The Maine Heritage Policy Center announced this week that the key note speaker for its annual Freedom and Opportunity Luncheon on Oct. 25 will be former New Hampshire Speaker of the House William “Bill” O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon).
“Bill O’Brien is one of the strongest conservative leaders New Hampshire has ever had,” said MHPC CEO and Chief Tax Economist J. Scott Moody. “We are pleased that he will share with us his experience enacting conservative reforms in the Granite State.”
Moody said hearing from O’Brien is especially important for conservative policymakers since New Hampshire is Maine’s chief economic competitor.
The Freedom and Opportunity luncheon will take place Oct. 25 at the Portland Marriot at Sable Oaks.
O’Brien, a member of the New Hampshire state legislature since 2004, was nominated to the speakership in November of 2010, taking charge of a House comprised of 298 Republicans and 102 Democrats.
O’Brien’s accomplishments in the State House were comprehensive and reflective of a conservative reform wish list. Most importantly, every bill had to be signed by Democrat Gov. John Lynch or passed over his veto with a super majority – no small feat in a legislature of 400 lawmakers.
The two-year state budget O’Brien enacted spent 11 percent, or $1.2 billion, less than the previous one. And, in a state where taxes are already low, O’Brien pushed even further. He eliminated the 10 percent tax on gambling, cut the cigarette tax by 10 cents a pack and brought an end to a $30 surcharge on auto and truck registrations.
O’Brien successfully pursued the creation of a new database to track and monitor individuals suspected of fraudulently receiving welfare benefits. He also had success reining in the regulatory state, passing more than 40 bills designed to give more flexibility to industries.
Perhaps O’Brien’s most controversial moments came when butting heads with the government workers unions. The New Hampshire Republicans, with O’Brien leading the charge, were able to significantly reform the pension system for public safety employees. On education, O’Brien was the first House speaker in 14 years to rally a super majority to deliver a constitutional amendment that provides targeted aid to needy school districts. And, as the result of legislation O’Brien ushered through, teachers in government-run schools must now wait 5 years, instead of 3, before receiving tenure.
For all his successes, O’Brien did suffer setbacks.
Despite a two-year ongoing effort to enact work place freedom legislation, O’Brien was unable to whip a super majority and overcome the influence of labor unions. His Right-to-Work bill failed to overcome Lynch’s veto by just 13 votes. If passed, his legislation would have made New Hampshire the first state in the Northeast to not allow labor unions to collect so-called agency fees from workers who decline membership in unions.
Throughout his term as Speaker, O’Brien was no stranger to confrontation.
The budget fight saw intense push back from Democrats, with union-backed protestors filling the House gallery and chanting “shame on you.” O’Brien ordered the gallery closed so that debate could continue. When asked why he did it, he told reporters, “I think thugs will not rule New Hampshire.”
More recently, O’Brien was criticized by the President for likening Obamacare to the Fugitive Slave Act. “What is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, that allowed slaveowners to come to New Hampshire and seize African-Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to … slave states,” O’Brien told an Aug. 1 rally in Concord. “Barack Obama and our allies fooled us long enough to pass a law that is clearly among the worst ever enacted by Congress,” added O’Brien.
Interested in attending the Freedom and Opportunity luncheon? Learn more here!