CONCORD — Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien and his supporters plan to push ahead on Wednesday with a proposed rule change that would require House Speaker Shawn Jasper to formally appoint the elected leaders of the Republican and Democratic caucuses as the House Majority and Minority leaders.
According to Rep. Steve Stepanek, R-Amherst, one of O’Brien’s top supporters, if the rule change proposal does not pass the full House when it meets for the first time on Wednesday, the O’Brien forces expect to set up their own House Republican office across the street from the State House.
Also, Stepanek said, O’Brien told a meeting of the conservative House Republican Alliance Tuesday morning that if the rule change does not pass, O’Brien intends to name Stepanek as the Deputy Majority Leader and Rep. Pam Tucker as the floor leader with “further leadership positions to be announced in the coming days.”
Speaker Jasper, who was elected over O’Brien on Dec. 3 with the votes of 159 Democrats and about 36 Republicans, has already named his own leadership team. O’Brien was elected as the House GOP caucus nominee on Nov. 18 by a 116-112 vote over former House Speaker Gene Chandler, who is now Jasper’s Deputy Speaker but lost the final vote for Speaker to Jasper when Democrats joined a group of anti-O’Brien Republicans.
If there are competing leadership teams, it should make for a fair amount of drama, and possibly confusion, as the House proceeds into the 2015-2016 session.
Stepanek, however, is holding out hope that the full House will overturn a 9-0 vote of the Jasper-appointed House Rules Committee rejecting the proposed rule change that would have required Jasper to appoint O’Brien as Majority Leader. Jasper has already appointed Rep. Jack Flanagan to that post.
“This amendment will go forward tomorrow,” Stepanek said. “I am hoping that we will be able to prevail on that, but the Speaker’s office has been very active in lobbying against it and the Democrats have been pounding the pavement to support the Speaker. If that is the case and if we do lose it, we already have plans.
“Bill is the House Republican caucus leader,’ Stepanek said, “and he is recognized by the state Republican Party. We have already been actively fund-raising and we will be opening up an office across the street from the State House, provided we don’t win the rules change tomorrow.”
Stepanek said he has been told that opponents of the rules change have been “disseminating misinformation” that it would not take effect until 2016.
But Stepanek said, “We’re very hopeful that Republicans will in fact support the Republican Party. The Speaker has been censured by the state Republican Party (Executive Committee). The vote on the rules amendment will be a roll call vote. And there will be a tremendous amount of interest by Republicans across the state as to who is going to be supporting Republicans.”
Stepanek also noted that the U.S. House on Tuesday held an open roll call vote to reelect U.S. Rep. John Boehner as Speaker.
“It’s good enough for Congress” to have an open vote, he said, “but not good enough for the New Hampshire House.” O’Brien’s attempt to have an open vote for New Hampshire House Speaker on Dec. 3 failed, leading to Jasper’s election as Speaker.
Stepanek also said the O’Brien group will push hard against a proposed new rule requiring that 20 members rise to second a motion for a roll call vote, doubling the number of seconds necessary from 10.
More fallout in the Jasper-O’Brien battle came when Jasper last week removed from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Seabrook Republican Rep. Albert “Max” Abramson because he was found guilty of a felony in 2012 for reckless use of a firearm in 2010. Abramson’s appeal was rejected and he was fined and performed community service. The New Hampshire Journal’s report is here.
Stepanek said Abramson has paid his penalty and should not have been removed from the panel.
O’Brien last Friday posted a lengthy Facebook message blasting Jasper. He noted that Jasper in 2005 argued strongly to expel Chandler from the House for not reporting $64,000 in contributions he collected from lobbyists and others who do business with the Legislature at his traditional “Corn Roast” fundraisers.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Chair Rep. John Tholl, R-Whitefield, answered O’Brien’s Facebook post with a letter to all House members, in which he wrote that he asked for Abramson’s removal from the committee because the committee’s reputation “should be above reproach, and as it deals with criminal legislation, the members should be free from serious violations of the law that we are asked to create.”
A report on Tholl’s letter appeared today on the Miscellany Blue web site, which can be viewed here.
Also Tuesday, state Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, who was on active duty for 22 years as a Marine, said he was not reappointed to the State Veterans Advisory Committee, on which he had served for the past three terms.
He said he was informed Tuesday evening that Jasper had not reappointed him.
“I’m one of the loudest voices on behalf of veterans,” said Baldasaro, who charged the Jasper did not reappoint him as a payback for supporting O’Brien and being an outspoken critic of Jasper.
“It’s a slap in the face to the veterans community not to have a loud voice on that committee for them,” he said.