New Hampshire lawmakers reject bill making it illegal to 'bully' one another

New Hampshire state Capitol

Lots of states have taken up anti-bullying initiatives to protect young people. But in New Hampshire, the House on Wednesday weighed an unusual proposal to make it illegal for state lawmakers to bully one another.

State Rep. Susan Emerson, a Republican, said she was motivated to file the bill by a dressing-down from House Speaker William O'Brien, also a Republican, last year after she proposed an amendment to restore funding to certain health programs.

"If he was one of my sons, I would have washed his mouth out with jalapeno peppers, you bet," Emerson, a retiree and grandmother of 11 who was first elected to the House in 2000, said in an interview.

O'Brien was not available to comment but has denied bullying her. "Certainly in the case of Rep. Emerson, the speaker feels very strongly that he did nothing improper," said Rep. D.J. Bettencourt, a Republican and the House majority leader.

The House voted 224-78 to reject the bill, which would have established a $2,500 civil fine enforced by the state attorney general's office for a "significant incident" or pattern of bullying by one legislator of another.

Verbal "whipping is a fact of legislative life," Rep. John W. Cebrowski, the Republican vice chairman of a House panel, wrote about his opposition to the bill. "Disappointment is another fact of legislative life. The 'kitchen' can sometimes get hot."

Emerson, who represents the southern tip of the Granite State, said she would refile the bill. "I tell you, it's coming back next year and I'm bringing it back," she said.