House Speaker Shawn Jasper has members create their own agenda even as dissident Republicans plot a challenge to his power

Dec 17, 2014 5:23 PM

Kevin Landrigan: NH House Speaker Shawn Jasper copes with a dueling caucus

New House Speaker Shawn Jasper knows he needs to find a way to bring two caucuses together, the establishment one meeting behind closed doors today and the insurgent one led by former House Speaker Bill O'Brien.

Behind those closed doors, Speaker Jasper gave a brief statement telling about 100 Republicans the 2015-16 agenda will be theirs, not his.

"That's what we are doing right now, we are building that agenda based on what they have to say here today,'' Jasper told NH1 News.

That agenda is conservative starting with a tight budget with no tax increases, an end to Medicaid expansion and giving school districts a veto over Common Core educational standards.

But a defiant, former Speaker O'Brien hosted his own rump caucus a day earlier saying quote, "Whatever happens, we're going to have a leader of the Republican caucus, and that will be me."

Jasper has picked his majority leader, Jack Flanagan of Brookline and former Speaker Gene Chandler says O'Brien's model of an elected GOP leader is a non-starter.

"You can't have an elected majority leader that doesn't have the confidence of the speaker. It doesn't work,'' Chandler said.

In an irony, Chandler notes that as speaker O'Brien had the House choose the majority leader, then Salem Republican D.J. Bettencourt.

A little over a year later, Bettencourt resigned in disgrace after a scandal over his failure to fulfill law school requirements while serving in the House.

O'Brien chose to return to tradition, appointing on his own Nashua Republican Peter Silva to replace Bettencourt.

Jasper says O'Brien's proposal is a fantasy.

"That simply can't happen any more than I could get a group together someplace and the group says the person they elect is governor,'' Jasper said.

"The whole thing baffles me.''

State Representative Jordan Ulery voted for O'Brien, is a friend of Jasper's and still has hopes for the peace pipe.

"I think the two of them can work together if they want to work together. Each of them has their role to play,'' Ulery said.


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