Dean Barker: Norelli balanced House members’ progressive policy ideas with establishment agenda

After 18 years in the New Hampshire House, Speaker Terie Norelli — my representative and neighbor in Portsmouth Ward 2 — announced she will not seek re-election this fall. Blue Hampshire founder Dean Barker pays tribute to the unique skills Norelli brought to the job:

I know of no one who has been better able to balance the more progressive policy ideas of House members with the agenda of establishment New Hampshire Democrats, while giving each side equal weight. […]

I’ve only met Terie once or twice, and each time only pleasantries were exchanged. But I have tremendous respect for how effective she has been in moving good legislation through the House while equally balancing the aims of progressive and establishment Democrats. An almost impossible task and a thankless job. One that has allies angry at you for one reason or another during a legislative season no matter how skilled you are at threading the needle of compromise.

Marriage equality, to use just one example. Today it is an inevitable national movement, When New Hampshire achieved it, it was a rarity among states and represented a major progressive victory. There were a few key people responsible for that victory; Terie Norelli is one of them.

"I feel sorry for the next House Speaker," Barker concludes. "The bar has been set very, very high."

O’Brien’s boorish and petulant House performance

The New Hampshire House today rejected right-to-work legislation by a 212-141 vote, with lawmakers generally voting along party lines. At the end of the debate, former Speaker Bill O’Brien, who sponsored House Bill 323, stepped to the rostrum to deliver closing remarks.

There’s a House tradition in which brief parliamentary inquiries are allowed after the last speech. These final comments, which summarize the issue for each side, typically are limited to two or three points.

O’Brien stunned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle by flaunting the tradition and delivered a long, defiant speech. GOP state House Rep. Steve Vaillancourt documented the boorish performance. “High drama once again in the New Hampshire House thanks to the Bully Without a Pulpit,” he wrote:

Today, even Republicans in the back of the hall realized O’Brien was going on far too long with his inquiry. I sat quietly in my seat, just wondering how long Speaker Norelli was going to allow him to ramble. When she first cautioned him about the form and purpose of a PI, O’Brien simply ignored her and kept asking a series of questions, arguing the issue of how we need the right to work bill.

When Speaker Norelli interrupted O’Brien to second time, again he ignored her and reverted back to his prepared remarks. Wow, I said to myself, how long is this going to continue? Is she going to let him continue on and on? He would have been gaveling a Rep (including yours truly) into silence had such insolence been displayed when he was Speaker.

The third time Speaker Norelli interrupted O’Brien; she informed him the purpose of a PI was to pose a question to the chair…briefly. By this time, O’Brien became petulant. Rather than simply continue reading his inquiry, O’Brien lectured Norelli that she should be attentive to his questions.

Wow! “People were just stunned,” [a fellow Republican] Rep tells me. “If he had been the Speaker and it were Terie Norelli doing that, he would not have put up with it at all,” this Rep tells me. “I was surprised by his lack of discipline.”

NH House: A focus on finding common-sense solutions

When state lawmakers voted to ban guns from the House floor and gallery, they were reinstating a policy that had been in effect since the early 1970s — until former Speaker Bill O’Brien led the charge to reverse it two years ago.

During the House debate, O’Brien took to the rostrum to blast Speaker Teri Norelli and House Democrats. “It begs the question after your promises to concentrate on the budget, jobs and the economy, the first bit of significant legislation you bring forward is this radical gun control legislation.”

In today’s Union Leader, Majority Leader Stephen Shurtleff describes a new atmosphere of bipartisan cooperation and open communication between Republicans and Democrats. But first, he sets the record straight on why the House dealt with this issue on day one, and why the debate went on for so long:

Quite simply, the House needs to approve rules on the first day of the session in order to conduct all other business, and the gun ban, as it had existed for 40 years, was a part of the House Rules.

And while there were certainly many other issues that we could have spent our Wednesday afternoon discussing, as representatives, we have a duty to have an open and honest debate of all issues that come before the House. Unlike the previous House leadership, we did not limit debate, nor will we going forward on any issue.

Shurtleff also corrects O’Brien in pointing out that the gun ban was not “the first bit of significant legislation” passed by the House this year:

Even though it was not as exciting a headline, before the debate on the House Rules, the House unanimously approved a bill to help save the taxpayers of the Newfound School District hundreds of thousands of dollars when it passed a fix to legislation passed through the GOP-led legislature two years ago.

This first piece of legislation showed that Democrats and Republicans could effectively work together to help solve problems and it set the right tone for the coming session. While there will be times that the New Hampshire House must revisit and reverse some of the more extreme policies that were passed by the Bill O’Brien-led House over the last two years, the priority of House Democrats is to focus on finding common-sense solutions to the problems facing our state.

O’Brien: House floor and gallery ‘gun-free killing zones’

House lawmakers today voted to make the floor and gallery “gun-free, killing zones,” writes former House Speaker Bill O’Brien.

In a Facebook update, O’Brien called out the six Republicans who voted for the gun ban and accused them of being “opposed to the Second Amendment and to common sense:”

List of six Republican Representatives who voted on January 2, 2013 with 190 Democrats on a 196 to 153 vote to make Representatives Hall and the House Gallery in the NH State House into gun-free, killing zones:

Belknap County - Dennis Fields, Sanborton
Carroll County - Karel Crawford, Center Harbor
Hillsborough County - Carolyn Gargasz, Hollis, Steve Vaillancourt, Manchester
Merrimack County - Priscilla Lockwood, Canterbury, David Kidder, New London

You might ask them why they are opposed to the Second Amendment and to common sense.

During the House debate earlier today, O’Brien attacked House Speaker Terie Norelli for promoting “radical gun control.”

"O’Brien’s comments were so loud and inflammatory,” wrote GOP Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, “that any Democrats who were thinking of voting with Republicans most likely backed away from the idea. So much for a lesson in ‘how to win friends and influence people.’”

GOP argument ‘flies in the face of independent analyses’

State House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli says a CNBC study, “America’s Top States for Business 2012,” confirms state budget cuts are damaging New Hampshire’s economy. In a Concord Monitor op-ed, she points out the Republican claim that their budget cuts and legislative priorities are good for the economy “flies in the face of independent analyses.”

According to the study, New Hampshire’s ranking dropped in infrastructure, transportation, and education — all areas that received devastating funding cuts in the GOP’s state budget. New Hampshire’s overall “economic” ranking suffered the biggest drop of all, plummeting from 10th to 34th nationwide.

What is frightening is the GOP’s promise to double down on their failed policies if re-elected this fall. Despite the job losses that would follow, O’Brien wants to cut another $400 million from the budget if he returns as speaker next term.

Like the economists who conducted CNBC’s “Best States for Business” study, Granite Staters know that quality infrastructure and an educated workforce are critical elements to a growing economy. If New Hampshire is to regain its role as a national leader in economic development, the Legislature we elect this fall needs to share those values.

"In November, the voters will have a clear choice"

Tuesday, Democratic House and Senate leaders held a press conference to review the recent legislative session. Here’s a little of what they had to say.

House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli:

"This Republican majority has had the wrong priorities for New Hampshire’s middle-class families and the wrong priorities for our economy. Instead of working to strengthen the economy, they pushed an extreme agenda that was more focused on taking away birth control than on helping our families succeed, an agenda that was more focused on hurting the workers in our state than on building for the future of our state. For the last two years, Bill O’Brien and his Tea Party allies have advanced a laundry list of out-of-touch legislation that shows just how wrong their priorities are for New Hampshire."

Senator Lou D’Alessandro:

"In the context of New Hampshire’s budget, the Speaker’s proposed reductions and the current cuts already in place by the Tea Party legislature are enormous and devastating."

Senator Molly Kelly:

This legislature has, at every occasion, chosen to side with radical special interests instead siding with New Hampshire’s middle class families. Nowhere is that more true than in their misplaced education priorities. Simply put, Bill O’Brien’s Tea Party legislature has made it easier to break the law and buy cigarettes, but harder to afford an education.

House Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff:

For a group of people who came in to office at the start of 2011 promising to focus on the economy like a laser, we have to ask: Do they really understand how a laser is supposed to work? The only laser-like focus I’ve seen this legislative session has been in advancing a radical and far-right social agenda.

House Democratic Floor Leader Gary Richardson:

The only protection against people like Bill O’Brien is the ballot box. In November the voters will have a clear choice: Do they want a continuation of this legislature’s radical and out of the mainstream ideological agenda, or do they want leaders who will return us to sanity?

Terie Norelli: “Republicans have misled the public”

State House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli spends sixty seconds with PBS NewsHour.

O’Brien boots lone Democrat off health care committee

State House Speaker Bill O’Brien has been accused of being a bully, a tyrant and a dictator. Today he lived up to his reputation.

O’Brien today unceremoniously licked Rep. Kathleen Taylor off the committee that will oversee the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. Taylor, the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee’s lone House Democrat, was given no reason for her dismissal.

"The Committee will make recommendations for healthcare coverage — or not — for citizens with diabetes, heart disease, mental health and many other issues," explained Taylor. "It is obvious to me that Speaker O’Brien is working hard to not allow New Hampshire to implement an expansion of Medicaid benefits for our vulnerable citizens."

"The Speaker has taken an action to limit full public discussion and has removed an experienced voice from the table," complained House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli. “Once again the Speaker has demonstrated that he will not tolerate viewpoints that differ from his own opinion and he dismisses the representative voice of a significant segment of New Hampshire voters.”

"I’m sure voters will remember this Speaker’s actions when casting their votes in November," Norelli warned.

D.J. Bettencourt: “Jane, You Ignorant Slut”

Bob Mead, director of legislative services for the House Majority Office, resigned yesterday after being outed by the Concord Monitor. The Monitor story revealed Mead used his taxpayer-funded position to recruit Republicans to run for office and he had billed the state for travel expenses related to that work.

Questions remain, said House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli:

"By whom was (Mead) directed to do electoral work? I would like to know why the speaker hasn’t taken any action against Greg Moore, the chief of staff, since he was the one who approved the reimbursement."

We don’t discuss personnel matters, replied House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt:

"Unfortunately the professionalism and decorum underlying this policy allows ignorant partisans to jibber jabber without response but the House policy of not commenting on these matters is the proper one."

Bettencourt Scolds Lynch, Twitterverse Responds

Fireworks in the N.H. House

It was another wild and woolly House session in Concord this morning. We’ll pick it up when the House GOP returns from a private caucus called by Speaker O’Brien.

Update: The House Democrats issued a statement calling Speaker O’Brien’s actions “an unprecedented power grab.”

"In NH, Marriage Equality Is for All NH Citizens"

“I would like to praise the NH House for recognizing that in NH, marriage equality is for all NH citizens. The vote today solidifies what the majority of NH citizens believe — that marriage equality is about the people of this great state. I am very proud of the House vote today to uphold our marriage laws and to be a leader in our nation.”

— House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli, on today’s defeat of House Bill 437, which would have repealed same-sex marriage.

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