Sunday, July 17, 2011
NH House Speaker William O'Brien. (Will Roseliep, NHPR)
"O'Brien talks tough"
House Speaker William O'Brien riled up New Hampshire Democrats with comments about welfare spending at a Republican event last weekend.
O'Brien, speaking to the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers annual picnic at the Hillsboro American Legion, criticized those he called "the spenders" who seek to take over government.
"They pay mothers to have children out of wedlock and then wonder why family is breaking down, welfare programs are constantly growing and children come to school with problems so severe they can't be educated," O'Brien said.
Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, called O'Brien's comments "shameful."
"The idea that single mothers are a danger to American families or that they're a cause of children with severe problems is absolutely offensive," he said.
O'Brien could not be reached for comment Friday, but House Policy Director Greg Moore said the speaker's comments refer to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal program that also requires an allocation of state money. For up to 60 months, the program provides cash assistance to low-income, single-parent households that increases based on family size.
"That is absolutely factually true - if your family size increases, your grant size would increase," Moore said.
Moore said preventing mothers from getting more money for having a child on welfare has been discussed by the Legislature's Republican leadership.
"I firmly expect it may come up" during next year's session, Moore said.
Source: "What a big difference eight months can make: Fickle voters sour on Bass, Guinta" By Karen Langley and Matthew Spolar, Concord Monitor staff, July 17, 2011.
July 17, 2011
Speaker Bill O'Brien was recently quoted: "They pay mothers to have children out of wedlock and then wonder why family is breaking down, welfare programs are constantly growing and children come to school with problems so severe they can't be educated." (Source: "What a big difference eight months can make: Fickle voters sour on Bass, Guinta" By Karen Langley and Matthew Spolar, Concord Monitor staff, July 17, 2011.)
He does not represent all of the citizens of New Hampshire. Single mothers and poor children are supposed to be equal instead of prejudiced as second-class citizens by politicians like Speaker O'Brien. So who does Speaker O'Brien represent? How many classes of citizens does he govern? As a Disabled Veteran, I wonder if I am a first-class citizen or a second-class citizen under this Speaker's rule? Should I pack my bags along with the single mothers and poor children and move to another state so I won't be discriminated against by Speaker O'Brien?
Another point I would like to make as an adult man is that it takes both a man and a woman to have a child. Speaker O'Brien's statement unfairly blames single mothers for receiving welfare assistance programs, not living in a traditional family with two parents, and having children with behavioral problems. What about the fathers, Speaker O'Brien?
I hope Speaker O'Brien either apologizes or resigns his legislative seat for his unfair remarks against single mothers and poor children. He should understand that all citizens should be represented equally instead of some being viewed as second-class citizens. Lastly, it is not just the fault of the single mother and poor child. Men are also responsible for the state of families.
- Jonathan A. Melle
"O’Brien under fire for welfare comment"
The Nashua Telegraph, Letters, August 8, 2011
In a recent article in The Telegraph (Aug. 4: “Special session eyed on expected loss of $35m, redrawing wards”), it was stated that House Speaker O’Brien wants “lawmakers to prevent someone on welfare from getting additional benefits for having another child.”
O’Brien was quoted as saying: “We are going to now require people to make responsible decisions; if you don’t have enough money to take care of the family you have, you have no more children.”
Yet, it was O’Brien and the House Republicans who pushed a bill to prevent the state from entering into a contract with Planned Parenthood, and it was the all-Republican Executive Council that voted two months ago to discontinue the state’s contract with the organization, which is particularly important for low-income women.
It’s incomprehensible and irresponsible.
What is he thinking?
"Democrats dismiss House Speaker William O'Brien's lawsuit as publicity stunt"
By TOM FAHEY, NH State House Bureau Chief, September 13, 2011
CONCORD — A spokesman for the Democratic Party on Monday criticized as a frivolous publicity stunt the lawsuit that Speaker of the House William O'Brien has brought against the party and its chairman.
O'Brien's court action seeks $1.2 million for alleged violations of state laws on a political campaign call in 2010. He claims he is entitled to damages for each of 394 robo-calls that the State Democratic Party placed in his House district.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley was featured on the calls that targeted O'Brien. Although he clearly identified himself in the call, the script did not identify the party that paid for it or the fiscal agent.
The party paid a $5,000 fine to settle the dispute with the state attorney general, but did not admit any wrongdoing.
Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said O'Brien's attorney, Chuck Douglas, has sued the party twice before and gotten nowhere.
Calling this lawsuit “frivolous,” Kirstein said, “That attorney Douglas saw fit to release it to the press 24 hours before he delivered it to the courts or us shows this is a publicity stunt more than anything else.”
He noted a recent New Hampshire Union Leader editorial said the incident was “minor and almost certainly an oversight.”
The editorial stated, “This little scandal doesn't even come close to matching the state GOP's illegal phone-jamming operation in 2004.”
O'Brien argues that the automated call cost him votes and violated clean election laws that Buckley had a hand in passing.
Kirstein responded, “Unfortunately, Speaker O'Brien wants to waste court resources on something that the Attorney General's Office already settled.”
"O’Brien deflects accusations of bullying other state reps"
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN Staff Writer, The Nashua Telegraph, January 20, 2012
CONCORD – House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, deflected accusations Thursday that he bullied, yelled, swore or in any way tried to intimidate a Republican state representative last March over her proposed amendments to the state budget.
During his first interview on the controversy, O’Brien charged that Democratic Party operatives and union member Republicans have twisted the March 31 incident in an effort to discredit the record of accomplishment for the GOP-dominated House.
“Obviously, the Democratic Party has taken delight in this false story to spread this incorrect narrative,” O’Brien said. “We were winning votes and achieving our agenda, not because we were abusing the process, but because the Republicans who got elected did what their constituents wanted them to do.”
State Rep. Susan Emerson, R-Rindge, O’Brien’s accuser, filed a bill to outlaw bullying of lawmakers in the Statehouse and the adjacent Legislative Office Building. O’Brien’s comments came soon after a hearing on the bill Thursday.
A bipartisan group of legislators supported the bill in the absence of Emerson, who was in a Maryland hospital.
O’Brien said he instigated the meeting with Emerson and House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, inside the Senate chamber just before the state budget debate in the House.
O’Brien said he was trying to talk Emerson into dropping nearly all her 27 amendments to restore money to the House GOP budget and relying on one or two to convince her that they were a hopeless cause.
“There were no loud voices, no abuse, no bullying. We were having a conversation, and I made clear to her the House was not going to adopt any of her amendments,” O’Brien said.
“She was emotional about it, but not because of anything I said. It pains me to this day to say Rep. Emerson has fabricated all of this,” O’Brien added.
Ultimately, Emerson offered one budget amendment on the House floor but withdrew it without a final vote.
During the hearing, Rep. Timothy Copeland, R-Stratham, claimed he heard loud voices of O’Brien and Bettencourt chastising Emerson as he waited for his own meeting with House leadership.
“In sum and substance, I heard basically a yelling match that went on that was one-sided between the speaker and Rep. Emerson that she would remove the amendment or repercussions would occur,” Copeland said.
“It was despicable in nature that a representative of more than 10 years in the House was being talked to that way by a speaker of the House. She came out of this visibly shaking and crying,” Copeland said.
Copeland claimed to have gotten the same treatment from O’Brien moments later.
“I was up next, and the speaker got very close to me and said that I would also remove my amendment and I will not get on the floor and speak for that amendment,’’ Copeland claimed. “I said, ‘I don’t work for you. I work for the people of my district, and I will move this forward regardless of how you feel about it.’”
According to Copeland, O’Brien threatened to prevent his return to the House in this fall’s elections.
“He made clear his office would not stand behind me and that he will make sure in the 2012 election that, should I want to get re-elected, he will do everything in his power to hamper my re-election,” Copeland said.
O’Brien said the entire story was fabricated and that he never spoke with Copeland after meeting with Emerson.
“I had one conversation with this representative, and it was, ‘Welcome to the House, Rep. Copeland,’” O’Brien said. “I later learned that his liberal agenda was not one in concert with the Republican caucus. Other than that, I’ve never spoken with him.”
Emerson has offered several versions of the incident, most of which maintain that O’Brien yelled and swore at her and implicated other House GOP leaders.
She gave a written statement to the House Constitutional and Statutory Revision Committee, which heard her bill Thursday. The panel will take it up again when she recovers and can return to Concord in person.
“The formation and presentation of this bill is an attempt to ensure that no other state legislator should have to endure what I have experienced, nor should any member of the New Hampshire House ever feel threatened or intimidated by the Speaker of the House,” Emerson wrote.
The bill, HB 1533, would broadly define bullying against legislators to include interfering with a lawmaker’s “legislative opportunities” and empower the attorney general to seek civil fines of up to $2,500 per person.
Several House committee members, including Rep. Gary Richardson, D-Hopkinton, maintained that having the attorney general involved would violate the constitutional separation of powers with an executive branch official getting in the middle of legislative affairs.
“I do think there is a separation of powers problem,” said Richardson, a lawyer.
Rep. Seth Cohn, R-Canterbury, said the state Constitution already allows imprisonment of anyone guilty of disorderly behavior against the House that would include “threatening or ill treating any of its members.”
Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, the longest-serving member in her 17th term, claimed that O’Brien’s leadership has been more abusive than any other.
“I feel sad this bill has come to the House, but I believe it’s overdue,” Pantelakos said. “When you put some people in power, it goes straight to their head and they become dangerous.”
Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or email@example.com; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.
"O'Brien sets a new standard as speaker"
By Concord Monitor staff: A Concord Monitor editorial
April 5, 2012
'Nearly all men can stand adversity," Abraham Lincoln wisely said, "but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." The person elected to serve as speaker of the New Hampshire House wields more power in state government than anyone save for the governor. For at least a generation, most holders of that office passed the test. By and large they led fairly and showed respect for political opponents. The current speaker of the House, Bill O'Brien, has failed the test, failed miserably and continuously.
O'Brien's portrait as speaker is a self-drawn caricature of vindictiveness and power run amuck. On Tuesday, Monitor State House reporter Matthew Spolar outlined the grievances that may soon lead to the speaker becoming the target of a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two of O'Brien's fellow Republican representatives, Tony Soltani of Epsom and Tim Copeland of Strafford, have disabilities that make it exceedingly difficult for them to crabwalk across the long rows of seats in Representatives Hall. But O'Brien has denied both men seats on the aisle.
Soltani requested an aisle seat because of his disabilities. But assigning seats is one of the powers accorded the House speaker, and O'Brien and Soltani rarely see eye-to-eye. O'Brien assigned him a seat in the middle of a row, a location that guaranteed that the outspoken Soltani would face the maximum possible struggle when coming to the front of the hall to discuss legislation. Representatives from both parties - 11 according to Soltani - offered to switch seats with him, but O'Brien won't permit it.
Copeland, a former law-enforcement officer injured in the line of duty, was assigned an aisle seat. He kept it until he disagreed with O'Brien on several key votes, among them the adoption a state Right-to-Work law. He was assigned a seat in the center of an aisle by O'Brien.
O'Brien's merciless treatment of those who dare to disagree with him is emblematic of his tenure as speaker. He faces another possible lawsuit for holding a vote to overturn Gov. John Lynch's veto of a flawed redistricting plan. O'Brien called the vote before Lynch's veto message was printed, as required by the Constitution, where it could be read by lawmakers and members of the public alike before the vote.
The speaker routinely replaces absent committee members with allies before key committee votes. In his haste to push through his agenda, an agenda provided in part by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, O'Brien has limited debate on legislation to 10 minutes on each side.
O'Brien has been accused of loudly berating lawmakers who disagree with him and stripping those who offend him of committee assignments and leadership positions. He has given prominent positions, including that of House counsel and chairman of the redistricting committee, to officers of the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation, a conservative group that O'Brien presides over that's headquartered in his house.
O'Brien has run New Hampshire's House of Representatives in a notoriously autocratic way and made, to the extent he could, the agenda of a small group that of the state. He has succeeded because too many in his party have bleatingly gone along. It's long past time for them to speak out. A man with a leadership style similar to O'Brien's, former governor Craig Benson, was ousted after one term. That deserves to be O'Brien's fate as well.
"O'Brien announces bid to return as NH speaker"
April 16, 2012
CONCORD, N.H.—Republican House Speaker William O'Brien is running for re-election to the New Hampshire House and as its leader.
O'Brien, who lives in Mont Vernon, announced Monday he will seek a fourth, two-year term to the House and a second term as its speaker.
O'Brien named the following legislators to his re-election campaign group: former House Speaker Gene Chandler of Bartlett; Finance Vice Chairwoman Lynne Ober of Hudson, Ways and Means; Chairman Stephen Stepanek of Amherst; Salem Rep. Marilinda Garcia and Londonderry Rep. Dan Tamburello.
"O’Brien’s $400m cut would hurt services"
The Nashua Telegraph, Letters, June 5, 2012
Maybe if House Speaker William O’Brien were in the habit of thinking about what $400 million in budget cuts would really cost New Hampshire families, he would reconsider. (May 8: “Speaker says more left to cut”)
O’Brien isn’t counting the schools that have – and will – lay off hundreds of teachers, increasing class sizes and jeopardizing our strong public education system.
He isn’t counting the tuition increases and teacher layoffs we’ve seen from our public universities.
He isn’t counting the roads that won’t get repaired or the streetlights that will go dark because there is no longer the money needed to maintain them.
Maybe to O’Brien, $400 million is just a number. That’s why he can claim so easily that he can double the budget cuts he squeezed out of New Hampshire last year.
This is not responsible budgeting. This is budgeting by ideology – by assuming that if we cut everything, our economy miraculously would improve – and it shows a serious disrespect for the needs of ordinary Granite Staters.
"O'Brien is forming congressional exploratory committee to take on Kuster"
WMUR.com - March 28, 2013
CONCORD, N.H. — Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, told WMUR he is filing paperwork to form a congressional campaign committee to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.
In so doing, O'Brien is the first Republican to take a formal step to run for major office in New Hampshire.
O'Brien is currently serving in his fourth term in the New Hampshire House. He was speaker from 2010-2012. His tenure was highly controversial as he pushed conservative bills through the House, which had a Republican super-majority. His efforts made him a hero to conservatives and a rallying point for progressives.
Earlier this month, O'Brien said he conducted a poll in the district.
Kuster defeated Republican incumbent Charlie Bass in 2012 after losing to him in 2010. During the last campaign, Kuster set state records for the amount of fundraising for a congressional campaign.
Other Republicans considering running in the state's 2nd Congressional District are former state Sen. Gary Lambert, of Nashua, and conservative activist Karen Testerman, of Franklin.
"Former House Speaker O'Brien won't run for Congress"
By Michael Cousineau, New Hampshire Union Leader, August 23, 2013
Former House Speaker William O'Brien announced Friday he wasn't going to run for Congress, leaving former Sen. Gary Lambert of Nashua as only other Republican to express and interest in challenging Rep. Annie Kuster next year.
O'Brien said he had planned to run for the GOP nomination, but he instead has accepted an offer from a German company to head its U.S. subsidiary in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"We were making preparations for an announcement, lining up endorsements," O'Brien said in an interview. "We were well on our way."
But saying "this job offer was too good to refuse," O'Brien said he accepted the position of chief operating officer of the American subsidiary of BrainLoop, a software company with 10 employees in Cambridge.
He said he will remain in Mont Vernon and keep his state representative post but hasn't decided whether to run for re-election in 2014. "Probably not," O'Brien said.
Political analyst Dante Scala said several things were working against O'Brien.
"The makeup of the district wasn't working in his favor and you can't raise money and people really have a negative impression of you," Scala said. "That's pretty much strikes one, two and three."
O'Brien raised less than $50,000 during the second quarter of fundraising during his exploratory effort.
"$42,000 is not a serious amount of money for running for Congress today," said Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
The district leans slightly Democratic, Scala said, and a recent WMUR Granite State Poll showed voters viewed O'Brien more negatively than positively.
The poll, conducted last month, showed 22 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of O'Brien, while 25 percent had an unfavorable view. Six percent were neutral and 47 percent didn't know.
That was an improvement from an April poll that showed 38 percent with an unfavorable view of O'Brien and 13 percent with a favorable opinion of him.
The same WMUR poll showed Kuster with a net-positive 2 percentage favorability rating. Also, only 26 percent of 2nd District residents surveyed thought Kuster should be re-elected, 39 percent preferred someone else and 35 percent didn't know or were unsure.
Through March, Kuster had raised $344,000 since her election in November 2012.
Lambert, the only other candidate who has expressed interest in running against Kuster, didn't immediately return a phone message.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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