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Speaker O’Brien calls laws passed 'transformative'

With little fanfare, Republican lawmakers who control the New Hampshire legislature are passing bills to enact what many conservatives consider a goody-bag of policies &#-; all without drawing the same type of national attention — and controversy — as states like Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio that have approved similar measures.

&#';What we&#';re doing is transformative,&#'; New Hampshire House Speaker William O&#';Brien said.

The list of the GOP&#';s legislative accomplishments reads like a conservative wish-list following the 2010 elections in which Republicans swept into power in both the state House and Senate: The reduction of state-funded spending by 17.6 percent. A balanced budget that doesn&#';t raise or fees. Cutting cigarette taxes by 10 cents a pack. A plan to give the feds back approximately $666,000 in funds from President Barack Obama&#';s health care plan. Passage of Medicare malpractice reform and anti-welfare fraud initiatives that now sit on the governor&#';s desk awaiting action.

Republicans in the state legislature also OK&#';d a right to work bill, which Democratic Gov. John Lynch vetoed. Later this month, the legislature also is expected to vote on whether to override Lynch&#';s veto of two school choice bills.

O&#';Brien has been in Washington, D.C., this week to &#';make sure we have some support. The gains we&#';ve made are substantial, but they&#';re fragile.&#'; On Wednesday, he spoke before the influential Americans for Tax Reform&#';s weekly morning meeting, hosted by Grover Norquist.

The House speaker notes that little national attention has been paid to New Hampshire despite the conservative victories.

&#';Unlike a John Kasich, a Scott Walker, who you can say [are] bringing forward conservative policies, we don&#';t have [a Republican governor],&#'; explains O&#';Brien. If the governor were Republican &#';and we were doing this, we&#';d have a popular governor with a nationwide profile. How many states have taken state-funded spending and reduced it 17.6 percent?&#';

O&#';Brien slammed Lynch for being unwilling to negotiate with the large majorities in the Republican-controlled House and Senate; and when Lynch is willing to negotiate, O&#';Brien charges, the governor is unable to deliver Democratic votes.

&#';This is the way he&#';s always been,&#'; the speaker crows. &#';This Republican legislature is the first legislative majority that has challenged him… so what does he do? He&#';s not going to run again [for reelection]. He&#';s been called out on issues. I think what he&#';d rather do is function as a symbolic head of state than a head of government.&#';

Lynch spokesperson Colin Manning said that the opposite was true — that Lynch had traditionally met regularly with the head of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, but that early in his first legislative session O&#';Brien had declined to continue meeting. Manning added that Lynch had worked cooperatively with Republican-held legislatures in the past.

And another populist selling point that he can boast about? His annual salary is $125, the same as it has been for the House speaker since 1888.

Most politicians decline to frankly state their broader political ambitions, and that may be the case here. But O&#';Brien makes the case that he doesn&#';t quite care to move up.

&#';I&#';m not running for governor, I&#';m not running for Congress, what I&#';m trying to bring back is limited, market-oriented government,&#'; he said. &#';I gotta go back and try and see if I can keep my law practice going.&#';

He quips, &#';The worst thing that can happen to you as a state legislator in New Hampshire is they vote you out, in which case you just go fishing.&#';

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