Apr 12, 2017 10:22 PM
CONCORD – State House of Representatives Speaker Shawn Jasper is taking action against a longtime conservative caucus in the chamber for their failure to produce bylaws.
But Wednesday’s move by the Speaker comes less than a week after the three co-chairs of the House Republican Alliance opposed the budget hammered out by the House Finance Committee and backed by Jasper and the rest of chamber’s GOP leadership team.
Opposition by HRA members and other lawmakers on the right helped sink the budget last week. On Thursday 32 Republicans teamed up with most of the chamber’s Democrats to oppose the spending plan in a crucial final vote. It was the first time in modern history that the House failed to pass a budget produced by the Finance Committee.
Jasper told NH1 News that he’s been asking the group since December to come up with bylaws, which he says they’ve still yet to produce. He added that following the budget votes he decided that “this is the time to say enough is enough. I’ve been playing this game for four and a half months.”
But state Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford, of the HRA’s co-chairs, told NH1 News that she was “just blown away” by the Speaker’s move, adding that “this is way over the top.”
Sanborn said she and fellow HRA co-chairs Jim Spillane and Glenn Cordelli were emailed a letter earlier Wednesday from House Chief of Staff Terry Pfaff stating that “since the bylaws have not yet been produced or discussed, I must conclude that the HRA is an advocacy/lobbying organization.”
SEE THE LETTER BELOW
“As such, the use of space for your organization’s activities in the State House complex is hereby suspended,” Pfaff added in the letter, which NH1 News was first to report on social media on Wednesday evening.
Lower in his letter, Pfaff told the three new HRA co-chairs that “I do want to stress that this subject is not new. Our concerns and lack of bylaws and transparency with your organization had also been discussed with previous HRA chairs.”
The HRA, which was formed 20 years ago, describes its goals as wanting “all bills passing the New Hampshire Legislature to be consistent with the New Hampshire and US Constitutions, to embody the traditional Republican values specified in the NH State Party Platform, and to be fiscally responsible to the people of our great state.”
Jasper: HRA operates under ‘no rules’
Jasper told NH1 News “the genesis of this goes back to last term.”
He said “what’s always been interesting about the HRA are there no rules under which they operate,” adding that if “you go to their website, it doesn’t spell anything out.”
The Speaker explained that he “sat down specifically with Jim Spillane last December” and told him “you folks really need to have a set of bylaws.”
Jasper said that he’s brought the issue up with Spillane a couple of times since then but the group had yet to produce any bylaws.
The Speaker then said that he sat down with the three tri-chairs the Friday before the budget votes and that two of them told him they were leaning towards supporting the spending plan, with one undecided.
He said that three days later, on the Monday before the vote, the tri-chairs told him they couldn’t support the budget.
Jasper then said that the following day, the consensus of GOP lawmakers attending an HRA meeting on the budget was that the recommendation was to approve the spending plan. He said he was shocked the following day when the HRA chairs guidance to their members was for representatives to vote their conscience on the budget.
Jasper says his message now to the HRA co-chairs is that “you guys can be right back in…. all you have to do is adopt bylaws.”
The Speaker told NH1 News those bylaws need to explain “how you can be a member” and “how recommendations are made.”
He added that it needs to be a “fair, transparent, and democratic process.”
Sanborn tells NH1 News: ‘it’s like he’s running a dictatorship’
Sanborn told NH1 News that “now he (Jasper) is specifically attacking a group of Republicans that I happen to co-chair.”
“It’s like he’s running a dictatorship,” she continued. “It’s a shock and grave concern.”
“I’ve never seen a speaker work against members of his own party,” Sanborn continued.
And Sanborn says the move by the GOP leadership “does feel like retaliation” for her group’s votes last week against the budget.
Sanborn came close to defeating Jasper in last November’s race for House Speaker. Asked by NH1 News if she felt this was retaliation for her challenge last year to Jasper’s leadership, Sanborn said “I certainly hope it’s not personal.”
State Rep. Laurie Sanborn speaks with NH1 News last week after the defeat of the House budget.
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