Bill O’Brien To Return As New Hampshire Speaker

By John Celock

For New Hampshire Republicans what’s old is new again, as the former state House speaker is set to return to the rostrum again.

The incoming GOP majority in the state House of Representatives elected Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) speaker for the next two years over Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), another former speaker. O’Brien, a tea party favorite, previously held the speakership from 2010 to 2012 before a Democratic takeover of the state House.

Republican recaptured the 400 member state House in November, ending two years of Democratic control. Speaker Terrie Norelli (D-Portsmouth), who also preceded O’Brien before his first stint as speaker, did not seek reelection her House seat.

O’Brien’s previous tenure as speaker was marked by the state House becoming one of the most conservative state legislative bodies in the country. While speaker, O’Brien pushed voter identification legislation, telling a tea party rally that it would prevent college students from voting in local elections in the state.

O’Brien famously closed the state House gallery during a debate in 2011, over objections from union leaders who were protesting state budget decisions being made by the Republican majority.

In 2012, Rep. Steve Vaillencourt (R-Manchester), a moderate Republican, gave O’Brien a Nazi salute on the House floor after O’Brien prevented him from referencing material opposing voter identification that had been discussed in the House Election Law Committee. O’Brien had Vaillencourt removed from the floor.

O’Brien’s previous speakership was also marked by the creation of a House Redress of Grievances Committee that handled legislation seeking to overturn judicial decisions brought by state residents.

Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), who largely campaigned against O’Brien’s actions in her 2012 race, congratulated him on his win and said that she would work with the new speaker.