House, Senate members deciding leadership today
CONCORD - For the first time in more than a decade the House and Senate will be in different political hands when lawmakers gather today to pick who will lead them for the next two years.
Under the New Hampshire Constitution, the first Wednesday in December is Organization Day, when newly elected House and Senate members are sworn in and choose their leaders.
Organization Days are not always smooth.
In 1990, Organization Day lasted into the next day when the Senate Republicans and Democrats deadlocked over who should be Senate president. Finally after day long negotiations, Republican Edward Dupont of Rochester emerged as the winner over Democrat James St. Jean of Manchester.
And in 2004, Republican Douglas Scamman of Stratham returned to his old post as House speaker when Democrats sided with him over the Republicans' choice of Michael Whalley of Alton.
A little less upheaval is expected today as the Senate is likely to re-elect Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, as Senate president with the backing of all 13 Republicans.
Republicans were able to maintain their hold on the Senate in November elections although their majority dropped from a 19-5 advantage to a slim 13-11 edge.
The newly crowed dean of the Senate, Sylvia Larsen of Concord, is expected to return as the Minority leader.
In the House where Democrats hold a 219-178 advantage, former House Speaker Terie Norelli of Portsmouth, is expected to return to the post she held for four years until the 2010 GOP landslide gave Republicans a three-to-one majority.
Former House Speaker William O'Brien of Mont Vernon declined to run for the minority leader's post and instead former House Speaker Gene Chandler of Bartlett is expected to hold the post.
The House and Senate will each elect their own clerk and sergeant-at-arms and jointly the two bodies will elect the secretary-of-state and the state treasurer.
Gov. John Lynch and the five Executive Council members will swear-in the lawmakers, beginning with the House and then the Senate.
Once the members are sworn in, then they can turn to electing their leaders.
The legislative session does not begin until the new governor, Maggie Hassan, is sworn in on the first Thursday of the new year, which this year is Jan. 3.
The last time different parties controlled the House and Senate was during the 1999 and 2000 term when Republicans held the majority in the House and Democrats in the Senate.
Republicans regained control of the Senate in the 2000 elections and controlled both bodies until 2006 when Democrats were swept into office and returned to power again after the 2008 election.
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Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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