NHDP - ICYMI : No transparency in override vote

Concord, NH - In case you missed it, today's Nashua Telegraph editorial took House Republican Speaker Bill O'Brien to task for not conducting himself "in a manner consistent with the principles of open government in a democratic society."  This week, O'Brien called a veto override vote, without any public notice - and after his office told members of the state House and the media that it would not come up.

 

The Telegraph continued, noting that this wasn't the "first time O'Brien's actions have run counter to open government practices."

 

"This is the same speaker who cleared the House gallery back in March in response to heckling over talk of deep budget cuts and collective bargaining restrictions.

 

"This is the same speaker who wasn't bashful about replacing GOP committee members prior to key votes if they weren't deemed loyal to the cause.

 

"This is the same speaker who, in his attorney's response to a lawsuit filed over the gallery closing, argues that 'the House can close its gallery whenever it deems appropriate and for as long as it deems appropriate.'"

 

The full text of the editorial is below.

 

Nashua Telegraph: No transparency in override vote 

When the House of Representatives calendar was released last week in anticipation of Wednesday's session, it ran 29 pages and consisted of more than 7,800 words - and not one of those words was spelled "O-V-E-R-R-I-D-E."

 

What's more, Republican leaders said publicly prior to the session they did not intend to act that day on any of the bills vetoed by Gov. John Lynch at what was expected to be a relatively short session.

 

So why weren't we surprised to learn House Speaker William O'Brien seized the opportunity - without notifying either the minority party or the public - to call for an override of one of the most controversial bills to come up this year, the deadly force legislation (SB 88)?

 

Simple. Because this type of behavior is consistent with a party leadership that talks a good game about open government but doesn't comprehend what it really means.

 

"Can you explain to me where the people of New Hampshire can find in an agenda on any given day when a veto will be taken up?" Assistant Democratic Leader Lucy Weber of Walpole asked at Wednesday's session.

 

"The chair sets the agenda," O'Brien replied. "It is now on the agenda."

 

With those pleasantries out of the way, the House then proceeded to debate and ultimately vote to override the veto, 251-111.

 

That vote came on the heels of a similar vote in the Senate last week, where members overrode the governor's veto by a much tighter 17-7 margin.

 

As a result, the bill that broadens the rights of individuals to use deadly force to defend themselves in public will become law Nov. 13.

 

While it's true we opposed this bill on the grounds it was unnecessary and urged lawmakers to support the governor's veto (Aug. 17: "Veto should stand on deadly force bill"), that's not really the point here. This is about legislative leaders conducting themselves in a manner consistent with the principles of open government in a democratic society.

 

So why did the speaker feel it was necessary to play hardball with this bill by calling for a surprise override vote?

 

We give up. Maybe he just can't help himself. Maybe it's just part of his political DNA after observing his former Boston law partner Thomas Finneran, who was no stranger to strong-arm tactics when he served as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives until resigning under the cloud of a federal probe in 2004.

 

Still, this isn't the first time O'Brien's actions have run counter to open government practices.

 

This is the same speaker who cleared the House gallery back in March in response to heckling over talk of deep budget cuts and collective bargaining restrictions.

 

This is the same speaker who wasn't bashful about replacing GOP committee members prior to key votes if they weren't deemed loyal to the cause.

 

This is the same speaker who, in his attorney's response to a lawsuit filed over the gallery closing, argues that "the House can close its gallery whenever it deems appropriate and for as long as it deems appropriate."

 

All this from the same person who was quoted in a House-issued news release earlier this year as saying: "We are committed to bringing transparency to state government and making it easier for people to know what their government is doing."

 

After Wednesday's House shenanigans, it's now clear he meant after the fact.