New Legislature takes charge in New Hampshire

Thursday December 6, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire’s Legislature elected leaders for the House and Senate on Wednesday, picking a former Democratic speaker to lead the House and staying with the current president in the Senate.

Rep. Terie Norelli of Portsmouth was elected House speaker while Republican Sen. Peter Bragdon of Milford retained his position as president of the Senate. Norelli succeeds Mont Vernon Republican William O’Brien.

Democrats took control of the House in the Nov. 6 election. They hold 219 of the 400 seats, compared with 179 by Republicans. There are two vacancies from resignations.

Norelli led the House when Democrats took control of the chamber in 2006 until Republicans regained the majority in 2010. She served as Democratic leader for the last two years.

Republican Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett, the House’s new minority leader, did not challenge Norelli’s nomination and instead moved in the spirit of bipartisanship that it be made unanimous. Chandler said Republicans would not always agree with Democrats.

"Our job is to make our own points," he said.

Norelli agreed the two parties would have differences, but she urged the newly sworn in representatives to work together as much as possible.

"I could not agree with Rep. Chandler more. 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 in a reference to the past two years under O’Brien’s leadership.

With almost a 3-to-1 GOP advantage over the past two years, O’Brien dismissed Democrats as irrelevant. After Democrats won control of the chamber, O’Brien chose not to run for minority leader.

Norelli reminded the House that regardless of who is in the majority, each member has "one vote and one vote only." She said she would resume weekly meetings between House Democratic and Republican leaders to try to find common ground on issues.

"Let’s show voters we have made them a priority as we do their business," she said.

Democrats gained seats in the Senate but not enough to take control. Republicans hold a 13-11 majority.

Bragdon said he looked forward to working with senators on both sides of the aisle to produce a balanced state budget that keeps taxes low.

"Similar to the last two years, I expect the 2013-2014 session on the Senate side will be efficient, transparent and anchored by a no-nonsense approach to conducting business for the taxpayers of New Hampshire," he said.

Bragdon said his top priorities are to create an environment conducive to job growth, target education aid and build a state budget without new or increased taxes or fees.

Democratic Sen. Sylvia Larsen of Concord will be Senate minority leader.

The Legislature also elected Secretary of State William Gardner and state Treasurer Catherine Provencher to new two-year terms.


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