O'Brien asks for Dem support, Concord Monitor, 3/17/12

posted Mar 20, 2012, 8:19 PM by Bill Duncan
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DNHPE Comment: This by the Monitor has a few bits (highlight added) not in other coverage.


Published on Concord Monitor (http://www.concordmonitor.com)

O'Brien asks for Dem support
STATE HOUSE
O'Brien asks for Dem support
School amendment needs it, he says
By Matthew Spolar / Monitor staff
March 17, 2012

House Speaker Bill O'Brien called on the governor and other Democratic leaders yesterday to help him pass a constitutional amendment on education funding, telling reporters he doesn't have the votes within the House's dominant Republican caucus to pass language supported by the Senate.

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Many Democrats have been cool to the idea out of fear that the amendment would allow lawmakers to reduce funding for education, or not fund it at all.

"Let's face it," O'Brien said, the 60 percent majority is "going to have to be in the middle of the House of Representatives. It's going to have to be 60 percent that represent really the moderates on both sides who will come together in achieving what we all know we need."

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A message left with the House Democratic office went unanswered yesterday. Given O'Brien's plea for bipartisanship, he was asked why no Democrats were named to the House negotiation team for the committee of conference. O'Brien said he appointed Democratic Rep. Robert Foose of New London as an alternate on the committee.

"There is a tradition - it's not a tradition, it's really a requirement - in the House, that if you're going to be on a committee of conference, you have voted for the House position," O'Brien said. House Republican Leader D.J. Bettencourt of Salem said the only Democrat who voted last year to pass the House amendment was Rep. Dick Patten of Concord.


That amendment, passed on a 252-113 vote, did not assert the Legislature's "responsibility" in education funding, which Lynch has said must be included in any language that wins his approval.

The Senate passed its version last month including the word "responsibility," and Lynch stood with Senate leaders afterward in support. Lynch's spokesman, Colin Manning, said yesterday in response to O'Brien's challenge that "the governor has been a very vocal and public proponent of a constitutional amendment."

"If the speaker can't get the votes in the House to pass this amendment, that would be unfortunate," Manning said.

Prior to the House vote this week, Rep. Paul Mirski, an Enfield Republican, condemned the Senate amendment's use of the word "responsibility" to set reasonable standards for education and mitigate local funding disparities. The word would put the fight over education funding back in the court system, Mirski said, because the Legislature could be seen as shirking its responsibility depending on how the courts felt it met those "totally subjective" requirements.

Bettencourt said yesterday members of his caucus have indicated that the word "responsibility" might not be a deal-breaker.

"What I hear is that the word 'responsibility' in and of itself is not the problem, it's the placement of where 'responsibility' is," Bettencourt said.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com.)


Source URL: http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/317911/obrien-asks-for-dem-support
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