Concord, NH- In case you missed it this morning, conservative Republican State Representative Tony Soltani took House Republican Speaker Bill O'Brien to task in an op-ed for the Concord Monitor. Soltani charged that O'Brien has "tainted honor of the House" with his "brute intimidation, petty retaliation and open bullying."
The full text of Rep. Soltani's op-ed is below.
Concord Monitor: Brute intimidation mars Legislature's reputation
Speaker has tainted honor of the House
For the New Hampshire Legislature to work well, we, the representatives, must congregate, debate new ideas, welcome dissent, listen carefully, study the issues and arrive at conclusions. The founders of this state knew that a static and intolerant government without room for dissent would not serve the people well. They called it "slavish" and "absurd."
But for their vision, only white Protestant men could vote or be elected, women would still be chattel, children would have no rights and the political earth would still be flat.
We can disagree and debate without being disagreeable. Unfortunately, the House has lost its way amid tyranny of the majority. The rules, intended to ensure open and fair debate, are often disregarded and, even more often, blatantly broken. Dissent is not tolerated. The art of persuasion has been replaced with brute intimidation, petty retaliation and open bullying.
I have seen more elected representatives ejected from the rostrum during the 16 weeks of House Speaker Bill O'Brien's administration than I have in 16 prior years put together.
The interruptions and the rulings of the chair often have no basis in our rules. The question is no longer whether the representatives are in order or acting within the rules.
The operative factor is whether they follow the O'Brien manifesto or they choose to dissent and wish to be heard.
Not long ago, a Democratic colleague was speaking and was ruled out of order by the speaker. I challenged the ruling. The rules were clear. The member was allowed to speak. Finally, O'Brien relented.
Not to my surprise, the following week, O'Brien introduced a new rule, heretofore unknown, that would have given him the ability and power to do what he wanted to do the prior week, and thereby legally snuff my colleagues, Democrat or Republican, who dare disagree with him.
The House is in shambles. We are operating not as a free and democratic body but under a self-anointed dictatorship. We are ordered away from the rostrum for no recognized reason. Our motions are disregarded.
Our points of order, parliamentary inquiries, or questions to the chair are ignored or, worse yet, encountered by an insult.
As I watch the proceedings, I am often reminded of Billy Bulger presiding over the Massachusetts Senate. This is all the more ironic since O'Brien ran on the platform of "bottom up" legislation.
He promised that there would be no pressure exerted and that input would be welcome from all. He has left a trail of promises broken and rights trampled.
No political body is a full meritocracy. But the New Hampshire House is now a system of complete tyranny. You must carry water or else.
You must go along with the edicts if you wish to remain in His Majesty's favor. Once in a great while, if you absolutely cannot vote the O'Brien way, you might beg His Majesty's leave to "take a walk." (Abstention from a vote for those present is not permitted).
A few weeks back, O'Brien openly announced to the media, the public and members of the House that a veto override vote on the highly contentious "right to work" legislation would be taken on a date certain.
We had a nearly full attendance. People from both sides, along with the media showed up, having relied on the speaker's word. Without so much as any explanation His Majesty pulled the vote off the docket and has kept it in his hip pocket for over a month.
The speaker speaks for the House. He has tainted the honor of the House by making false announcements on our behalf. That is not my way, the New Hampshire way, nor the Republican way.
As a colleague of mine, a retired Army colonel, told the entire House, fancy license plates, special seating, important-sounding titles and designated parking do not seduce some of us.
Acts of bullying, threats of reseating or removal from committee do not scare us. There are those of us who shall continue to do our job as the people have elected us to do. We act within the law.
I hope that those who know me know that I am not easily seduced nor threatened. I shall carry out my office and uphold my oath as I have done consistently.
(State Rep. Tony Soltani is a Republican from Epsom.)