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December 05. 2012 10:26PM

A show of unity in Concord as House and Senate presidents chosen by unanimous votes

CONCORD - A new legislature was sworn in Wednesday and for a day, the partisan divide that plagued the State House the past two years was put aside as leaders from both parties said they would work together to solve the state's pressing problems.

Senators tapped Republican Peter Bragdon of Milford to serve his second term as Senate President. The House chose Democrat Terie Norelli of Portsmouth for the third time to be House Speaker.

Both Bragdon and Norelli were chosen by unanimous votes to lead their respective bodies, but both will have slim majorities.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the House by a 219-179 majority, with two vacancies due to resignations. Republicans hold the majority in the Senate by a 13-11 margin.

Gov. John Lynch said he believes "there will be a renewed spirit of collaboration and civility in the legislature."

While Bragdon was reelected to his post, Norelli follows former Speaker William O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, who led the House the last two years.

When Democrats took control after November's election, O'Brien did not want to be the Republican leader; instead former Speaker Gene Chandler of Bartlett was chosen to lead his party.

When Chandler stood to ask members to make Norelli speaker unanimously, he said in some instances Republicans will work with Democrats, and in other instances they will disagree.

"Our job is to make our own points," he said, but added they would do that in an appropriate manner.

Common ground

Norelli said voters sent the message to legislators to put partisan politics aside and work together.

"We will not always agree, but we must move beyond the partisan divide and work for all of New Hampshire. We must end the harshness that has plagued us in recent years," she said.

She promised to focus on jobs and the economy, and to deliver "a responsible budget that meets the needs of the citizens and businesses of our state."

Norelli said the next two years will be very difficult and challenging and she would resume weekly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leaders to try to find common ground.

"Let's make the people of New Hampshire our priority as we do their business," Norelli said.

Like Norelli, Bragdon told his colleagues that voters want lawmakers to work together to find solutions.

"Those who elected us expect the finger-pointing that was prevalent in the campaign to stop and they expect us to lead,' Bragdon said. "They expect us to work together to identify our challenges and work together to craft solutions."

Although the two sides would not agree all the time, he said, issues should be discussed in a respectful manner, with senators willing to listen to colleagues with opposing views and respecting their convictions.

Bragdon said the financial challenges lawmakers faced two years ago are still present.

"Two years ago we all faced very difficult decisions; let us not fool ourselves into thinking that this year's decisions will be any less difficult," Bragdon said.

Other posts

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, will continue as Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, will continue as Minority Leader.

In the House, Stephen Shurtliff, D-Concord, is the House Majority Leader. Norelli also named Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, as House Finance Chair.

The House and Senate jointly elected William Gardner as secretary of state.

He has held the position since 1976 and is the longest-serving secretary of state in the country.

The House and Senate also elected Catherine Provencher as state treasurer. She has held the post for six years.

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Garry Rayno may be reached at grayno@unionleader.com.


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