NH House Speaker O'Brien makes his legislative priorities known
CONCORD - Republican House Speaker William O'Brien intends to again make passing a 'right-to-work' bill a priority in the next legislative session.
The measure is among four proposed bills outlined Monday by O'Brien, who is running for reelection to his Mont Vernon seat in November.
The other priorities are also familiar causes for O'Brien: a constitutional amendment that would require a super-majority in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees; cracking down on how Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are used; and blocking the expansion of Obamacare.
The state Democratic Party quickly responded to what it called the 'extreme Ovide-O'Brien agenda,' referring to the GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne.
'We know we can expect another round of attacks on our workers,' said Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D-Penacook, in a conference call Monday afternoon organized by the Democrats. 'We know we can expect more devastating cuts to assistance to our most vulnerable citizens.'
O'Brien's announcement of his legislative priorities came after Democratic Party leaders charged last week that he was pursuing a 'secret agenda,' since the names of proposed 2013 bills, called Legislative Service Requests at this stage, had yet to be released. A list of 259 LSRs has since been posted on the State House website.
O'Brien has made right-to-work legislation a central priority since he became speaker in 2010. The Republican-dominated Legislature has passed right-to-work bills, which would bar unions from collecting fees from non-members for collective bargaining costs, but not with enough votes to override a veto from Gov. John Lynch.
The 2013 bill would be called the 'Franklin Partin Right to Work Act.' Partin was a longtime advocate for the policy who passed away in 2010.
'It means more jobs here, more of our friends and neighbors working, and fewer of our families having to leave the state to find suitable employment,' O'Brien said in the statement released Monday. 'You cannot oppose right-to-work and say that you are committed to expanding our economy.'
The proposed constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any new tax or fee would also be making a repeat appearance. At the end of this year's session, the Senate passed CACR 6 by the necessary three-fifths majority, but it came up short of this margin in the House.
O'Brien has made blocking parts of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, referred to as Obamacare, a priority throughout his term. The latest proposal would target the Medicaid expansion called for under the program.
'Obamacare will blow a hole in our state budget, plain and simple. We cannot allow this federal law to hijack our state finances with unfunded mandates,' O'Brien said.
Restricting the use of EBT cards is an issue that O'Brien has been advocating for since July, after a convenience store clerk was fired for refusing to let a man buy cigarettes with his benefit card.
The latest bill, O'Brien said, would be in line with welfare reform legislation he spearheaded this year.
'Next year, we will move forward to rein in the abuses of EBT cards by making sure that they are not being used to purchase alcohol, lottery tickets, tobacco, tattoos or other unnecessary items,' O'Brien said.
The full text of the proposed bills is not yet available.
The success of O'Brien's initiatives will depend largely on the outcome of the November election. Many of O'Brien's priority bills over the past two years were vetoed by Democratic Gov. Lynch, whose seat is up for grabs.
Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, insisted that the agenda being pushed by O'Brien was out of touch with what New Hampshire voters want.
'Will we go forward with the same type of bipartisan, problem-solving approach provided by Gov. John Lynch, or we can go backward with the extreme ideas of Ovide Lamontagne and Bill O'Brien, ideas that hurt our middle-class families and our economy,' Rosenwald said during the conference call.