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N.H. House returning Nov. 30 for school amendments

CONCORD, N.H. - House Democratic leader Terie Norelli is throwing Republican House Speaker William O’Brien’s words back at him for calling the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment on school funding a publicity stunt.

Norelli sent O’Brien a letter Thursday criticizing O’Brien’s plan to call representatives into session Nov. 30 to vote on the proposal by Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, saying that move was merely a bid for publicity.

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Norelli said amending the constitution is an important undertaking and should be done more thoughtfully and with public input. She said the House should hold a hearing next year on Lynch’s proposal before voting on it.

“This process appears to be designed to be a media or publicity stunt, rather than an attempt to have an open and honest debate about various proposals. We will not be party to this disrespect for the solemnity and importance of our state constitution,’’ she wrote. “We will not participate in a process that locks the door to the public.’’

Norelli declined O’Brien’s invitation that the two of them cosponsor the floor amendment containing Lynch’s proposal so it can come up for a vote on Nov. 30.

Last month, O’Brien was the one accusing Lynch of a publicity stunt when Lynch released the wording of his amendment without first consulting O’Brien and Senate President Peter Bragdon. The two Republican leaders have been trying unsuccessfully to reach a compromise over an amendment with the Democratic governor for months.

Republicans don’t need Lynch to pass an amendment. They hold a 294-104 majority in the House and 19-5 edge in the Senate. They need 239 votes for passage in the House and 15 in the Senate. But O’Brien and Bragdon believe they need the popular Democrat’s support to win voter approval at the ballot box.

The House and Senate have passed their own amendments, but neither has won the three-fifths vote of both chambers needed to be placed on the November 2012 ballot. All three proposals give more control over school aid to lawmakers, but have key wording differences.

O’Brien said then that he was disappointed to first read about Lynch’s proposed amendment in the news media, calling it “the action of a lame duck governor who is more interested in the appearance of a legacy than actually solving the problem that he pledged to fix when he first ran in 2004.’’ Lynch is not seeking reelection and will leave office when his term ends in early 2013.

On Tuesday, O’Brien wrote Lynch inviting him to address the House on Nov. 30 about his proposal, but Lynch declined and said there was no need to bring the House back this fall. Lynch said he would address the issue in his State of the State address in January.

Bragdon has said repeatedly he will not bring the Senate back until January, but O’Brien decided to move ahead and hold a session anyway and again criticized Lynch.

“He came into office seven years ago saying he would solve the education funding problem. This is his last chance to tell the House in a debate why his amendment does that,’’ O’Brien said in a prepared statement.

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