Rep Steve Vaillancourt


"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

            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.”



The Last Governor-Governor Ticket For President?

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

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.


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 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.


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 ( or Andrew Provencher ( 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,



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!


The Inside Story Of How NH Defeated Gay Marriage REPEAL

            By 5:19 p.m. Wednesday afternoon when the House, after two hours of debate on various amendments and ten or so individual votes, finally disposed of the gay marriage repeal with an inexpedient to legislate motion, more Republicans voted against repeal than voted for it.  The bill went down 211-116, and remarkably the Republican tally was 119 against the bill and 115 for it.

            The final vote, with the roll call noted in both the Monitor and the Union Leader, was most assuredly not the most important vote of the day, so those numbers are a bit misleading.

            The roll call that should be noted is the one on the Bates floor amendment at 4:10 p.m.  That failed 162-188.  I was not among those who were surprised that a House which consisted of 298 Republicans as of the November 2010 election would vote NOT to repeal gay marriage.

            Earlier in the day, I calculated that with all except three Democrats voting against repeal (in fact, only two Democrats so voted, Bill Butynski of Hinsdale and Roger Berube—no surprise—of Somersworth), and with the attendance at the time, 85 Republicans would be needed to stop repeal.  After numerous true conservatives had confided to me that they would not vote for repeal, I though we could get 100 Republican.

            In fact, on the Bates amendment, we got 96 Republicans against.

            It was rather anti-climactic, enough to make me think of the old Pittsburg Pirate announcer who after a close win by the Bucs was fond of saying, “We had ‘em aaahl the way.”

            Forces opposed to repeal may not have had ‘em aaahl the way, but they (I dare say we since that was the side I was on) had ‘em long before the vote was taken.

            Even before the Bates amendment, there was a critical vote, on the procedural matter of dividing the question, but we’ll never knew who was one which side as it went down to defeat by a six vote margin, and no roll call was ever requested.

            It was important because had the question been divided, the non-binding referendum vote would have been separated from the part which called for repeal of gay marriage.  Some Republicans were so against the idea of a non-binding referendum that they had no other option than to vote against the entire package.

            That was one of many miscalculations by the bill’s sponsor, Windham Republican David Bates (aka The Homosexual Hunter). 

            Even before that vote, the House had voted 82-266 against the committee amendment, but let’s not consider that vote critical because Bates had already asserted that his amendment was better.  Even though he personally voted for the committee amendment, only 79 other Republicans did while 175 Republicans voted against it.

            Let’s look at the three roll call votes of important, the defeat of the Bates amendment; the vote against passage of the bill without any amendments (none had passed); and finally the vote in favor of killing the bill.

            With each vote, more Republicans dropped from the Bates’ side and thus voted against repeal.

            The Bates amendment failed      162-188 (53.7 percent).  Republicans were 166 for it, 96 against (that would be 62.5 percent for it).  Democrats were 2-92 against it (98 percent).

            The ought to pass motion failed 133-202 (60.3 percent; remember I said the Bates amendment vote was the critical one, not this one).  Republicans were 132 for the bill and 109 against it (still 54.3 percent in favor).  Democrats were one for and 93 against (Butynski joined his colleague, leaving Berube all alone).

            It was only then that a majority of Republicans voted to kill the bill, in effect a vote to keep gay marriage.  That 211-116 total amounted to 62.2 percent.  Democrats were again 92-1, but ten more Republicans had come on board, bringing the total to 119-115 (50.9 percent).

            Who would have believed it?  As I noted in my remarks prior to the vote on ITL, when gay marriage passed three years ago, only a dozen or so Republicans (depending which vote you reference) voted for it.  The fact that a majority voted against the repeal is nothing short of miraculous.

            Someone asked me if I thought Republicans many Republicans had changed their minds for fear of losing their seats (most polls show New Hampshire voters opposed to repeal by a two to one margin).

            Hmm, I thought.

            Probably not.

            I am not cynical enough to believe that.  Rather, I believe there are three other factors.  Keep in mind; it was not a vote to legalize gay marriage, but rather to take away a right we had already legalized.  Secondly, as I noted in a blog here earlier in the week, opinion polls show constantly increasing support for same sex marriage, and New Hampshire Republicans are people too.  Thirdly, as I tried to allude to on the floor (before the vile Rep. Hansen from Amherst tried to heckle me into silence), the Republican Party was at the forefront of civil rights for African Americans, including a plank in the party platform that year.  I am convinced that at least a few Republicans were convinced that a vote for repeal would go down on the wrong side of history, and it would forever be a mark of shame on a great party.

          That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

          So let’s look, in general terms, at the kind of Republicans that voted for and against repeal.  Those for repeal could best be described as die-hard Bill O’Brien supporters; that’s why this can only be termed a tremendous loss for the Speaker.  These were red meat conservatives like Bates, the kind who will carry on this fight, no matter how few of them remain. These are the kind of people most likely to lose their seats this year.  That’s why no sentient human being should take seriously for a moment the comment Bates made to the media today that a serious effort will be made for repeal again next year.

            They’ll make the effort, just like Gingrich and Santorum are making the effort to stop Romney, but history has passed them buy, and voters will pass them buy.  If Bates and Company (notice I’ve avoided using the term haters) couldn’t get this type of bill passed when Republicans had 298 seats, how can they expect to succeed when they have 50 or 80 or fewer seats next year?  It’s not about having a Republican in the corner office to avoid a veto.

            It’s about the old line Republicans having stood up against repeal, people like former Speaker Gene Chandler, Majority leader D.J. Bettencourt and his deputy Shawn Jasper, former and present committee chairs and respected statesmen liked David Welch, John Reagan, Betsey Patten, David Hess, Neal Kurk, John Tholl, John Sytek, yes even Sherm Packard and on and on.

            It wasn’t only on the final vote that they cast their lot against repeal, but on the critical Bates’ amendment vote.

            Then there was the new breed of first year libertarian-minded Republicans.  A new group of heroes was born Wednesday, none more so than Manchester West side Republican Tammy Simmons, or the trio of ward two Republicans Win Hutchinson, Mike Ball and Cam DeJong (who gave the best speech I’ve heard in years), and Keith Murphy of Bedford.  And we certainly must never forget Jen Coffey.

            I joked to one of the anti-repeal organizers that I might as well have stayed home.  People like David Pierce and Jim Splaine and I who worked so hard for passage weren’t even needed this time around.  This new group of freshman heroes stepped forth and assumed the mantle of civil rights advocates.

            That’s what made me so proud, almost proud enough but not quite to forget the shame I felt from the handful of so-called libertarians who voted for repeal.  J.R, Hoell, Andy Manuse, Dan and Carol McGuire merit special shame.  How any libertarian could vote to start discriminating again against any group of people is simply beyond me.  These are four people I like and admire but will never forget the shame they brought on the libertarian movement.  They are on the wrong side of history as surely as the Dixiecrats who fought against Civil Rights for African Americans will always be remembered on the wrong side of history.

            Dan McGuire’s speech was especially noxious.  He seemed to be saying, “I managed to grow up in a lesbian household without the lesbians ever being allowed to marry, so everybody else should be able to grin and bear it.”

            Society moves forward.  That’s what libertarian principles are all about, but apparently not for these four!

            Sorry, but I needed to say that.  You too Will Infantine, special shame.  I had counted Manchester Republicans as 9-8 against repeal, but Will made it 8-9 in favor.  Shame, shame, shame. 

            I’ve said enough.

            As proud as I was when gay marriage passed three years ago with only a dozen Republican votes, I was even prouder Wednesday now that, for whatever reason, so many in my party of less government Republicans stood up equality for all.

            Special kudos to Londonderry Republican Rep Karen Hutchinson who left a sick bed to get here and vote.

            One final time, I feel the need to quote the great African American (and gay) author James Baldwin, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone ever said about it.”
            Were he alive today, he’d have seen a new chapter of beauty being written into the American story right here in the state which, by virtue of being the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, made us the country we are today.

            Rep. Hansen would, of course, heckle such a reference to history, but that’s his problem, not mine.