The New Hampshire House of Representatives met outside on the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Memorial Field on Wednesday, Dec. 2 for their Organization Day, following the news that at least three Republican representatives had tested positive after an in-person caucus event on Nov. 20. Many members of the Democratic caucus have called the meeting a “super spreader event.”
This first meeting of the newly elected delegation was missing over 100 members, most of whom are Democrats, due to concerns that House Republicans would repeat their actions from a caucus event on Nov. 20 during which many members declined to wear masks.
While Republican leadership has voiced support for everyone wearing masks to any and all events, there has been no formal condemnation of members who refuse to wear masks. Republican Dick Hinch, who was the newly elected House Speaker for the 2021-22 session, but unexpectedly passed away Wednesday, said that “Covid guidelines were followed at the event and when planning it” and that “outdoor seating, coupled with appropriate distancing, screening and other precautions either meets or exceeds the guidelines for events.”
At the event on Wednesday, many newly elected Republican lawmakers refused to wear masks, prompting the event organizers to designate a specific area to those who refuse to wear masks.
In response to the concerns over spreading COVID-19 at House sessions, Democrat Andrew Bouldin of Manchester proposed a rule change that would allow any member to attend full sessions or committee meetings virtually. This rule change was rejected by the House by a vote of 182-56.
The newly sworn in Republican majority quickly went to work, pushing through multiple rules changes in advance of the first regular business session beginning in January. Of these changes included a repeal of the state-house gun carrying ban which was put in place two years earlier by the then Democratic majority, and a repeal of mandatory in-person sexual harassment training put in place last session.
The newly elected state Senate was also sworn in. With a Republican majority, Sen. Chuck Morse of Salem was elected Senate President replacing Democrat Donna Soucy. Democrat state senator-elect from District 21, which includes the town of Durham, Rebecca Perkins-Kwoka succeeded longtime state senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) when she was sworn in on Wednesday.
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