Capital Comments: Flanders from Sunapee Appointed Senate’s Chief of Staff

By State Senator Bob Odell

After winning elections on Nov. 2, there was reason for new representatives and senators to be smiling and enjoying their status as legislators when they were sworn into offices last week that they will fill for the next two years.

The 400 member House will have more than 150 new representatives, men and women who have never served there before.  Another 30 plus members did not serve the last two years but had been state representatives previously; two members are returning after absences of 30 years.

In the Senate, 12 members were re-elected.  Two former Senators have returned after being out for two terms.  Eight of the remaining ten have not served in the Senate before; two of the ten are veterans of service in the House.  All of this makes the new Senate very different from the last one.

Governor John Lynch accompanied by the five members of the Executive Council entered the senate chamber and administered the oath of office to the 24 senators.  The Governor and Council members then walked to the Senators’ desks and offered their congratulations to each of them.

John Broderick had retired the previous day from his position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Incoming Senate President Peter Bragdon (Milford) invited the former chief justice to be the temporary presiding officer of the Senate.  Chief Justice Broderick’s duties consisted of overseeing the election of Senator Bragdon as Senate President and welcoming him to the dais.  As Senator Bragdon began to address the chamber, a staff member from the Senate Clerk’s office unobtrusively placed a new name plate on the dais letting all know that we had a new Senate President.

Senators rose one by one to introduce their family and guests until the Senate was called into a joint convention.  Senators lined up and awaited the words of the House Sergeant of Arms, “Mr. Speaker, the Honorable Senate” and we marched into the House chamber to much applause, handshakes, smiles and good cheer.

The constitution requires the joint convention to elect a Treasurer and Secretary of State.  Each legislator, senator or house member, has one vote.  There were nominating and seconding speeches for each office.  Bill Gardner was re-elected as Secretary of State to continue as America’s longest serving Secretary of State.  Catherine Provencher was re-elected to a third term as State Treasurer. Neither faced opposition.

Senators returned to our chamber where there were some small formalities to do relative to organizing for the upcoming session.  A couple of committee names, for example, were changed.  Then with our Organization Day work done, we adjourned until our next meeting on Jan. 5 for Convening Day.  Inauguration Day for the Governor and Executive Council will be the next day, Jan. 6.

Senators and House members have been sworn into office on the first Wednesday of December for 200 years.  While many things have changed over the decades, every new legislator brings their own optimism and enthusiasm to the State House as they move from being a successful candidate to being a full fledged legislator.  No matter how many terms you serve, your first swearing in remains a fond memory.

The change in the make-up of the Senate means that every incumbent except Senator D’Allesandro (Manchester) is moving to a different office.  I have moved from my first floor office in the State House to the Senate President’s suite.  My old office was a great one … next to the press room along a hallway that many walk each day.  I will miss it but recognize the value of being with the new Senate President.

During our session, the new Senate President’s personal effects and files were moved to his new office while similar boxes of materials were taken from the former Senate President’s office and moved to Senator Bragdon’s former office.

The result is that not only did Senator Sylvia Larsen switch titles with Senator Bragdon,  Minority Leader and Senate President, they switched offices, too.  Senator Bragdon will work out of the Senate President’s office, a truly beautiful office, from which he will lead his 19 member majority.  Senator Larsen will work out of a much more modest two room suite on the first floor of the State House which she will share with two of her five member minority.

One of the first actions of the new Senate President was to appoint Jay Flanders of Sunapee to be the Senate’s Chief of Staff.  Jay was on the staff of Tom Eaton (Keene) when he was President of the Senate in 2002-2005.  Jay is experienced in the ways of the Senate and knowledgeable public policy professional.  It is wonderful to have a friend and a constituent in the 8th district serve as the top staff person in the Senate.

The final day for filing bills by House members was last Friday.  The Senate has voted to have next Friday, Dec. 10 be the last day for Senators to file bills.  There will be a rush of bill filings this week as department heads, lobbyists and citizens ask Senators to file bills and to sign on as co-sponsors of bills filed by other legislators.

Once a bill is filed, drafting of the texts can go on through mid January.  As drafting is completed on each bill, it is printed and assigned to a committee by the Majority Leader.  Hearings will be scheduled and the 2011 legislative process will be underway.

Bob Odell represents State Senate District 8—Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

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