Let 'Er Rip: NH Legislature Kicks Off New Session

By Wednesday night, the New Hampshire Statehouse might have been an afterthought....lost in the glare of the Republican presidential candidates.

But earlier in the day, New Hampshire politicians flexed their rhetorical muscles, jockeying for higher ground as the next legislative session kicked off.

Democrats and Republicans tried to set the tone for the next six months.

Promises made are promises kept.

That, says Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, is the hallmark of House Republicans under his leadership.

Looking back, Bettencourt believes the GOP made significant strides last year, which includes an estimated 30 pro-business bills.

“The themes of the 2011 House Republican agenda were more money in the pockets of our citizens. More investment in our businesses, job growth and important long-term reforms for the financial health of New Hampshire.”

Bettencourt says he’s ready to pick up where House Republicans left off.

The majority leader vows the focus in 2012 will be on economic issues, namely improvements to the business climate in the Granite State.

This week alone, Bettencourt hopes to pass bills that would extend a research and development credit and make it harder for state agencies to increase fees.

“This January’s session will serve as an exclamation point for our pro-growth, pro-employment agenda. And once again establish the theme of promises made, promises kept.”

Over the past 6 months, House leaders have been dogged by accusations they’re more concerned with social issues, repealing gay marriage and pushing through Right-to-Work.

That’s precisely the theme Governor John Lynch took aim at, when he blasted controversial gun legislation under consideration.

“It is an absurd bill. ”

Lynch is talking about a proposal that would re-write the definition of a loaded rifle or shotgun, so that the firearm wouldn’t be considered loaded if bullets were in the gun, but NOT in the chamber.

The governor was so outraged by the bill he invited state troopers to the statehouse to demonstrate the step it would take to LOAD the rifle under the new definition.

“If you could demonstrate how quickly it takes to get the bullet from the magazine into the chamber. (Click) It is an absurd bill.”

The House could also take up legislation this week that would prohibit public colleges and universities from banning firearms on campus.

Lynch made his own promise for this session, saying he will veto either bill if it reaches his desk.

House Majority Leader Bettencourt rejected Lynch’s insinuation that the GOP isn’t focused on jobs and the economy.

“It’s easy sometimes for the Democrats and perhaps some of you in the media to look at one or two Representatives file a very limited number of bills that are a little off beat. And despite the fact that they are a small amount of bills- we have over 700 bills filed- people try to make that representative of the day-in-day-out business of this caucus and it’s a shame. It’s not true.”

Bettencourt can blame Democrats – or the press – but some of Bettencourt’s own members are publicly demonstrating interests beyond tax policy.

“OK, I guess we may as well start. I’m Representative Larry Rappaport, and today concerned New Hampshire State Representatives delivered a signed affidavit to state Attorney General Michael Delaney that we believe that Barack Obama was possibly not eligible to be President of the United States. This is not a birther issue. Our concern is only that he is a natural born citizen.”

This is the kind of issue that political types like state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley feasts on.

Reporters asked Buckley if there was any merit to Representative Rappaport’s concern.

“Well, you know I don’t have a tinfoil hat. So I wasn’t really able to follow everything they said. I do have some Reynolds Wrap at home I should have brought some, so I could have interpreted what their conversation was. Unfortunately, I didn’t.”

Of course, hundreds of bills will come up this session that has little to do with House leaders’ stated agenda of improving the business climate.

The question is with gun bills, gay marriage repeal and any number of other issues at play, can House leaders keep their own members in line.