We learned that having Organization Day for the NH Legislature is non-negotiable. Holding Organization Day is required by our NH State Constitution. The General Court meets to organize itself on the first Wednesday of December in each even numbered year. On Organization Day all members present are sworn in by the Governor, in the presence of the Executive Council. The House holds an election for House Speaker, House Clerk, and Sergeant-at-Arms. The House and Senate then meet in joint session and elect the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer and they too are sworn in.
That being said, we learned that because of complaints about holding Organization Day indoors (due to COVID concerns) at the larger UNH facility in Durham, it was decided by the Republican Majority Leadership (who is now in charge), that Organization Day be held outside, on the field, with seats placed 6 ft apart, with the choice of wearing face masks along with our winter coats and long johns. This decision was not good enough for roughly 100 Democrats who stayed away in protest and were given special dispensation to be sworn in “remotely” by the Governor and Executive Council the next day. Apparently, even with their great medical knowledge of how COVID is transmitted, they determined that being outside, seated 6 ft. apart, and wearing face masks, was somehow a risk to their health. Perhaps they would just like to stay home for the next biennium and do the work of the people, remotely in their pajamas. Meanwhile, despite the chill in the air, the House members who did show up today dressed warmly, social distanced, and came to do the work of getting House Organization completed. Kudos to them!
We learned that the November elections resulted in a Republican Majority in the House and Senate, so there’s some new and improved leadership in town. After all of our NH House Reps were sworn in by Governor Sununu, we proceeded to elect Dick Hinch to be our new House Speaker. Speaker Hinch appointed Rep. Jason Osborne to be Majority Leader and Rep. Renny Cushing to be Minority Leader (note: he was absent for his own swearing in). The House then elected Paul Smith as House Clerk and JB Cullen as Sergeant-at-Arms. Mind you, JB Cullen did not let COVID or pain and getting around with crutches get in the way of this important day. The Senate members arrived and we jointly re-elected Bill Gardner as Secretary of State and Monica Mezzapelle as NH State Treasurer. We also learned that Bill Gardner is the longest serving Secretary of State in our entire country! Congratulations to them all!
We learned that Rep. Andrew Bouldin (AKA Rep. Karen) rose twice to complain to our new House Speaker that someone had the nerve to sit at least 12 feet away from him and not have on a mask, thereby causing him “risk” and violating “rules”, while not an hour later he himself rose to videotape House proceedings and members of the House on his phone, which is a violation of “rules”. Funny how “rules” work for some people.
We learned that clear plastic umbrellas keep COVID away, and have photos to prove it. Wink.
We learned that Rep. Tim Smith thought that our adoption of House Rules from 2018 was “A brazen unprecedented power grab that will quickly become a black stain on the legislative history of this state” as he stood and stammered “passionately” his objection to Rep. Prout’s motion to adopt because it hadn’t gone to the Rules Committee first. For starters, we have no Rules Committee yet. The Rules Committee back in 2018 (when there was a Republican Majority) thought they were good enough then; there is no reason why they wouldn’t think so now. Rep. Smith will just have to adjust to their passage by a Republican Majority, and maybe if he doesn’t like the new “old rules” he can lobby to get them changed at a later date. His objection probably stemmed from the elimination of the face to face mandatory sexual harassment training required when his party was in the majority. With the fact that 100 of his colleagues skipped out of today’s “face to face” swearing in ceremony, do you honestly think they will want to attend a “face to face” sexual harassment training? My guess is NO.
We learned that a motion to suspend the rules in order to bring about a resolution to end the State of Emergency in our State could not garner 2/3 Yeas in the House. Perhaps if the new House members were given a heads up, and the procedures were explained with regard to what this vote was for, the numbers may have been different. There may be other opportunities for this type of motion in the future.
Finally, we learned that sitting outside for a few hours was not all that bad. After all, aren’t we hearty Granite Staters that are supposed to be used to cold weather? Eating lunch “al fresco” was not so bad either, especially among friends. It was certainly an unprecedented ceremony and one to put in the history books. Looking forward to Convening Day in January, when we the NH House gets back together again. Let’s hope we can meet indoors, it might be pretty cold in January.