My Turn: Why I left last week’s House session

For the Monitor
Published: 3/3/2021 6:00:07 AM

I was one of the Democrats who left the Bedford Sportsplex last Wednesday. But the news reports didn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, we were upset about plucking another anti-choice bill (HB 233) out of its place in the rotation of bills in the second part of the calendar that were meant to be acted on at Thursday’s session. For me though, part of the outrage began when the first such bill (HB 625) which had already been passed despite the bipartisan recommendation from the committee to kill the bill was passed and then referred to a second committee. That referral was proper as the bill contains fines ranging up $100,000 in it and that next committee – Criminal Justice – is one that judges the fairness of penalties. After several more bills had been acted upon, we learned that the referral to that second committee had been waived – meaning that there would be no opportunity for the public to weigh in on the penalties contained in that bill. An attempt was made to lay the bill on the table until we could learn why that portion of consideration was so callously waived and we were told – incorrectly – that the bill was not subject to tabling.

Then the majority decided it was time to pull that second bill out of its normal rotation and act on it then and there. After some procedural motions and votes, it appeared that if all the Democrats left, there would not be enough representatives left for them to legally do business, which would have meant HB 233 would have to be acted on at Thursday’s session, which is where it would have normally been taken up. I did not decide to leave easily. In this my 11th year of serving in the House, I have missed only one or two session days. But after witnessing the bullying, corruption of the rules, ignoring of motions, speaking and recorded vote requests, particularly by the women on our side of the room, I felt this was the only means left to protest.

And although the speaker’s majority leader later that night communicated that the Democrats were “out for blood after their violent insurrection,” there was no such happening. There were no doors beaten down – we filed out quietly and in an orderly fashion, hoping that all of our colleagues would be able to follow. That did not happen. The speaker eventually locked the doors.

Upon discovering that not all of our caucus had been able to exit, several of us gave up the protest and then tried to re-enter. That was not allowed, so my voting record will show that I missed those last votes and was not excused.

For any of my constituents who care to look up my voting record, those votes will proudly stand as my protest against these bills which allow government to insert itself into the very personal decisions made by women and their families and their doctors. And that is why I left.

(Dianne Schuett of Pembroke represents Merrimack District 20 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)

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