By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Calling him a “rogue partisan extremist,” House Republican Leader Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, told the House Speaker to dump Majority Leader Douglas Ley, D-Jaffrey.
On Thursday, the Merrimack Republican said Rep. Ley “has demonstrated that he is not fit to serve in a leadership role in this body. His divisive comments yesterday showed that he is more interested in fanning the flames of discontent in the House than resolving concerns in a professional and respectful manner.”
The call for Ley’s dismissal from leadership came a day after Ley recounted to the House several incidents of uncivil remarks between members. House Speaker Steve Shurtleff said a copy of Hinch’s news release was dropped at his office on Thursday and there will be no changes.
“The Democratic House Leadership will remain the same,” Shurtleff said.
Ley said he hasn’t spoken with Shurtleff after making remarks at the close of Wednesday’s session and Hinch’s press release.
“I serve at the pleasure of the Speaker,” Ley said. “I would hope that I have the confidence of the Speaker.”
Ley, who also teaches U.S. History at Frankin Pierce University, said he spent time at the State House on Thursday.
“I would say I have a great deal of support from a good number of members,” Ley said, adding some stopped him to say thank you.
Ley never mention any political party or individuals by name on Wednesday.
“My entire point was to point out that I fear we are losing or falling away from what I believe are past standards of civility, decorum and mutual respect,” Ley said.
On Wednesday, Ley took to the House podium during unanimous consent to talk about incidents that he viewed as lacking in civility.
He said one member told another member, “Go back to Massachusetts with all the other Communists.”
Another told a member who served in the military that he was an embarrassment to the service, Ley said. And in another incident, Ley said one member aggressively pursued another from the parking garage to the State House insisting they converse even though one kept saying no.
“Look, no means no,” Ley told the House from the well.
These were just informal comments, he said, asking his colleagues if those kinds of remarks were what members of the House stand for.
He concluded by urging all to remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
Hinch sent an emailed statement Thursday morning saying in his four years as a member of the majority leadership team, “we would have never resorted to making a public spectacle of this sort on the House floor.
“We always extended courtesy to our friends in the minority to work out our differences with dignity and honor rather than impugn our colleagues’ motives before the House. It’s become clear to me that Speaker Shurtleff has lost control of his majority leader, and should terminate Representative Ley’s role as a member of leadership.
“There’s a very big difference between civil discourse, and rising before your peers to make a condescending speech. It’s time for Speaker Shurtleff to lead by example,” Hinch said.
Ley said Wednesday during his remarks under unanimous consent that he has been proud to serve for seven years in the House, but was beginning to question that pride because of recent comments and actions.
Ley spoke of the history of civility in the House that he said seemed to be slipping away.
A vote was taken to see if Ley would be allowed to continue speaking after one unnamed member objected to him rising to speak by unanimous consent.
Ley said he didn’t intend to chastise anyone in any caucus, that neither caucus is blameless if you take the long view.
“If we truly intend to serve the citizens of New Hampshire we need to take a moment and think before we act. We need to think before we speak.”
If members don’t want hurtful remarks and epithets at their expense, then don’t do it to others, he said.
“Don’t wear the buttons, don’t wear the beads,” Ley said referring to controversy raised when some male members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee wore fake pearls in support of the Women’s Defense League during a hearing on the “red flag” bill.
Hinch wrote: “There were 47 Democrats that joined with Republicans to table further comment from Rep. Ley. I would like to personally thank them in recognizing that divisive comments have no place at the rostrum during unanimous consent, and voting to end his rantings.”
Hinch explained that speaking during “unanimous consent” is traditionally a time when the House allows remarks from members not specific to legislation. It is often used to memorialize colleagues, celebrate holidays or historical events, and allows members to apologize if they went afoul of House traditions.
If a member withdraws consent, remarks can be stalled.