Rep Steve Vaillancourt


Shades of 2003--Super Majority GOP Proves It Can't Govern

Just when the public must have thought things couldn’t get any worse in the O’Brien-controlled New Hampshire House, a new bottom was plumbed this week.  What I am about to report still seems more like fiction, but no, no, no, I can’t write fiction.  I just can’t make this stuff up. It’s all true.

After passing a consent calendar (that means all reports pass without objection) early Wednesday morning, the House, as its last action late in the day, voted to table six of the bills it had passed  unanimously six hours earlier, including one bill which allows the department of corrections to transfer items in its budget so as to help meet the demand of $13.5 million in reductions for the biennium.

The bill, to provide maximum flexibility for the department, was to take effect immediately upon passage.  Rather than pass the bill, the House, in the throws of insanity unseen since O’Brien cost the state $3 million by his marital masters pissing contest with the Senate last fall, the House decided that a power play is more important than responsible governing.

The power play involves sending a message to the Senate—hey you guys kill (either by outright no votes or by interim study) our bills and we’ll kill yours.  This “mine is bigger than yours mentality” is fit for a back alley brawl, but it’s hardly the kind of responsible government people have a right to expect from their leaders.

Here's the entire text of a statement from Senate leadership following the House action Wednesday:

"CONCORD – Senate President Peter Bragdon and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley released the following statement in response to moves made by House Leaders today with the intent of scuttling Senate legislation:     “At a time when we should be focused on helping New Hampshire employers and supporting hardworking families, the House’s actions today will ensure the defeat of critical legislative initiatives.  We are appalled the House has chosen to play political games with legislation widely recognized as being important to the state’s economy and job creation.” 

In this case, I agree with Senate leadership.  In fact, "appalled" is the perfect word to use, but then the people of our state have become used to appalling actions by O'Brien and his minions.

But gets beter.

Rather than do the dirty work themselves, Speaker Bill O’Brien and Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt sent first term Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield, up to proffer the motion.  Yes, this would be the same Rep. Lambert who has announced his intention to run against Donna Soucy for State Senate.  (Oh happy day, Donna!).

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not averse to legislative hardball—the Senate deserves a good slap up side the head occasionally, but to play games when millions of dollars are on the line is beyond the pale.

Make no mistake, Republican House members knew the game they were playing because when Lambert asked that all six bills be tabled as a package, I noted that I would be willing to table some of them but certainly not this corrections bill (SB323) which had emerged from Finance with a 23-0 vote. As a member of Division I, I knew about it; I had sat through a lengthy hearing with corrections personnel; and I made the motion and was scheduled to write the blurb for the bill…until that strange thing happened and I asked to non longer serve on that committee.  After all, we wouldn't want people with knowledge and enough courage to stand up and tell the truth on that commitee, now would we?  Only hacks need apply; no thank you, I'll take my independence over hackdom any day!

Am I making this stuff up?

Of course not.

However, the House decided to table all six bills.  Forget about timeliness in saving $13.5 million!  After all, we stuck a match to three million last year in a fit of hubris by the Speaker.  Forget about doing the responsible thing.

Republican Rep Brandon Guida actually said it’s good that we stand to lose money if this bill isn’t passed now; it’ll put more pressure on the Senate.

Oh really, Bob?  How did similar pressure work last fall when the $3 million was in play and the House tried to force the Senate back into session over the marital masters issue?

Not so well!

This is a legislature totally out of control, and even level-headed Republicans, who in past years would never have acted so irresponsibly, have now had their senses ground out of them by the bully at the podium (choosing to use a pawn named Lambert in this instance).

            Surely, this bill can off the table and be passed next week, right?

            Not quite because we have just received word that next week’s session has been cancelled, apparently another ploy to try to bully the Senate.

            The House also attached non-germane amendments, such as the 24-hour wait for abortions, to Senate bills, a strategy which could backfire and lead to the defeat of these good bills, but who cares about that? 

            After all, we’ve got a radical right wing social agenda to pre-empt the fiscally prudent agenda we promised to enact!

            The fact that Bill O’Brien has chosen to play games rather than act as a responsible adult is shocking, but far more shocking is the fact that those who know better, people like Gene Chandler and Neal Kurk and Bill Belvin and Key Weyler, people whom I had always respected—and I could go on and on here—just sit back don’t say a word to stop the misuse of power.

           Here's proof of cowardice.  When I spoke with one Republican Finance member yesterday, I said, "I guess you didnt agree with me that we should have passed this bill."  The double negative response was, "It would not be true to say I didn't agree with you."  In other words, he or she agreed with me, but voted the against his/her own beliefs.

            Can this possibly be true?  Only in the age of O'Brien! 

           It harkens back to 2003-04 when Republicans, thanks to income taxer Mark Fernald at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2002, enjoyed tremendous advantages in both the House and Senate, and Craig Benson was sitting in the Governor’s chair.

            Remember what happened?

            Rather than get things done, the legislature, thanks in large part to then-Senator/current lobbyist Robert Clegg, couldn’t get an acceptable budget passed.  A Benson veto was upheld, and government went on auto pilot for a few months.

            This was better news for Democrats than anything out of the pen of Ray Buckley or Kathy Sullivan ever could be.  Benson was thrown out of office; Republican majorities were cut way back and by 2006, Republicans were thrown out of power in both House.

            Cue the Talking Heads.

            “We’re on the road to nowhere…come on along.”


Bettencourt Diagnosed With Ostrich Syndrome

At times, it's more fun to respond to emails than create new ones.  Here's a modest example. I totally agree with Rep. Fredette's comments and could not have said them better myself.  When I review the polls tomorrow, you can be sure I won't cherrypick results like DJ insists on doing but will provide the entire unvarnished truth.  There are none so blind as they who will not see.

From: Vaillancourt, Steve
Thanks Bob, I had actually planned to blog about this unfortunate stance GOP leadership sems to be taking, but you beat me to it.  No matter how one might quibble with the UNH poll, Andy Smith usually gets it right.  Not to mention, if you look at the internals of last week's Dartmouth poll, they overweighted Republicans by about six points, and the results are remarkably similar on social issues and legislative favorability.  This reminds me of 2006 when I kept warning the late Mike Whalley that big changes were afoot and he (and others) insisted that Republicans were actually going to gain House seats.  WRONG!  I call this the ostrich syndrome--stick your head in the sand and hope the bad news will go away--it won't go away and you're only hurting yourself by thinking so.  I've got the entire UNH poll data and will review it for comments later.  It's truly eye opening and confirms what I've been saying for the past six to eight weeks.

From: Robert Fredette []
Subject: Re: WMUR/UNH Poll on the Legislature

You cannot say the part of the survey that reflects poorly on the Republican party is erroneous but we should accept and be happy with the part of the survey that reflects good upon us. It has to be one way or the other.
What I think is that this and every other survey reflects the high degree of dissatisfaction That the people have with both parties. The citizens (including NH) are pissed off at both parties, and I for one don't blame them. Both parties could not agree with each other regardless of the question. It is sad that our political system has reached the stage where they have forgotten that they were elected to work for the citizens, not for the party. Both parties in NH should be ashamed of themselves for the poor way they have acted this session. As for the Republican party, we are the worst. Not only are we unable to get along with the Democrats but we cannot even get along with the Republican controlled Senate. What is next? Are we going to alienate the Executive Council? The Democrats and the citizens are laughing at us. Leadership!!!! You need to stop the bullshit and grow up. Do the job you were elected for and work out an arrangement with the Senate to get things back on track. 
Keep pissing off the citizens and I will work my ass off and spend all my money convincing the people of NH to vote for an independent candidate. They are in the mood to do that and you know it. They dislike both parties enough to vote independent just to teach you a lesson. 
Remember there are a lot more undeclared voters in this state then Republican or Democrat. Think about trying to get anything accomplished in the House or Senate with a composition of three parties, you can't even get anything done with two.
Time to grow up people.
My next letter will be to the newspapers throughout the state announcing my candidacy for Governor as an Independent.
Bob Fredette Hillsborough District 1

Sent from my iPad
On Apr 26, 2012, at 3:15 PM, "D.J. Bettencourt" <> wrote:

Fellow House Republicans,

As one would expect from the dramatic oversample of Democrats in the UNH survey, the legislative approval numbers are no different.  Any poll which takes a state that is +4% in Republican registration and offers a sample that is -5% in respondents is not going to be accurate, and this one is no different.

 One thing for House Republicans to consider is that the problems in this sample are even greater than meets the eye.  Really good polling firms utilize ‘likely voters’ for their sample.  Decent polling firms use ‘registered voters’ for their sample.  Poor polling firms use ‘adults’ for their sample.  In what will undoubtedly will come as no surprise to you, the poll uses ‘adults.’

 What does this mean in realistic terms?  Well, when you are asking people who haven’t even bothered to register to vote what they think about political issues, you are going to get a rather random, and unhelpful, result.  In this case, Smith added 57 unregistered voters (11%) to his sample for this survey.  Are they people who will be deciding the election?  Unlikely in the extreme, but it shows some of the flaws in the data.

 Frankly, asking people who probably won’t vote what they think about the legislature is pretty useless.  That coupled with the dramatic overcounting of Democrats, dooms any possibility of Republicans having a decent poll.

 However, there are some important takeaways from the survey that should hearten the Republican caucus.  One of the great truisms about institutions like the legislature is that people will typically dislike the body while liking their representative(s).  We see this often in Congress, where many citizens actively dislike the U.S. House and Senate, while strongly supporting their representatives.

 The fact that citizens have a fairly even view of the legislature, and by a 2-to-1 majority, believe the state is on the right track, indicates a positive election environment for Republican incumbents.  Reweighting the survey for the actual voter registration takes a 40% favorable/42% unfavorable rating to a 43%/39% rating, which is strong headed into the election.

 However, what is most striking in the results is how well this legislature is doing among Undeclared voters, who decide elections in New Hampshire.  When asked about their views on the legislature, by a 46% to 37% margin, these swing voters have a positive view of the job the legislature is doing.  More importantly, when asked specifically if they would support a Republican or a Democratic candidate for state representative, 31% said they would vote Republican to 22% for a Democrat.  That +9% swing is outside of the survey’s margin of error and shows that Republicans are well positioned as they head into the November elections.

 Looking even further, among those who describe themselves as “Independent” – meaning neither Republican or Democratic leaning – Republicans have a huge (27% to 10%) lead.  This is truly the swing voters who decide races in many districts across the state.

 This is not to say that every aspect of the survey is rosy.  Among those 50 years and older, the Democrats have a 38% to 34% lead.  This is likely a response to national Democratic attacks on Republican views on Social Security and Medicare, but is having a trickle-down effect on the electorate.  House leadership should consider taking up issues that are important to seniors to break through the national attacks.

 There is nearly a 20% gender gap in support for Republican candidates over Democrats.  While the two genders offset each other, leadership should avoid those issues that would turn away women voters over the coming months.

Beyond the toplines of the survey, though, there is quite a bit of encouraging news, as well as some warning signs.  No one should be afraid of this survey, but there remains more work for you to do.


House Provides Veto Proof Margin For Medical Marijuana

            To quote the great the Biblical message (and song lyric), “To everything there is a season.”

            That admonition, always true in legislating, may be coming true for medical marijuana this year as the House voted yesterday to pass Senate Bill 409 by a veto proof margin of 236-96 (71.1 percent).  It’s not a done deal yet; since the bill has a fiscal note, it now moves on to the Finance Committee and will have to come back to the House floor for another vote.

            It appears that the Senate, rather than the House, will be the obstacle in getting a two-thirds vote (16 of 24 senators) to override a threatened veto.  One source tells me that votes are there in the Senate; another source says no.

            As they say in German, “Wir werden sehen.”

            Time will tell.

            I begin with the “to every season” line because I remember how that was the case with the Martin Luther King holiday.  It failed many times before passing in the New Hampshire legislature.

            So too with same sex marriage; it was a struggle, but when the bill passed three years ago, I recall using the “to every season line”.

            So too with the repeal of corporate welfare, also known as the tax break for telephone company polls.  After the corporate welfare was extended year after year, we finally got rid of it two years ago and have managed to stop its coming back twice now, even though the Speaker fought desperately to continue the handout to big business.

            Repeal of the inhumane “sport” of dog racing failed many times before we finally passed it a few years ago; many dogs died and suffered needlessly in the interim, but by God, time to get rid of it came at last.

            To everything there is a season.

            I remember—I think it was 1999—when the medical marijuana bill first surfaced (I was the prime sponsor, back in the days when I was a young whippersnapper of a Rep) that after a lengthy debate on the House floor, we managed to get something more than 100 votes, and were happy to do that well.  The blurb in the House calendar, negative of course, had been written by a Rep (Francine Wendelboe) who hadn’t even been present for the committee hearing on the bill.

            I’m not making this stuff up.

            Yesterday when the medical marijuana bill passed, after a 12-4 favorable vote from the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, it passed without any debate and without a roll call vote (it nearly was a voice vote, but someone called for a division at the last moment).

            Posterity will have no record of who voted for and against this measure, but I took a quick look around and noted many red (negative) votes on the Republican side.  I haven’t been able to find a single Democrat who admits to voting against it (no, not even Roger Berube), so based on that information and a look at absenteeism from a vote recorded at the same time of day, it appears the final vote MIGHT have been—

            Overall--236 in favor, 96 opposed, 71.1 percent

            Republicans 149 in favor, 96 opposed 60.8 percent.

            Democrats 87 in favor, 0 opposed 100 percent.

            Although we have no roll call, take my word for it--this bill passed due to the combination I wrote about here a few weeks ago, Democrats and Libertarian-minded Republicans.



Fast And Furious--Redistricting Law Suits Mount

Since I posted contents of the Manchester redistricting law suit here Monday, two more redistricting law suits have been filed (as reported by Mathew Spolar in the Concord Monitor), one by the city of Concord, one by a group of Democratic lawmakers and activists.  Since details of those are available in the main stream media, I won't go into details here except to note how strange it is (according to Spolar) that one of the petitioners in this latest suit is my own fellow Manchester Ward 8 Representative Tom Katsiantonis who has been absent for three out of four votes on the House floor this year--he's missed 81 of 105 votes--77 percent--on the HRA scoresheet, a good proxy for attendance (Spolar doesn't mention that--but that's fodder for another blog).

Katsiantonis can't do the job he was elected to do, but he's ready to sue!

You just can't make this stuff up!

However, I do know that at least one more redistricting law suit is in the works.  It's from a group of Republican law makers, one which I have signed on to as a co-litigant.

Whether the number will stop at four or increase beyond that is unknown, but as predicted here months ago, we're heading for a mess, one which could have been prevented had Speaker O'Brien accepted the compromise plan, one authored by Republican Seth Cohn and co-sponsored by such Republicans as former Manchester Chair Will Infantine and Nashua Republican Dee Hogan and agreed to by Democrats (a similar amendment was offered by Democrat Weber).  This plan had actually passed the House when O'Brien called a Republican caucus and bullied his members into reconsideration thus leading to the plan which is under assault today.

Again, you just can't make this stuff up!  (And Sean Hannity seems to be stealing my favorite line--or am I stealing his line?).

Some people have asked me if the court will consolidate all the law suits into one.  Of course, I am not a lawyer but I suspect that the court will do its best to accommodate everyone in as expeditious and timely a manner possible.  As I've said all along, the court has no interest in creating its own plan, just in guaranteeing that the final plan meets the letter and spirit of the law, which the House-passed plan clearly does not do.  If the courts strike down plans in specific areas, I suspect plans for other counties might be allowed to stand although I offer the caveat that at this point, your guess is as good as mine.

The real tragedy, I would like to say, is that hubris of one man, William O'Brien, has gotten us into this predicament.  However, that's not really true.  O'Brien could not have done this alone.  Had Redistricting Chair Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, not capitulated to what he knew (deep down inside) was wrong, O'Brien could never have gotten away with this. 

Never forget that it was Mirski (and O'Brien) who were behind the 2006 Constitutional Amendment which they flaunt with such relish today.  (Not to mention, a little mustard on the side).

Also never forget that O'Brien, supposedly a fiscal conservative, has already blown through $50,000 of taxpayer money getting bad outside legal advise.  Won't it be fun if he has to go to the Fiscal Committee on bended knee begging for more money to throw at a problem he created.  Yahwah help us if the House's third rate legal counsel/lobbyist/gendarme Ed Mosca is left to handle the suits.

Who was it that wrote, "Oh what a terrible tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive"?

We are in a terrible tangled web woven by O'Brien and company today, but very few Republicans do not share the blame.  Every Republican who stood by this awful plan must play the role of Lady Macbeth today, "Out, out damn spot."



In Praise Of--Of All Things--Four Democrats

I served with Liz Merry on the Local and Regulated Revenues Committee last term, and when I noted on this web site that she is helping manage the Jackie Cilley for Governor campaign, I felt compelled to point out that Liz was one of the finest Reps I've ever worked with in either party.  I wasn't surprised that she was defeated in her bid for re-election (I had predicted it would be a big year for Republicans), but I can honestly say that I miss her more than just about anybody I've ever served with.  Melissa Lyons, the Democrat from Rockingham County who defeated Ken Weyler, was another fine Representative who is greatly missed as is Rep. Susan Price from the Strafford County.  These are three Democrats we need back if the system is to work in a bi-partisan manner again.

As Democrats, they are all undoubtedly more fiscally liberal than I am, but we could use their intelligence and their diligence back in the House.  They never voted simply along party lines as too many Democrats and Republicans do.  Liz always spent whatever amount of time necessary to get the information required on a given issue, and at a time when Democrats were in control, she worked with other Reps across the aisle, a practice we rarely see these days.

Were I a Democrat, I would be supporting Jackie Cilley for Governor; she seems to be the most realistic pragmatic problem solver in the field right now.  No, I will never support an income tax, but the fact that Jackie Cilley refuses to take the pledge does not necessarily mean she'll push for such a tax; it simply means she's more honest than Maggie! The fact that Liz Merry is working with Jackie makes me all the more confident that Jackie Cilley would be the best choice for Democrats for Governor.  Of course, some would say that my endorsement for a Democrat is tantamout to the kiss of death.  Whatever!  There's always the write-in slot on the Republican ballot.