Chalk this up under real inside baseball stuff, but in a sense, it really matters because it serves as evidence of a new spirit in the New Hampshire House.
Speaker Terie Norelli Wednesday, after a voice vote clearly indicated the House position on a bill, acknowledged that she had not heard the call for a roll call vote and went back and allowed such a vote.
It was all quite understandable. Rep. Stella Tremblay had spoken on behalf of a petition (from Wade Henry regarding a workmen's comp claim,) asked at the conclusion of her speech called for the roll call. Many other speakers came after her, and Speaker Norelli called for the voice vote, not having heard the roll call request.
In fact, this is very similar to what happened once in the first year of the last administration. I'll never forget it because it was the day I began to believe that Speaker Bill O'Brien could not be trusted to follow the rules at all. He not only ignored a roll call request; he refused to acknowledge parliamentary inquires on a question being debated, but it was far worse than that. He ignored any type of recorded vote (even a division) and when the voice vote was very close, he continued to refuse to get a clear indication of sentiment.
I'll never forget the moment. As I recall, it was in December of 2011, when we were called in for a special session day to deal with emergency legislation. The Speaker was trying to bully the Senate into coming back into session to deal with one of his pet projects, marital masters. He had a proviso for the masters attached to an important Senate action, and we all knew the Senate would refuse to come back in session, so the state stood to lose millions of dollars for the action by the bully. That's why numerous Republicans joined Democrats in a NO voice vote.
The issue truly was in doubt, but the man in charge (now known as the Bully Without A Pulpit) refused speeches, refused a roll call vote, even refused a division vote. That's when I first realized just how lawless the man wielding the gavel was, when I began looking up definitions of fascism to see if they applied.
Speaker Norelli did not need to go back and honor the request from Rep. Tremblay (the roll call vote was 93-243, so there was no doubt); the fact that she did so is an indication that she is willing to bend over backwards to be fair to everyone as opposed to bend the rules to get her way as O'Brien so often did.
Even Republicans should be encouraged by this incident. At the same time, some Republicans (no names please) go out of their way to make embarrassing scenes (yes, even their leaders have had to take them to task for their boorish behavior).
As to the issue at hand, the Henry petition, would you believe that we learned during the debate that the grievance committee last year had already addressed this matter and voted 9-1 against the petitioner?
You just can't make this stuff up. Now some Republicans would have the legislature serve not merely as an appeals court but to do so a second time on the same matter!
Congratulations Speaker Norelli for your forbearance.