EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 18, 2013

Editorial: Absentee lawmakers should do their job or quit

They say that half the battle in life is just showing up. But some New Hampshire legislators can’t be bothered even to show up.

As Doug Ireland reported Sunday, many of the legislators representing the 12 Southern New Hampshire towns covered by The Eagle-Tribune have already missed dozens of roll-call votes during this session, which ends later this month.

Salem Republican Rep. Gary Azarian, R-Salem, has voted on only six of the 164 roll-call votes taken through June 5. All six votes were cast on the same day, May 22, the day the House rejected legislation that might have opened the door to a casino in Salem.

Reps. Ronald Belanger, R-Salem; David Lundgren, R-Londonderry; Jeffrey Oligny, R-Plaistow; and Rep. Daniel Tamburello, R-Londonderry, have also been frequent absentees when the roll is called.

Azarian and Belanger at least had reasons they missed so many votes.

Azarian cited a serious illness in his family as well as business commitments. “Hopefully, the voters will understand that my family needed to come first,” Azarian told Ireland.

Azarian, who voted 96 percent of the time a year ago, said he considered resigning but decided against it when his circumstances improved.

The 74-year-old Belanger was hospitalized with pneumonia for several weeks, then needed a pacemaker. He showed up for the gambling votes in a wheelchair and using an oxygen mask.

Other excuses are less persuasive.

Lundgren missed 103 of the 164 votes, apparently because he was too busy with his chiropractic practice. He did not respond to calls for comment.

Oligny missed more than half the roll-call votes — 94 of 164. He cited his 50-plus hour work week as an engineer.

“You do have to support the family and pay the bills,” he told Ireland. His financial burden includes putting two children through college.

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