NH News
6:00 pm
Wed April 11, 2012

N.H. Senate Backs Away from Right-to-Work

The New Hampshire Senate has all but killed the Right-to-Work legislation Wednesday.

What’s interesting is the bill had enough support from Senate Republicans to pass.

 

Dan Gorenstein (DG): Usually the most controversial bills in the Legislature enjoy some floor debate in the Senate.

Senators stand up, give speeches, ask each other mildly condescending questions.

But when Right-to-Work came up...nothing.

Instead, Senators voted to ‘table’ the bill.

In this case, that’s a polite way of sending a bill away without supper...never to be heard from again...well, at least until 2013.

Now, if Senators were voting only on whether they support Right-to-Work, the bill would have passed.

But that didn’t happen and the Senate didn’t even debate it.

What’s going on?

Senate President Peter Bragdon explains.

Bragdon: “Having gone through the Right-to-Work debate last year, it was something I supported. It’s pretty clear what the end result is going to be.”

DG: Let’s stop Senator Bragdon right there for a minute.

What he’s saying is he knows there’s not enough support from lawmakers to override an all but certain gubernatorial veto.

So, Bragdon asks...what’s the point?

Bragdon: “We can spend our time working on things, having the same result or we can spend our time working on bills that can pass that will help create jobs and help people in this economy. And we chose the latter.”

DG: It’s a strategy that makes perfect sense to UNH political scientist Andy Smith.

He says right now, for the GOP incumbents, there’s just too much at stake.

Smith: “We’ve got an election coming up this fall and I don’t think Republicans who are running for reelection in the Senate want this used against them as a political issue in that fall campaign.”

DG: It’s no secret Right-to-Work has been among House Speaker Bill O’Brien’s top legislative initiatives.

And again, the Senate has basically killed it.

A question running around the statehouse is whether that action suggests Senate Republicans are running away from Speaker O’Brien shadow.

Democrats like Rick Trombly – who works for the teacher’s union NEA – says he thinks the answer is obvious.

He says Senators get why they were sent to Concord.

Trombly: “They were not elected to impose this extreme right wing agenda on the state. They ran on jobs and job creation and the Speaker’s agenda has clearly not been that.”

DG: No Senator I spoke to for this story agrees with Trombly’s assessment.

Majority Leader Jeb Bradley does concede the Senate and the House don’t always see eye-to-eye.

But he says there’s plenty of substantive overlap.

Bradley: “We all have our priorities. We are a little bit different. But if you look at the priorities of both bodies they intersect on jobs and the economy. We all know that...that’s what we are trying to focus on the last couple of months of this session.”

Bettencourt: “Obviously we are disappointed that we haven’t been able to get Right-to-Work passed. It’s a very, very important tool to job creation.”

DG: That’s House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt.

Bettencourt says, ‘sure, maybe Senate leaders are making different political calculations on this particular bill.’

But overall, he says there’s a lots of work the two chambers can do together.

Bettencourt: “Education funding amendment for example. Maintaining a balanced budget, we have some very, very important business-related bills we need to get accomplished. I think we need to focus on those things.”

DG: Bettencourt says between now and June he wants to see House and Senate Republicans focus on what they agree on, and let the rest fall away.