This might have been the end. With the state Senate tabling the right-to-work bill the House had passed, the matter might finally be put to bed.
Sure, the matter could and probably will come up again in a future legislative session, but that’s unlikely to happen at a time when Republicans can claim the kinds of majorities they have right now in the state Senate and House of Representatives.
Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, who supported the legislation, told the Union Leader last week his plan is to keep the issue tabled for the rest of the session. The Senate passed it last year by a veto-proof majority, but Bragdon and company saw the writing on the wall.
Right-to-work, which is legislation eliminating requirements that state employees join their respective unions, came up in a big way last year. It was just about the only piece of legislation that House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, wasn’t able to push through — and he did push it through the House, just not with enough support to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto.
The legislation would not only end requirements that state employees join unions; it would also prevent unions from collecting dues from employees who opted out of the union. Opponents of the legislation maintain that state law already protects workers who choose not to join unions.
The right-to-work movement has national support, as does its opposition. Proponents say right-to-work laws make states more friendly to businesses, which would improve job creation and the state’s economy. They also say making unions voluntary would make unions compete, which would benefit workers.
Those opposed, including Lynch, pointed to statistics that suggest right-to-work states pay their workers less. Lynch also pointed to the state’s economic strategy, which he said, is working just fine.
Who is right? Good question.
Whatever the case may be, the issue is notable for how it went down politically in the last year and a half. The House passed it last year, and House leadership championed the issue. Then the Senate passed it. Then Lynch vetoed it. Lynch chose carefully when it came to vetoes last year. He chose correctly on this one. The Senate did override the veto but then O’Brien held off for months,
presumably because he was a handful or so votes short of the override. He finally brought the vote up this past fall, and Lynch’s veto was upheld. New Hampshire would have become the first state in the Northeast to adopt right-to-work legislation.
For all that has gone Republicans’ way in the last year and a half, this is the one sticking point. Sure, there have been other defeats, but this is the only one that comes to mind in which leadership has truly stuck its neck out, and lost.
The issue couldn’t just die last year, though, not with such huge Republican majorities. The time was now or never for right-to-work. And so back on the front burner it was. Again the House passed it, but again not by a veto-proof majority. The Senate leadership decided, more or less, let’s not waste our time with this and tabled it, knowing Lynch would veto it again. That decision was made knowing the Senate easily had sufficient support to pass the legislation.
Officials, including some GOP politicos, didn’t see the issue as a central one in New Hampshire, not that they thought right-to-work was bad legislation, just that it wasn’t some magic bullet for economic success — particularly since the economy is doing better here than elsewhere.
In gubernatorial news
It seems like Republicans are watching the GOP primary closely, many likely hoping someone else will jump in. Who else? That’s hard to say. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas no doubt was the pick for many who weren’t ready to support either Ovide Lamontagne or Kevin Smith. When Gatsas opted out, it caught many pundits and potential supporters off guard.
Former Senate candidate Bill Binnie was reportedly giving a run some consideration. He’d certainly have the resources and the race would seem to have plenty of room for a more moderate Republican. But Binnie didn’t create the best reputation for himself in the 2010 Senate race. He attacked now-Sen. Kelly Ayotte hard. The bitter back and forth actually opened the door for Lamontagne to nearly steal the win. Nevertheless, Binnie has substantial financial resources and his more moderate viewpoints could make for an interesting primary dynamic.
One interesting development to note is that former Gov. Craig Benson endorsed Smith. Benson’s one term in office didn’t go well, ending with Lynch beating him in 2004. Benson hasn’t been particularly visible since his defeat. It will be interesting to see if Benson’s support means anything for Smith. Benson is essentially the person who opened the door for Lynch’s political career.
On the Democratic side, pundits are waiting to see what newcomer Bill Kennedy can do to shake things up in the primary that had, until recently, been a battle between former senators Maggie Hassan and Jackie Cilley.
There’s still time for other candidates to get into the race, but the proverbial clock is definitely ticking more loudly now.