Upon returning from lunch at 1:30 PM we learned that the New Hampshire House would forever be changed, and not in a good way. Read on and you will understand.
We learned that the Speaker chose this particular time and this place in House Chambers to reprimand 8 (in attendance) out of 14 House Representatives for not complying with House Rule 67 which states “All legislators, legislative officers, and legislative staff shall attend in-person education and training regarding sexual and other unlawful harassment and discrimination.” Mind you, this rule has no time deadline, no mention of consequences for non-compliance and has zero to do with House proceedings, which statutorily is what House Rules are established for on Organization Day when the new body is sworn in. This is an arbitrary rule that was voted into being by the House Majority Democrats and is a type of rule that is absolutely unprecedented in all of NH House history. At no time has any legislator been compelled to take a class or do anything more than what was constitutionally required for them to hold office as elected by their constituents.
We learned that the reprimand was scheduled for 1:30 and that the press was invited in. The procedures for these individual reprimands were conjured up by the Speaker whereby the Deputy of the House, Rep. Lucy Weber, would read the charge, the charged Representative would then be able to come up to “defend themself” and then the House would vote on the Motion to Reprimand (Roll Call Votes are on the Gencourt website). Mind you, unlike other motions or bills that we vote on, no other House member could argue or comment on the Motion to Reprimand, i.e. the vote before us. The only person allowed to speak on the Motion was the accused. This was totally new territory and the format was concocted by Speaker Shurtleff. The Speaker also chose this particular time in the session calendar to do this reprimand, which is not coincidentally right before the 2020 election season, even though technically these Representatives could comply with this rule until such time that their term is up in December 2020. So why now? I think you get the picture. It’s political theater… something to paste on glossy election flyers to attack these good men and women of the NH House. Mind you, 6 other State Representatives were not in attendance… their public pillory will be forthcoming.
We learned that the first man to be excoriated for not taking a sexual harassment course was a disabled man, Rep. Burns. He stood, in pain, at the well for 28 minutes, after rising from his scooter, and gave a moving speech outlining his reasons for non compliance. You can watch it here. Many of my colleagues were teary eyed as they listened. It is patently absurd to make this man, of this character, attend a sexual harassment class. You should have seen the faces of Democrats when he suggested that when Republicans gain the Majority that the House that they may institute a rule for House members to take a class to see what happens during an abortion. Hold that thought, as I will come back to it. 204 House Democrats chose to reprimand this gentle soul.
We learned that the first woman to be reprimanded by the NH House was 80 year old Rep. Betsy McKinney who is serving her 18th term as a legislator from Londonderry. She is a fair, kind and wonderful woman. This 80 year old woman didn’t attend the sexual harassment training. She joked, “At the age of 80, if anyone wanted to sexually harass me, I would be extremely flattered, but I’d advise him to get glasses.” Furthermore, she quipped that the only person she claimed to have sexually harassed is her seat mate Rep. Spillane. Watch it here. While we all know the seriousness of the issue, it is a joke to require a person such as Rep. McKinney to take such a class. Yes, the Democrat Majority voted to reprimand an 80 year old charming woman who has a sense of humor.
We learned that Rep. Prout got a stay of execution because he actually had presented proof that he got training at work which for some reason never made it to the Speaker’s desk, but that didn’t stop 104 Democrats from voting to reprimand him anyway. So you see, for those 104 it wasn’t even about getting “trained”. In the end, the vote to reprimand him failed.
We learned that the remaining Representatives chosen to be “made an example of” this afternoon spoke eloquently about their reasons for declining attendance to this “training”. They made great points too. One speaker that you should really take the time to listen to is Rep. Verville. His speech is here. His defense was magnificent.
We learned that exactly 38 bills, the “work for the people of NH”, sat aside on the Speaker’s table this afternoon while this partisan political spectacle took place. From 1:30 PM to 5:30 PM, a total of 4 hours, the work of the people, the work that we were all elected to accomplish, went unaddressed. I queried the Speaker about why we were letting “the work of the people” sit unaddressed in order to spend the time to reprimand members of the House who did not attend a class. He replied that this proceeding WAS “the work of the people”. Sorry… NO. No one was not elected to take sexual harassment training. They were elected to serve the people of this State and to govern. What this display today was all about was nothing more than political theater and a chance to somehow shame and besmirch reputable NH House members for disobeying this one particular rule which has no stated deadline and no basis in House proceedings.
We learned that after all of the reprimands for the day were done, the Republican caucus rose and delivered letters of protest to the House Clerk.
We learned that precedent was set and the NH House has forever been changed. In future, any party in power may dictate all manner of education for House members based on this precedent. Today it is to attend a class on sexual harassment… tomorrow it could be classes on just about any topic that the party in power deems “necessary” and apparently can and will now include as a “House Rule”. How about classes on how to implement Socialist policy, or classes on the virtues of Globalism? Turn about is fair play… so we could have classes on what really happens during an abortion or classes on firearms safety or understanding the electoral college. Aside from any particular subject matter, the issue really is forcing political will on people in a tyrannical manner. Sure, sexual harassment is an important and serious issue, no one denies this, but requiring this training has no business being a NH House Rule. I certainly did not vote to approve such a rule. One must remember too that each House member meets all constitutional and statutory requirements to serve in the House and were duly elected by their constituents. There is no requirement to have sexual harassment training in order to serve.
We learned that this action by the Speaker has done great damage to the NH House. Relationships between parties and members have been negatively affected because of it. There will be more ugliness, less willingness to work together and less trust in the House. This is Washington politics seeping into our hallowed halls. The characters of good people are being assassinated by those in a position of control who themselves are exhibiting the bullying tactics that they claim to abhor. I am sad today, and the people of this great state will only suffer for us having to abandon the work that we were sent to Concord to do in favor of the Majority Party wanting to waste time to manufacture talking points for future political mail pieces. Please read this paragraph again.
We ended the day at 5:30 PM by tabling HB1434-FN having to do with premium contribution requirements for state and judicial retirees. The remaining 37 bills that should have been voted on this day but now will have to be taken up at the call of the Chair. Granite Staters, I am so sorry that we wasted a half day of service on your behalf for a “Washington show style series of trials”. We have 6 other members of our House that the Speaker and Democrat Majority feels compelled to reprimand. Perhaps you may wish to contact the Speaker and tell him to stop wasting our time and get on with the real business of the Granite State.
” So today we are voting on reprimanding 14 House members who ‘violated’ House rule 67. House rule 67 requires all members to attend a 2 hr in-person sexual Harassment class.
The Crux of argument is that while the House can set rules regarding procedural processes, it is unconstitutional to set any further burdens on House members beyond that required by the NH Constitution. All of the members that did not take the class did so out of protest. ” – Rep. Tim Lang