and caused the loss of revenue from tax evaders by eliminating state auditors, they cut aid to higher education in half. They passed on to local taxpayers a costly and disruptive bill that forces schools to develop alternative, individual lesson plans for any student at a parent’s demand.
They’ve continued their anti-education crusade this year, passing a bill aimed at overturning the decisions of local school boards who decide to use a particular educational method. Why? – Because it has the word “international” in it.
And they are pushing an expensive school voucher program that will cost local schools millions a year, driving up local property taxes.
Most business leaders say the future of New Hampshire’s economy will depend on its educated workforce. The House Republican leadership seems ideologically committed to undermining our students, our schools and our state government at every turn.
House Deputy Democratic Floor Leader Cindy Rosenwald:
Good morning, my name is Cindy Rosenwald and I am the Deputy Democratic Floor Leader.
Nowhere is the radical agenda of this House more clear than in the war it has waged on women’s access to health care.
This legislature voted to overturn a 12-year-old bipartisan law guaranteeing equity in prescription drug coverage to women. Their goal: to end prescription coverage for contraception. In New Hampshire do we really want the owner of a business to be able to deny contraceptive coverage?
Back in January, the House passed House Bill 228 in order to fulfill their obsession with de-funding organizations like Planned Parenthood. This ideologically-extreme legislation would completely eliminate all funding for basic, preventive health care services (services such as access to birth control and cancer screenings) received by over 16,000 New Hampshire women, men, and families at Planned Parenthood health centers, some hospitals, and any health facilities that offer full reproductive health care.
This bill would also put New Hampshire at risk of losing 1.2 billion in money for Medicaid funds. This policy is bad for our families, bad for our communities, and bad for our state.
In all, this legislature has passed 8 bills directly related to women’s health care. In fact, they even passed a bill that would take away insurance coverage for midwife services.
When House Republicans are not focused on repealing contraception coverage or defunding basic, preventive health care services for thousands of New Hampshire women, they are voting to undermine health care in other ways.
And now they’ve voted to plan for the legislature to take over Medicare for seniors. The State Committee on Aging calls this proposal “potentially disastrous.”
And disastrous is what their other health changes have been.
House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli:
Thank you Steve, Gary, and Cindy! Unfortunately this has been the story at the State House for the past fifteen months. Bills that would be laughed out of any living room or board room in New Hampshire, are being pushed through by a radical Tea Party coalition.
I look forward to when the New Hampshire Legislature is taken seriously again and begins to work with the Governor on common sense solutions to create jobs and grow our economy. Thank you!
In a column published in the Monitor yesterday, House Speaker Bill O’Brien and others argued that the vote to override the governor’s veto of the House redistricting plan was conducted properly. He described the failure to publish the governor’s veto message in the House Journal prior to the vote as a red herring and justified his tactical strategy of calling for a vote without notice to the public on the grounds of expediency.
In fact, the requirement to publish the veto message prior to a vote to override is required by the state Constitution. Part II, Art. 44 of the Constitution says that if the governor vetoes a bill, “he shall return it, with his objections, to that house in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it.” Although the Constitution does not say “then proceed to reconsider it,” the sequence of the phrases in the sentence leads to the conclusion that the veto message must be entered into the Journal before reconsideration.
Given that the Constitution was written before we had electronic communication, it makes perfect sense for the framers to require that a veto message be recorded in the Journal for everyone to read before proceeding with a vote. Even in the digital age, legislators are entitled to see what they are voting on before casting their votes.
More important, the public is entitled to know what business the House is conducting. The House “Calendar and Journal” is the only notice that the public receives of the issues that will be considered during a House session. The Constitution requires that the House gallery be kept open to enable the public to observe the functioning of their government.
That right is hollow if the public is not provided with notice of the business being conducted.
Our Right-to-Know Law states that “openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society.”
The speaker can flout a statute, but he cannot flout the Constitution. Part 1, Art. 8 of the Constitution states that “all power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them. Government therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.”
I could not have said it better. So much for transparency in government.
(Rep. Gary B. Richardson of Hopkinton is the Democratic floor leader.)
It would be nice to wake up tomorrow morning and discover that the actions of the current New Hampshire House and its imperious speaker, Bill O’Brien, had been one long April Fools joke and now lawmakers were planning to get serious. Unfortunately, the speaker and House majority seriously believe that people should be able to stand their ground and shoot anyone they think is threatening them rather than walk away. And they are serious when they say that a tortured electoral redistricting plan is the best one they could conceive.
The House passes so much bad, or downright illegal, legislation that’s it’s hard to keep track of it all. Last week alone, the House passed three bills that will have a negative impact on some or all of the state’s residents. One is a bill that makes women seeking an abortion wait at least 24 hours between an initial doctor’s visit and the procedure itself. That’s needless legislation that demeans and inconveniences women without justification. Gov. John Lynch should veto it.
February marked the 324th consecutive month that global temperatures exceeded their long-term average. March saw a string of high temperature records broken in New Hampshire and across America. The great majority of scientists say global warming caused by human activity is at least in part at fault. So what did New Hampshire’s House do? By better than a two-to-one margin it voted to pull New Hampshire out of the regional greenhouse gas agreement to cut carbon emissions. That would hasten global warming. The House took that action on the same day that scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report warning that global warming is causing extreme weather that will decimate coastal areas – extreme weather that could strike anywhere on Earth. Longer droughts, worse floods, fiercer storms and longer and more frequent heat waves are predicted.
The House also overturned the governor’s veto of its redistricting plan (and the Senate later concurred). That vote came as a surprise engineered by the House’s devious and dictatorial speaker, enough of a surprise that the vote deserves to be challenged on constitutional grounds.
The House plan deprives 62 communities large enough to meet the requirements under the state Constitution that they have a representative to call their own. It also lumps some city wards, including Concord’s Ward 5, in with other communities. Because of those flaws a fair number of Republicans, perhaps enough to make overturning Lynch’s veto impossible, opposed the redistricting plan. On Thursday, O’Brien looked around and saw that many of them were absent. He held a half-hour caucus with the Republicans present and then called a vote. Democrats who asked for 15 minutes to caucus before the vote were told no.
The redistricting vote had not been scheduled, nor had the governor’s veto message been printed in the House calendar as required under the state Constitution. When challenged, O’Brien cited an opinion by House legal counsel Ed Mosca, a conservative activist and occasional Monitor columnist, that the vote was legal, but he refused to allow Democrats to read the opinion.
We urge Democrats, joined by Republican representatives and their constituents who will be denied equal representation by the redistricting plan, to sue, both over O’Brien’s illegal vote and the redistricting plan itself. What’s going on in the House is government at its worst. Mean-spirited, meddlesome, partisan, ill-reasoned and tyrannical. We urge voters to think hard about whether to send their representatives back to Concord in the fall.
BACKGROUND: House Speaker William O’Brien orchestrated a surprise vote to override the governor’s veto of the House redistricting plan this week.
CONCLUSION: Chalk this up as the latest example of the speaker behaving badly – and possibly violating the state constitution to boot.
If anyone needs a fresh example of the blatant disregard for civility and fair play so common in government today, we offer up our speaker of the House of Representatives as Exhibit A.
No stranger to procedural controversy during his first 18 months in leadership, Rep. William O’Brien, of Mont Vernon, did it again Wednesday when he thumbed his nose at House protocol – if not the New Hampshire Constitution – in calling for an unscheduled override vote of Gov. John Lynch’s veto of the House redistricting plan (HB 592).
After fighting back a procedural challenge by outraged Democrats, the House voted to override the governor’s veto by the necessary two-thirds margin, 246-112. On Thursday, the Senate followed suit, 17-7, making the House redistricting plan law.
This is the same plan that deprives Hudson and Pelham of their own seats – they will share 11 under the new law – even though they were deserving of seven and four, respectively, based on their populations.
In calling for the vote, O’Brien appears to have run afoul of the state constitution, which says the governor’s veto message should be printed in the legislative body’s journal prior to an override attempt.
Specifically, Part II, Article 44 of the state constitution states that if the governor vetoes a bill, “he shall return it, with his objections, to that house in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it.”
In order to get around that, O’Brien halted proceedings Wednesday to call a 30-minute private caucus with House Republicans, during which he distributed a written opinion from House legal counsel Ed Mosca. The opinion concluded that the speaker has the authority to take up the governor’s veto, though the House could choose not to do so by a majority vote.
Upon learning of the speaker’s intent, House Democrats asked for a 15-minute break to caucus on their own, certainly a reasonable request under the circumstances. Of course, their request was denied. Nor were they allowed to see a copy of Mosca’s legal opinion prior to the vote.
And as would be expected in a chamber where they are outnumbered by a 3-1 margin, the Democratic objection to the speaker’s decision failed by a lopsided 255-97 tally.
“I am at a total loss to understand why (O’Brien) continues to break Houses rules, to violate the constitution, to make up his own way of doing things day after day,” House Minority Leader Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, told the Portsmouth Herald after the vote.
Given Norelli knows full well why the speaker does what he does, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt she was speaking rhetorically.
So is this much ado about nothing? We don’t think so.
By telling reporters and others Monday that he didn’t intend to bring Lynch’s veto forward this week, O’Brien may have deprived some lawmakers the opportunity to participate. Of the 397 House members now serving, 39 were absent for a vote that exceeded the two-thirds margin by eight.
What’s worse, the unannounced vote also denied municipal officials – particularly those in communities like Hudson, Manchester and Pelham that share seats – one last opportunity to persuade their lawmakers to sustain the governor’s veto in hopes of a better deal.
But that no doubt was the speaker’s plan all along, yet another example of an ends-justify-the-means philosophy that is giving our state government a bad name.
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Susan Almy, House Democratic Policy Leader on Ways & Means Committee and Representative Christine Hamm, who serves on the Ways & Means Committee, issued the following statements on HB 1607, which establishes an education credit against the business profits tax.
“This bill would implement a tax credit for businesses offering scholarships to students attending private schools. The program extracts money from New Hampshire’s public schools in favor of funding private, religious and home schools, thus costing the state and school districts important and sparse revenues now used towards public education,” stated Representative Christine Hamm.
“In addition, by allowing state money to fund private and religious schools, this legislation is a violation of the New Hampshire constitution,” said Representative Susan Almy. “This will open the door for expensive litigation that will ultimately be paid for by taxpayers – an additional downshift. New Hampshire businesses are more concerned with the state’s commitment to a quality education for our students and high property taxes. This bill does the opposite.”
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader and Representative Stephen Shurtleff, Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader, issued the following statements on the House passage of House Bill 1659, which states that woman are not capable of making their own medical decisions.
“House Republicans continue their attacks on women – whether repealing contraception coverage, defunding basic preventive health care services for thousands of New Hampshire women, and now interfering with the doctor-patient relationship,” said Norelli.
“Women are smart and thoughtful, and they take great care in making all their medical decisions. Women don’t need the legislature butting into the process,” said Norelli. ” If the legislature wants to start controlling all of aspects of our health care, when will the House Republicans pass a bill that mandates that men have to wait 24 hours before they can have a vasectomy or have Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction? House Bill 1659 is a dangerous bill that inserts government into the doctor and patient relationship. This is a clear violation of the woman’s rights and the physicians’ responsibilities.”
“The bill contains criminal penalties and disciplinary measures against our medical professionals,” stated Representative Stephen Shurtleff. “This bill replaces the Physicians’ Desk Reference with the New Hampshire Criminal Code.