Concord, N.H. — Despite a strong majority and support from GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Hampshire Republican lawmakers failed to achieve a two-thirds majority required to overturn Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a right-to-work bill, delaying House Speaker William O’Brien’s hopes of making New Hampshire the first state in the Northeast to prohibit forced union membership as a condition of employment.
The veto was sustained by 12 votes, with the Democratic minority maintaining strict discipline and some Republicans crossing party lines. Still, a strong 240–139 majority favored overturning Lynch’s May 11 veto.
When the decision was announced, half the Floor gallery — which was split between right-to-work activists and union members opposing the legislation — erupted in cheers and chants of, “Whose House? Our House!” while Democratic members told them to quiet down.
So many activists — from both sides — attended the session that a separate room with closed-circuit TV coverage was set up to accommodate the overflow.
Right-to-work activists swore to press on despite the setback. A contentious issue for two decades in New Hampshire, the legislation would bar unions from collecting dues from employees who do not want union representation.
In a speech to the legislature one hour prior to the vote, Perry called on New Hampshire to overturn the governor’s veto, saying, “If you pass into law a right to work law, you may join my home state and take over the title as the state that’s creating more jobs in America than any place in the country.”
“Let me be very clear about something,” Perry continued. ”Unions have their proper trole in America but you shouldn’t be forced to join one to feed your family — it should be your choice.”
“We will try again next year,” Republican activist Derek Kittredge told The Daily Caller. “The issue is education,” he said, and the GOP has “not done a good enough job getting their message to the voters.”
But a lack of education, union activists countered, is the primary reason so many Republicans supported the veto-reversal legislation at all.
“I’m a little bit disappointed that there was such a large vote on the other side of the issue,” said David Lang, president of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire. “We’ve just got a lot more educating to do. Once we sit down with these folks and have that conversation, then the evidence is clear — if you want to create good jobs in the economy, this is not the way.”
New Hampshire legislators considered motions to overturn six vetoes on Wednesday afternoon. The right-to-work issue is not expected to come up again in New Hampshire until 2012, although both sides are preparing for the next round of the fight.