When the state Legislature convenes on Dec. 3 and House members are sworn in, Terie Norelli won’t be among them.
The Democrat from Portsmouth at that point will be the former state representative from Rockingham – District 26, the former speaker of the House.
She decided the time had come to leave the House, spend more time with family, pursue other interests, and she didn’t run for re-election – after nine terms, 18 years.
I interviewed Norelli the day after Thanksgiving for the Seacoast Media Group. You can read the story (and see a video) here.
We talked about her place in history as the first Democratic woman speaker ever in the Granite State, the first Democratic speaker in 84 years.We also talked about her replacement as speaker, Republican. William O’Brien of Mont Vernon.
By virtue of the mid-term elections, majority power shifted from Democrats to Republicans in the House, and the GOP caucus selected O’Brien as their speaker. This is the second time around for O’Brien – he was speaker 2011-12 when Republicans last held the majority in the House.
His previous speakership was marked by tension and accusations that he was a bully – to Democrats, to legislative staff, even to fellow Republicans. This time around, he promises what he described as a “kinder and gentler” approach to the speakership.
I asked Norelli about it and here’s what she had to say:
“I suspect that his politics won’t change. He will pass some legislation, or at least try, that I’ll find to be draconian and out of line with the state of New Hampshire.
“I think the tension in the State House in his last two years was … there was an awful lot of tension in the building. The staff felt it, legislators felt it, not just Democrats but Republicans. And I know people in his camp don’t seem to be aware of that. I suspect that’s because they got the outcomes they wanted, and I’m not one that believes the end justifies the means.
“I think people need to be respected. I think we have excellent staff who do an excellent job of working in a non-partisan fashion, doing their job the best they can. They deserve to be treated with respect and deserve not to have to come to work everyday and feel like they’re coming to a real miserable place.”
On legislation of which she is most proud, she pointed Norelli to the law that legalized gay marriage and the law that expanded Medicare eligibility under the Affordable Care Act as having a “significant, positive impact on a segment of our community that can’t be overlooked.”
Ironically, it’s two pieces of legislation that a Republican House and Republican Senate might seek to undo.
She also cited the Legislature’s ability to get the state out from under judicial oversight of education funding spawned by the Claremont decision and statewide kindergarten as two significant advances in state public education policy.
Paul Briand is an editor with the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages the discussion and analysis of New Hampshire politics and policies.