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2021 First House Session

Dear Bedford,

With so much news coming from Washington, it would be easy to overlook the fact that the NH House met for the first time in 2021 in Parking Lot A at UNH on January 6. In all honesty, apart from the hour and a half traffic jam and a steep learning curve on how to operate the voting clicker, the day went off with out too much confusion.

The first order of business was to elect a new Speaker to replace recently deceased Dick Hinch, who sadly succumbed to COVID only a week into his term. Representative Sherm Packard was elected after delivering a highly partisan speech about how the only way to stop the "awful Democrats" (my words, but essentially the message) was to band together against all of their efforts. At the time, I was stunned. It certainly seems like a missed opportunity to promote unity by the man elected to speak for us all. Ironically, this message was in sharp contrast to Governor Sununu's Inaugural Address call for neighborliness in an attempt to promote the crucial healing needed in our divisive world. We shall soon know which approach reflects the overall tenor of the majority. Will 2021 be a year of conflict or compromise? Stay tuned for updates as we greet the challenges ahead.

Next, we addressed proposed changes to the House Rules that were brought forward by both parties. In a nutshell:

* An attempt to prevent deadly weapons on the House floor failed, as did a ban on consuming alcohol in the chamber, anterooms or gallery.

* Allowing the public to speak before lobbyists at public hearings failed.

* Another attempt to rescind the Governor's State of Emergency failed due to the need for a 2/3 majority.

* Granting permission for drafting late legislation to address hate speech from elected officials was denied.

* A number of "housekeeping" amendments were adopted, and perhaps most importantly, a bi-partisan resolution condemning the violence in DC was passed with resounding support.

The issue of where/how we will meet on an ongoing basis is still up in the air. An attempt to adopt meeting remotely failed, though there has been some progress made towards allowing the public to testify remotely before committees. We still had a considerable number of representatives who were maskless on Wednesday, despite the consistent announcement from the Clerk that masks were required for all individuals who were outside of their vehicles for any reason. That does not bode well for those who have hoped that all committee members would be wearing masks on a voluntary basis, and many have expressed the opinion that we should not be meeting in person without that guarantee, due to the safety of our officials and the potential for community spread. Again, stay tuned for more information as it becomes available. I have my first Education Committee meeting on Thursday, it is being held remotely, and I feel good about that!

I want to take a moment to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Tim Doherty, a Peter Woodbury teacher who died earlier this week. Losing such a well loved member of the school community has landed a painful blow, and, honestly, whenever we have to face the sadness of death with our children, it is particularly poignant. Let this be a reminder of how precious life is to those of us left behind, as we move forward in kindness and compassion for those who loved him.

Just a reminder that you can get ahold of me at sue.mullen@leg.state.nh.us with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes to all, sm

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