Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Tuesday
Mar272012

Don't Expect Redistricting Override Vote This Week

With the caveat that one should "never say never", it seems fairly safe to say that the New Hampshire House will NOT take up Governor John Lynch's veto on a redistricting plan this week.  Even should Speaker Bill O'Brien wish to take the matter up (and inside sources reveal that GOP leadership has been lobbying/whipping its members hard), there's a Constitutional provision that would most likely prevent any such action.

The Constitution requires that a governor's veto message be printed prior to a vote being taken, and since the most recent House Calendar does not include such a message (and time restraints would seem to prevent such a printing), one could assume there will be no vote this week.

Meanwhile, nhinsider.com has learned that Congressman Frank Guinta has declined the request by House GOP leadership to intercede with Manchester Representatives.  We have verified (through two additional sources) the report here last Friday that Speaker O'Brien and his Chief of Staff, the high paid Greg Moore, had made overtures to Guinta, as far back as weeks ago we're told, but that Guinta has declined the request.

Keep in mind that most of the 21 Republicans in the Manchester delegation have pledged to vote to sustain the veto  That means that, depending on attendance when the veto is taken up, as few as five to ten other Republicans would be enough to sustain a veto if in fact all Democrats vote to sustain.

As always, the question revolves around who will be in attendance on a given day.

Word from last Friday was that former Republican gubernatorial and Congressional candidate John Stephen, of Manchester, had also been approached by House leadership to try and twist a few Manchester arms.   As of late Wednesday, I had not heard of any calls from Stephen to Manchester Reps, and I have heard that no calls will be forthcoming from Guinta.

Any such calls would put the former Manchester Mayor at odds with current Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and the Board of Aldermen who voted unanimously to ask the delegation not to support the redistricting plan; in other words, to vote to sustain the veto.

For those who come into this story like in the middle of a soap opera, it's really quite simply.  Manchester deserves 33 Reps of its own, but the House-approved plan would take two Manchester wards and "float" them with Litchfield, thus potentially denying the city of two representatives.

The plan also denies Pelham of any Reps of its own when the Constitutional provision, pushed by Republicans back in 2007, mandates that Pelham receive four of its own Reps.

Yes, that would be the same Republican Reps who are now in leadership who were pushing for the amendment back in 2007.

Truly, you just can't make this stuff up.

The vote on sustaining the Lynch veto is expected to be close.  A plan which would have obviated the need for a veto actually passed the House, but a furious O'Brien, following faulty advice from his high paid legal team, went berserk, demanded a GOP caucus, and convinced enough Republicans to switch their votes and opt for the unconstitutional plan.

Yes, I realize that last paragraph is highly opinionated (hey this is a blog, not a main stream media story), but it also happens to be true.

Governor Lynch has noted many of the reasons noted here in his yet-to-be-printed veto message.

Along with the Manchester/Litchfield (Pelham,/Hudson) problem, there's a huge problem in Concord, and the Republican Senator from Meredith voted against the plan because of a problem in that town.

In fact, even should the House override the veto, four Republican senators voted against the plan, and that would be enough to sustain the veto in the Senate.  I'm not naming names, but one of them approached me today asking what he could do to fix the problem.

The only fix involved sustaining the veto, a move which would compel stubborn House leaders to go back and "do the right thing", that is to say, fix the unconstitutional problems.

The House has one other option sitting on the table, a plan to force the Secretary of State to order redistricting without a bill going to the governor.  While that plan could certainly get past the Republican-controlled House, word is out that almost all senators from both parties would not by into such a scheme, and approval by the Senate would be required.

O’Brien and his go-along-to-get-along leadership team were so concerned about the veto being sustained that a few weeks ago they coerced all Chairmen and Vice Chairmen into signing a less than diplomatic letter to all Republican members, basically setting the Manchester delegation up as bad guys when in fact the Speaker, his legal aid/lobbyist/gendarme Ed Mosca, and other recalcitrant leaders are in fact the ones wearing black hats on this one (Snidely Whiplash perhaps)!

 Stand by till next week to see if Little Nell manages to extricate herself from the railroad tracks as the redistricting train roars toward her.

Tuesday
Mar272012

"Liberty Express" Highlights Marriage Repeal Debate

            With more than a little stellar help from my technical producer Joe Lahr, for this week’s Liberty Express, I’ve put together an entire hour of highlights of the House debate on same sex marriage repeal last week.

            Arriving at the studio with a DVD of the two hour debate, I wondered how I could get everything I wanted in the show without hours and hours of editing.  An hour later, it was done.

            Joe’s abilities border of mystical and magical; he’s the most underpaid public servant around (and I don’t say that about many people).

            The show airs Tuesday at 11 p.m., Thursday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at noon on Manchester TV23 and is available on line at vimeo.com/channels/libertyx.

            By no means is this a fair and balanced presentation (it is my show after all), but we manage to get in many more clips than I thought possible including comments from Representatives (all Republicans by the way):

David Welch, Shawn Jasper, and Jen Coffey on the non-binding referendum.

  • Keith Murphy against the Bates amendment
  • Andy Manuse moving to reconsider the motion to divide the Bates amendment (with my voice-over explanation of parliamentary games being played)
  • Parliamentary inquiries from David Kidder and Bates himself;
  • Mike Ball’s “put this down” speech, including the moment when a Rep tried to heckle him into silence from the floor (such lack of decorum);
  • Tammy Simmons’s parliamentary inquiry opposing the ought to pass motion and her motion for inexpedient to legislate;
  • My final remarks in support of killing the bill including the moment when a Rep tried to heckle me into silence from the floor (more lack of decorum);
  • The vote itself.

 We worked in everything I had hoped to except Manchester Rep Cameron DeJong’s speech against the bill; I’ll get to that next week.

Time remained for two other important matters.  I read most of the outstanding Concord Monitor editorial from last Friday, the one praising the House for its action (I refer to it as the “12 They Voted” editorial).

A fitting seemed to be (and is) the Rod Stewart song “The Killing of Georgie”, a coming of age song from the seventies about a gay teen.

“Georgie Boy was gay I guess, nothing more and nothing less, the kindest guy I ever knew….Mother’s tears fell in vain the afternoon George tried to explain that he needed love like all the rest…Pa said there must be a mistake, how can my son not be straight, after all I’ve said and done for him.”

 LONG LIVE LADY LIBERTY

Tuesday
Mar272012

The Last Governor-Governor Ticket For President?

Here's a fun trivia question inspired by Nate Silver's latest work at fivethirtyeight.com.

If as expected former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for President and if he picks another governor as his running mate (Christie, Daniels, etc), how far back in time would we have to go since either party featured two former governors on the ticket?

It's actually a toughie. 

I remain convinced that Marco Rubio is the best choice as Romney's running mate.  Locking up Florida and getting a leg up on the Hispanic vote could prove vital.  If not Rubio, Romney could use a boost in Ohio, and Senator Rob Portman might be a helpful.

Forget about the idea of Rick Santorum as Romney's Veep.  Romney doesn't need help in the South, and Santorum would alienate more potential voters (like me, most assuredly) than he might bring on board.

But you've had enough time to think about the question.

Here's a hint.  According to Nate Silver, only four former governors in the past 70 years have been tapped for the numbers two spot, and one really shouldn't count too much.  Ed Muskie was a Maine Senator (and former Governor) when Humphrey picked him in 1968, but HHH was never a governor so that doesn't satisfy the question.  Spiro the Crook Agnew was Maryland Governor when Richard Nixon picked him in 1968, but then Nixon was never a governor, so that's not the answer.  Neither is the 2008 Republican candidate since Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was picked by never governor John McCain.

Keep thinking and go back farther in time.

Here's another hint.  I've just finished reading a new book about this election and I mentioned it on the House floor during the repeal same sex marriage debate last week.

Bingo!

The year was 1948 (the great new book is by David Pietrusza--1948--Harry Truman's Improbably Victory and the Year That Transformed America), but it wasn't the Democratic ticket that year.

It was New York Governor Tom Dewey choosing California Governor Earl Warren that provided us with the last two-governor ticket.

Read Pietrusza's book to find out what Warren thought of his running mate.

Oh, all right.  I'll quote it here.  From page 198 (it's a page I had noted to use in a Reading Room column), "Earl Warren simply did not care for Dewey.  They first met in 1939, and Warren's initial impression was scathing:  'a vain and hollow fellow' he confided to his diary, 'shifting and somewhat slimy...one of the most transparent frauds of all time.' "

So much for the team of two governors! 

Pietrusza reports that Mrs. Earl Warren was pleased when Dewey and her husband lost to Truman.

Great book!

Great trivia question!  Thanks Nate!

Perhaps it's because so many former governors (Reagan, Bush, Carter, Clinton) make it to the top of the ticket that they go for non-governors for the number two spot.

Monday
Mar262012

Majority Leader Bettencourt's "Seven Myths" Memo

So many emails are flying back and forth among Republicans about the defeat of gay marriage repeal that Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt has felt obliged to send out an explanation (let's call it the "seven myths" email although he uses the word "misconception" rather than "myth"; call it editorial discretion on my part).  I reproduce it here withouth editorial comment except to say that while I am sworn to keep secret what goes on in caucuses (that's why I've stopped attending Republican caucuses), I don't feel so compelled about any emails I get. 

Be forewarned.  Anything anyone sends me I feel free to share with the world here.  Anything anyone tells me, I feel free to share with the world here (unless I specifically pledge in advance not to share; I've often made such pledges and I keep my word).

Also, I thought D.J. did a fine job in the Speaker's chair during the debate.  Having realized that they could not prevail, anti-gay marriage forces deliberately initiated a strategy of muddying the waters.  The counter to such a strategy always is simple patience.  The House showed patience amidst orchestrated obfuscation, and Rep. Bettencourt served the institution well.

Here's the "Seven Myths" memo.

Fellow House Republicans,

I'm writing to clear up several misconceptions about HB437.  Several inaccuracies are circulating in the media, outside groups, and our own caucus.

Normally, even after a contentious and emotional vote such as this, our priority would be entirely on moving forward and finishing our important work ahead.  But here, both because of the understandable bruises felt by many members, and the fact that many misconceptions have arisen out of the flurry of procedural twists and turns during the debate, while others rely on a general misunderstanding of decisions made prior to the debate and as the debate progressed. I would like to share with you the truth of the matter in the hopes that we can regroup and finish the important work that remains this session.

In addition to this message, Wednesday’s Republican caucus will begin a half hour earlier, at 8am. The first half hour of caucus will be dedicated to clearing the air on HB437.  If, after reading this message, you still have any questions or concerns regarding HB437, the constructive and acceptable forum for airing your thoughts are: (1) Wednesday's Republican caucus; or (2) a private meeting with me.  Please contact Aaron Goulette (aaron.goulette@gmail.com) or Andrew Provencher (andrew.provencher@gmail.com) if you wish to set up such a meeting.  In particular, the Speaker and I respectfully request that for the good of the Republican caucus we stop the mass emails.

So let's identify and correct the misconceptions.

Misconception #1: The Chair refused to divide the Bates Amendment.


False. Per Mason’s traditional House procedure, which in both cases members rely on to ensure fairness in our proceedings, the Chair may rule that a bill is divisible if a member so moves AND no other member objects.  If there's an objection, the Chair must put the question to the whole House.  

 This procedure was followed to the letter.  Last Wednesday, Rep. Mirski moved that Section 6 of the Bates Amendment be divided from the remainder.  Rep. Steve Winter objected.  Accordingly, the Chair, having no discretion to do otherwise, put the question to the House.  The House voted against the division.  

 Misconception #2: Rep. Seth Cohn’s amendment separating Marriage from the State should have been allowed.

False. The Cohn Amendment was duplicative of previous legislation and was properly disallowed.  

 House Rule 35(e) states: “In the second-year session, no bill or resolution shall be introduced if it is substantially similar to any legislation that was indefinitely postponed or voted inexpedient to legislate by the House in the first-year session, unless it has been approved by a majority of the House Rules Committee or a two-thirds vote of those House members present and voting, whether as a bill, an amendment, a committee of conference report or in any other manner.  A request shall not be accepted to draft any bill that is the same, or essentially the same, as any bill voted inexpedient to legislate, indefinitely postponed, made the subject of a statutory study committee in the first-year session, or retained in committee for action, unless approved for drafting and introduction by a majority vote of the House Rules Committee or a two-thirds vote of those House members present and voting.”

 Unfortunately, the Cohn Amendment was almost identical, but certainly substantially similar to HB569, a bill that had been rejected by the House during the 2011 legislative session.  Although similarity is always a judgment call, this was the assessment of the Chair, the Speaker, House Counsel, and the House Clerk. As an aside, Representative Lambert had the right approach by attempting circumvent this conflict by seeking to suspend Rule 35(e) for the purpose of properly introducing the amendment.

 Misconception #3: Leadership blindsided the sponsors of the Cohn Amendment by not telling them in advance that it would be ruled duplicative.

 False. Circumstances surrounding the Cohn Amendment are confusing because the amendment should never have made it past Legislative Services. 

 House Rule 35(b) states: “The Office of Legislative Services shall not accept a request to draft any bill that is the same, or essentially the same, as any other drafting request already accepted.” Further, House Rule 35 (e) states: A request shall not be accepted to draft any bill that is the same, or essentially the same, as any bill voted inexpedient to legislate, indefinitely postponed, made the subject of a statutory study committee in the first-year session.

 Moreover, by prior arrangement, neither the committee nor the caucus leadership were conducting this debate.  Leadership (specifically me) did not have any information that it withheld from sponsors of the Cohn Amendment.  Having been drafted in error, upon filing of the amendment, it was subject to objection by its opponents.  

 Misconception #4: The Chair should have immediately ruled that the “left handed marriage” amendment was dilatory and/or frivolous.

 Whether the “left handed marriage amendment” was dilatory or frivolous is a matter of judgment for each legislator. Section 401 of Mason’s clearly lays out the ability of the Chair to find a bill or amendment frivolous or dilatory but offers no details of what those terms mean. I felt that it was borderline inappropriate but was unwilling to shut down the debate. Upon objection from the members, the question was put to a vote of the House. Again, proper procedure was followed to the letter and all members were treated fairly.  Further, there is no sensible argument that the vote on this amendment, while adding to the confusion of the debate as a whole, had any impact on the ultimate fate of HB437.

 Misconception #5: Leadership secretly killed gay marriage repeal

There was absolutely, positively, no intent by the Leadership to kill HB437.  There is one, and only one, reason why HB437 failed to pass: a majority of the House voted against it.

Since even before the present legislature was sworn in, Leadership knew that the gay marriage issue would test the conscience of every member.  To avoid unnecessary and counter-productive divisions within the caucus, Leadership's position has always been that while we personally believed that marriage is between one man and one woman, we could not make it a caucus vote, such as with the budget or "right to work." That position was followed consistently.  

The problems that ultimately doomed HB437 began early in the legislative process. The sponsors originally believed that traditional marriage restoration should stand as a separate bill and not include civil unions or a "grandfather" clause, which would be included in a separate bill.  After much deliberation, the Judiciary Committee concluded that the issue had to be taken up all at once. Unfortunately this opened up the need for an amendment, increasing the chances for attack and defeat of the bill.

As the vote approached, the sponsors of HB437 believed the vote would be close, reportedly as close as six votes.  The sponsors believed they could close the gap with another floor amendment that included a nonbinding referendum. As it happened, the referendum proposal only served to "turn off" some members while not attracting any additional votes.  

In the course of the floor debate, the sheer number of votes and amendments became confusing to some members, and different members undoubtedly opposed different amendments for their own reasons. Too many ingredients may have spoiled the broth.  

 At no time, however, did Leadership try to handicap the debate against HB437. We stand by the Republican Party platform. 

As a postscript, there has been some speculation surrounding why the Speaker was not in the chair during the vote. Gay marriage repeal is important issue to the Speaker and he wanted to have the ability to vote during the debate. I asked the Speaker if he was willing to give up the Chair. It was an offer made by me to the Speaker and reflected the Speaker’s desire to vote and my willingness to forego voting. Any attempt to blame the Speaker for this is baseless. There was nothing more to it than collegiality.  

 Misconception #6: The Majority Office knew something was “wrong” with the Bates Floor Amendment and did nothing to “fix” it.

False. Absolutely nothing was wrong with the Bates Amendment. The drafting was proper, its consideration was in order, and it wasn’t duplicative. When Rep. Bates asked us about it, I told him that personally I didn’t think it was a terrible idea but that it may lose as many votes as it would win because of opposition by many Representatives to referendums.  

It was the House that turned down the Bates Amendment.  First, the House impaired the chance of passage by refusing to divide Section 6 from the remainder.  Next, the House rejected both the Bates Amendment and the committee amendment.  There was nothing to "fix" in either amendment.  

Misconceptions #7:  HB437 would have passed if only _______________. 

The only fair and objective way to fill in the blank is "if only the bill had 40+ more supporters."  HB437 failed because it did not fit the consciences of many members.  The legislation was defeated by such a margin that no amount of additional, last-minute arm-twisting or maneuvering by leadership or anyone else could change that reality.  And now, no matter amount of blame-shifting or scapegoating can change the reality either.  

Where do we go from here?

This legislature still has a lot of important work to accomplish. If we allow the trauma of one vote to tear the members of our caucus apart, we will only serve to inhibit our ability to deliver for our constituents. It is critically important that we continue the fight united as Republicans. 

Post-hoc recrimination serves no purpose other than to undermine our legislature's effectiveness and our chances for continued success, both for the remainder of the session and during the fall elections.  

Again, let's stop the mass emails.  All questions or concerns are welcome at Wednesday's caucus or during a private meeting. 

Let's cool down and enjoy the rest of the weekend. 

All the best,

D.J.

Friday
Mar232012

Speaker Enlists Guinta and Stephen To Coerce Manchester Delegation

Sources have just provided me with this disgusting piece of information.  It needs to have the light of day shone on it immediately lest it fester in the dark.

Now that Governor John Lynch has vetoed the House redistricting plan, Speaker Bill O'Brien and his chief of Staff Greg Moore are resorting to new ways of bullying the Manchester delegation into placing bline and false loyalty to the party ahead of faithfulness to the Constitution and the city of Manchester.

NH Insider has learned that Moore has contacted Congressman Frank Guinta and former three (or is it four?) time losing candidate John Stephen to put pressure on the 21 Republican members in the Manchester delegation.

Apparently O'Brien and Moore didn't learn their lesson when they sicked legal counsel Ed Mosca onto the delegation last time.

Let Frank Guinta and John Stephen be forewarned.  Engage in this fight at your own risk.  I can think of nothing that would jeopardize Frank Guinta's seat in Congress more than by sticking his nose into this issue which is none of his concern.  In fact, it reeks of payback already, payback to O'Brien who for months had told redistricting Chair Paul Mirksi, R-Enfield, that he planned to come up with a Congressional redistricting plan which would give the Bass district more Republicans.

Could it be that the Speaker, rather than come up with an acceptable compromise plan which could be accepted by both parties and the governor, was maneuvering behind the scenes to get a chit to use with Guinta.

This sounds like the Louisiana Purchase and other deals which were cut by Democrats to get Obama care passes.

It stinks to high heaven.

By the way, when Secretary of State Bill Gardner told me today that he thought we should meet our obligation to the NH Constitution and use the aggregate method of calculation, I said, "You're speaking to the choir.  Paul Mirski is a friend of yours.  He's the one who sold out to the lawyers; talk to him." 

House Reps should remember that Speaker Terie Norelli never had a high paid staffer specializing in dirty tricks and obfuscation like Greg Moore.  In fact, to pay Moore's outrageous salary, O'Brien has had to stop delivery of House calendars to Reps and to stop trips to the State House on legitimate summer business.

You just can't make this stuff up!