Speaker Terie Norelli is ending partisan segregation in New Hampshire House seating assignments.
Norelli, a Democrat, announced the change in Friday’s “House Record,” the calendar and journal of House business.
“I am particularly enthusiastic about the seating for this term because many of you had expressed interest in having House members of both parties sit among each other in the House Chamber rather than continue the long-held practice of being separated by party affiliation,” Norelli wrote.
“I enthusiastically support this idea and have devised a seating plan that will reflect this change,” Norelli said.
“It will allow everyone the opportunity to get to know members from both caucuses, as well as encourage us to discover some of the common goals we all share as state representatives,” she said.
Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, got in a quick partisan shot at Norelli over her decision.
“Speaker (William) O’Brien offered that a couple of years ago and she refused. She’s hypocritical,” Baldasaro said.
He characterized the Norelli move as a gimmick intended to show people she’s not partisan.
Baldasaro said the move won’t stop Republicans from talking about taxes and spending.
“This is not going to silence us,” he said.
The seating change could result in unintended consequences as Democrats listen to their Republican neighbors, Baldasaro predicted. “She’s going to lose control of her Democrats.”
But other area lawmakers thought there could be benefits to the move.
Rep. Robert Elliott, R-Salem, said he had no problem sitting among Democrats.
“They don’t have leprosy,” Elliott said.
“There will be a little more interaction in the pews, so to speak. It might open up more communication,” he said. “My hope is we will make more friends with more Democrats and we’ll become more cordial as a consequence.”