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House GOP: Jobs the focus

Majority leader reaffirms pledge

Today marks the start of the 2012 legislative session and - despite the buzz surrounding upcoming issues such as same-sex marriage, gambling and gun rights - House Republican leaders say their focus will not waver from a pledge to make New Hampshire a magnet for new jobs and businesses.

'While the Democrats and some in the media remain obsessed with social issues, House Republicans have worked to produce more than a dozen pieces of legislation that will keep the 'Open for Business' sign hanging out in front of the state of New Hampshire and help put our citizens back to work by fostering a prosperous, business-friendly atmosphere,' House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, a Republican from Salem, said yesterday inside the lobby of the Legislative Office Building.

The Republican press conference was scheduled an hour after Democratic Gov. John Lynch told reporters across the street that he would veto three House bills coming up for a vote that would reduce firearm regulations to potentially allow guns in college classrooms and other publicly financed buildings like the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. Bettencourt said Republicans are committed to protecting the right to bear arms but denied that his caucus would quickly get caught up in a fight over a social issue like gun control.

'I'm certainly not getting bogged down; this caucus certainly isn't getting bogged down,' he said.

Bettencourt said it's easy for political opponents and the media 'to look at one or two representatives who file a very limited number of bills that are a little offbeat.'

Such a perception 'disrespects the hard work of this caucus . . . to improve our economy and to get people back to work.'

'People try to make that representative of the day-in, day-out business of this caucus and at the State House. And it's a shame,' he said.

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said the Republicans' claim of a pro-business focus this session is a ploy to make New Hampshire citizens 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.' Kirstein pointed to another press conference earlier in the day in which a small group of Republican lawmakers renewed their call for an investigation into President Obama's American citizenship.

'The fact of the matter is they're trying to say they're focused on jobs and the economy when the exact opposite is true,' he said.

Bettencourt said Republicans worked hard through the summer and fall, long after the budget was passed in June, to put together a package of bills intended to lure businesses and jobs to the Granite State. He highlighted bills that extend a research and development tax credit for businesses, seek to reduce business tax forms and limit state agencies' ability to implement programs or adopt fees.

After the Republican majority concentrated on cutting state government spending in 2011, 'this January's legislative session will serve as an exclamation point of our pro-growth, pro-employment agenda,' Bettencourt said.

Bettencourt said this New Hampshire House is the first to have a caucus dedicated solely to issues facing small businesses.

The New Hampshire House Business Coalition is chaired by Rep. Laurie Sanborn, a Republican from Henniker.

'I want to applaud and reinforce the efforts of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to focus on jobs and the economy, making our state better for attracting and retaining businesses,' Sanborn said.

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

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