- Associated Press - Thursday, November 20, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Choose your words carefully on the House floor. Always read the speaker’s note in the weekly House calendar (and don’t ask the clerk to advertise your daughter’s Girl Scout cookie sale in said calendar.) Know that you are part of something important.

These were just a few of outgoing House clerk Karen Wadsworth’s tips for New Hampshire’s 117 newly elected state representatives during a two-day orientation as they prepare to join New Hampshire’s 400-member House. They have a lot to learn, such as the different actions they can take on bills: Ought to pass, ought to pass with amendment and inexpedient to legislate (“that means they want it killed,” Wadsworth explained.) Then there’s learning how to navigate the Statehouse’s winding hallways and connective underground tunnels.

“It’s a little bit like drinking from a fire hydrant,” Rep.-elect Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, of Derry, said of all the information.

All 400 members will gather Dec. 3 to be sworn in and formally choose a speaker, and the next session begins Jan. 7.

Many new state representatives ran with a goal in mind. Ken Peterson of Bedford said he wants to reform the retirement system. Carol Bush, Newington’s first representative in years, hopes to serve on the House Education Committee.

Travis Bennett, the youngest new representative at age 22 and a student at Plymouth State University, plans to focus on college costs.

New Hampshire students graduate with more average debt than any other state and the Legislature cut the university system’s funding by 50 percent in 2011. Bennett, president of College Democrats of New Hampshire, also wants to protect student voting rights.

“So many of my classmates and peers just are relatively disinterested in the political process, and so I was hoping to kind of be an example as to how young people can take an active role,” Bennett said after sitting through Wadsworth’s session on how to read the weekly calendar.

Prudhomme-O’Brien, a Republican, ran to take action against the dissatisfaction people feel with government and the direction of the state and country. She’d like to serve on one of three committees: Election law, labor or redress of grievances, a committee for citizens to share their displeasure with government that was first resurrected under Speaker-elect Bill O’Brien’s leadership and later disbanded.

“When my friends and family start complaining to me about things, this seemed to be the most appropriate response, to say that I can try to help,” she said. “I was trying to be a comfort to them in some way so here I am.”

Regardless of the pet issues each lawmaker is bringing to Concord, veteran lawmakers urged them all after a mock voting session to be respectful of each other and the institution of the House and to always vote with their constituents in mind.

“Learn that we’re all part of one team here,” Republican Rep. Shawn Jasper said. “We’re here to make the state of New Hampshire look good and to make the best decisions that we can for the state.”

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