As the New Hampshire House hits crunch time with three session days planned for the coming week, a new coalition seems to be forming to thwart Republican leadership.
Libertarian-minded Republicans (I certainly include myself in that group along with people like Andy Manuse, JR Hoell, the Jonses, at least half the McGuires, Mark Warden--to name just a few) seem to be joining a huge majority of Democrats to prevserve freedoms which Republican leadership inexpicably seems determined to rob from the citizens of our great state.
Three example stand out just from last week, and the numbers will prove this assertion. On decriminalizaing marijuana, voting rights for independents, and forcing students to stand for the pledge of allegiance, this new coalition prevailed.
It may well be a sign of things to come on such outstanding issues of gay marriage.
The vote requiring students to stand for the pledge (Hosue Bill 1146), despite an 8-4 recommendation by the Constitutional Review Committee (what a joke!), was 155-170 (52.3 percent). Had it been up to Republicans alone, the bill would have passed. Only 37.7 percent of Republicans (90-149) voted against this bit of nanny state mischief. Democrats were 93 percent (80-6) against it. The only six Democrats to vote with Republicans Ben Baroody and Barbara Shaw from Manchester, Parkhurt from Cheshire County, Gagnon and Schmidt from Sullivan County, and Roger Berube, presumed Democratic candidate for Senate in the Dover area.
Among Republicans to vote against the bill (along with those mentioned earlier) were Neal Kurk, Bill Belvin, Jordan Ulery, David Welch, Lynn Blankenbecker, Norm Major, Sherm Packard, John Hunt, Betsey Patten, too many to mention here...but suffice it to say it was way beyond "the usual suspects".
House Bill 1595, Republicans' misguided plan to force undeclared voters to remain aligned with a party for 90 days should they vote in that party in a primary, was a real stunner. It failed 136-178 with no less than 100 Republicans voting against the party's ill-conceived idea which would have created massive confusion in the voting ranks and hundreds of extra hours of work at city and town halls throughout the state as undeclared voters would be forced to trek to city halls rather than revert back immediately after voting in a party primary.
I like to think of this as "voters held hostage" legislation and frankly, I was convinced Republican leadership had the votes to pass it, and we'd have to kill it in the Senate.
Obviously, more Representatives then I dared hope have become familiar with the primary process and realize current system runs smoothly. Either party is already able to close its primary should it so choose, but what an idiotic idea that would be. It would simply drive the majority of undeclared voters (40 percent and counting the last time I checked) into the arms of the other party. If Republicans don't want independent voters, they'll never beat Obama and will become a permanent minority party, yet that's just what this bill would have done.
In fact, Republicans suppored to bill 135-100 (57.4 percent). Only the coalition of libertarian-minded Republicans and all Democrats except Sandy Keans (78-1) were able to stop this ridiculous idea. The final vote wasn't even close actually, 136-178 represenats a 56.7 percent total against the idea, and subsequent votes to kill the bill were even more lopsided.
It was a classic example of Republicans attempting to slash their own wrists and being stopped by libertarians and Democrats.
You just can't make this stuff up. Once again, the 100 Republicans are too numerous to mention, but there were so many that leadership can't whine and moan that it was only the usual RINO suspects opposing them.
Then there was House Bill 1526, decriminalization of possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana. The bill passed by the narrowest of margins 162-161 and most likely will either be killed in the Seante or vetoed by Governor Lynch, but once again, had it been up to the Republican majority, the bill would have failed in the House. Republicans were 108-126 against it (46.2 percent) while Democrats were 54-35 for it (60.7 percent).
The Speaker could have created a tie by voting against the ought to pass motion, but that would not have killed the bill, simply set the stage for more motions and additional time being consumed, so let's not give the Speaker all that much credit for Libertarian leanings....at least not yet.
He may have more chances to join the Liberty Republicans and Democrats in coming days and weeks, especially because he's apparently instituted a policy to allow every committee chair to hold the gavel for a few moments on the floor...thus O'Brien will be in a position of voting more than any previous speaker.