By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
House and Senate Republican leaders have proposed moving Organization Day outdoors at the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham.
In a news release issued shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday, the House Republican office said: “Out of an abundance of caution, House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, and Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse, R-Salem, have proposed moving Organization Day on December 2nd outdoors.”
Hinch and Morse said in a joint statement, “It is our responsibility to conduct Organization Day according to the constitutional requirement that it be held on the first Wednesday of December. But it is also our responsibility to conduct it as safely as possible during the Covid pandemic. An outdoor venue will lower the risk for all members and staff. We thank UNH for accommodating this request.”
State Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough, said, “I’m glad to see they are finally taking our health and safety into consideration.”
She said it was hard to fathom how these last-minute accommodations will work exactly, adding it looks as if the weather will be cloudy and cold on Wednesday.
“But I’m sure they’ve thought these things through. I did find it interesting to learn the original plan was to have the Governor and Executive Council meet in an adjacent room, and not in the hall with all the unmasked people,” Porter said.
State Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said in an email: “I’ve spoken with Senator Morse and we both remain committed to ensuring that the proper steps are taken to protect the health and safety of all in attendance while meeting our constitutional obligations on Organization Day.”
When asked for clarification of how the votes would be counted, the response from the House Republicans was, “Elections will be by secret ballot, the same way as an indoor event.”
When asked exactly where, the House Republican office responded saying it would be on the UNH campus.
Background: The General Court meets to organize on the first Wednesday of December in each even numbered year, as required by our State Constitution. At the organizational session all members present are sworn in by the governor, in the presence of the Executive Council. The House holds an election for House Speaker and other officers. The Senate holds an election for Senate President and other officers. The House and Senate then meet in joint session and elect the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer.