Local Lawmakers Cry Foul After House Speaker Criticizes Behavior

Local lawmakers argue that House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, overreached when he chastised colleagues for distasteful public behavior.

Although he didn’t specify whose behavior he was responding to, Jasper said representatives “have a responsibility to act with dignity, to act with respect,” especially “as the eyes of the nation are upon us.

“We represent not only ourselves, but our constituents, and in fact the entire State of New Hampshire,” he said during the Jan. 6 session.

Most recently, Reps. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry and Josh Moore, R-Merrimack, were criticized for comments they made on Facebook about fellow Rep. Amanda Bouldin, D-Manchester, who opposed the so-called “nipple bill” to prohibit women from exposing their bare breasts in public.

Soon afterward, Rep. Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, R-Derry, drew scrutiny when she heckled Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about her husband’s sexual behavior at a campaign event in Derry.

Jasper noted each member of the House represents the entire body and that representatives “must never separate (themselves) from that title of ‘honorable.’”

“I realize my remarks fall on deaf ears in some cases. So, I speak to the vast majority of you who have been upholding the dignity of this institution, particularly when the eyes of the nation are upon us,” he said. “What can we do? We can privately and sincerely and politely speak to our colleagues when they step out of line and go beyond the bounds of decency and respect. We can let them know when we believe they’re not representing this institution well. That’s a hard thing to do, but isn’t that a problem in society? That no one wants to politely step up and say, this is not the way to behave. This is not the way to accomplish our goals.”

After Jasper’s remarks, House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, made a motion to print the speaker’s comments in the permanent journal of the House.

Londonderry Rep. Dan Tamburello, R-Londonderry, passionately argued against printing Jasper’s comments, saying the speaker was scolding legislators for exercising their freedom of speech.

“If you believe as I believe that people have fought, died and bled for the freedom of speech, that we show value that is enshrined in both the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions; if you believe as I believe that we don’t have a deficit of talk in this country, but a deficit of honor and integrity in this country; if you believe as I believe that it’s an incredible irony to be here, and be lectured like a bunch of third graders by our Speaker, then I encourage you to (vote against printing the Speaker’s remarks in the permanent journal of the House),” he said.

“What happened is the Speaker was trying to silence our freedom of speech,” Baldasaro agreed.

“He’s trying to regulate what we say and how we say it, as if he has some sort of authority over us,” Tamburello said. “He has no authority over any of us. He’s just another Rep. in that position.”

Tamburello added it’s “incredibly ironic he would call us out,” referring to controversy over Jasper’s election to the position of Speaker last year.

“He’s not representing the Republican caucus as Speaker,” he said.

The vote was 313-41 to print the remarks.