CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted Thursday to reprimand eight Republican members for skipping mandatory sexual harassment training.
Members reprimanded after the four-hour, partisan proceeding for missing the two-hour training course were:
• Rep. Charles Burns, R-Milford, a three-term member of the Ways and Means Committee;
• Rep. Kevin Craig, R-Lancaster, a first-term member of the Fish and Game Committee;
• Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, a five-term member of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee;
• Raymond Howard, R-Alton, a one-term member of the Fish and Game panel;
• Rep. Betsy McKinney, R-Londonderry, an 18-term member of the Legislative Administration Committee;
• Rep. Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, a four-term member of the Judiciary Committee and;
• Rep. Kevin Verville, R-Deerfield, a second-term member of the Environment and Agriculture Committee;
The House rejected a reprimand of one of the targeted lawmakers, State Rep. Andrew Prout, R-Hudson, after Prout said he sent House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff, D-Penacook, a letter saying he took the training course at his place of work.
Shurtleff said he did not receive the letter and agreed to delay action until his office could investigate.
Prout, a two-term member, turned down the offer to delay, and the House proceeded to vote 203-108 against the reprimand.
Six other Republican members who did not attend the training were absent from the House Thursday.
Shurtleff said their reprimands will be taken up when the members are present to respond to them.
Those absent members were:
• Rep. Glen Aldrich, R-Gilford, a three-term member of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee;
• Rep. John Callum, R-Unity, one-term member of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee;
• Rep. Ed Comeau, R-Brookfield, four-term member of the Fish and Game Committee;
• Rep. William Fowler, R-Seabrook, one-term member of Children and Family Law Committee;
• Rep. Becky Owens, R-Chester, one-term member of the Election Laws Committee and;
• Rep. James Webb, R-Derry, seven-term member of the Fish and Game Committee.
Reprimand is the lightest form of punishment for ethical misconduct.
The House and Senate have the authority to discipline their own members. Punishment ranges from expulsion to censure to reprimand.
Burns said he was not likely to seek reelection but in the wake of this controversy he might change his mind.
If Republicans take over the House, Burns said he will seek a requirement that House members take “sensitivity training” about abortion.
“I don’t need to be told by an all-knowing and all-powerful state how I need to behave, particularly around members of the opposite sex,” Burns said.
“If they do object that I did not take this training, then they can vote me out.”
Last year, the House of Representatives changed its rules to require the courses.
Before becoming speaker in December 2018, Shurtleff said he would seek the training in response to a series of sexual harassment complaints about House members.
“I felt it was the best interest of this body to reprimand the nine members,” Shurtleff said.
Last year, Shurtleff stripped Rep. Burt of his seat on a committee after receiving complaints that he accused the Fish and Game chief executive of being a "terrorist."
On Thursday, Burt said he had apologized for telling a “bad joke” and urged the House to reject this move.
“This really is Washington politics at its worst and does not belong in the people’s house of the New Hampshire House,” he said.