Candidates for NH House Speaker Appear at Forum
CONCORD (AP) — New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper bid farewell to his Statehouse colleagues on Thursday in anticipation of becoming the state's next agricultural commissioner.
The next House session isn't until January, but lawmakers returned Thursday to vote on a bill Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed earlier this year. Jasper, a Republican from Hudson, said if all goes well he won't preside over another session, so he took some time Thursday to say goodbye.
"Being an old poultry farmer, I learned not to count my chickens before they hatched, but this may well be my last opportunity to address the House," Jasper said.
Jasper said serving as speaker has been the greatest honor of his life, and he urged his colleagues to work on making it easier for ordinary people to serve in the Legislature. Noting that lawmakers will take up more than 1,000 bills next year, he said the state should consider restricting how many bills each lawmaker can file without co-sponsors.
Six House members hoping to succeed him appeared together at a forum later in the day organized by the New Hampshire Freedom Caucus. The group included five Republicans: Jim McConnell of Swanzey, Laurie Sanborn of Bedford, Steve Smith of Charlestown, Gene Chandler of Bartlett, and Al Baldasaro of Londonderry; and one Democrat, Steve Shurtleff of Concord.
With the exception of Shurtleff, the candidates largely agreed on the issues they were asked about, from efforts to tighten voter registration requirements to maintaining a stable business environment.
On one of the biggest issues lawmakers will face — whether to reauthorize the state's expanded Medicaid program, Shurtleff was alone in saying it should remain in place. Chandler said he opposed expanding the program initially but isn't sure what should happen now given the uncertainty in Washington over the fate of the Obama-era health care overhaul law. The others all said they oppose reauthorization.
Republican John Burt of Goffstown left in protest because a Democrat was allowed to participate.
This story has been corrected to show the spelling of the Swanzey representative's last name is McConnell, not O'Connell.