William L. O'Brien
|Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives
from the Hillsborough 4th district
|Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives|
December 1, 2010 – December 5, 2012
|Preceded by||Terie Norelli|
|Succeeded by||Terie Norelli|
|Residence||Mont Vernon, New Hampshire|
William L. "Bill" O'Brien (born July 20, 1951) is a lawyer and Republican legislator from Mont Vernon, New Hampshire who has been a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 2004, representing district Hillsborough-4. O'Brien was elected the Speaker of the House on December 1, 2010 when Republicans took control of the NH House. When Democrats regained control of the NH House in the 2012 election, O'Brien did not run for a leadership position. He remains in the legislature in spite of being not as powerful as he was in the heyday of his reign as Speaker of the House.
O'Brien obtained his bachelors degree in history in 1974, a law degree in 1977, and received an LLM in Intellectual Property in 2003.
He has served as Chair of the NH Republican Party Platform Committee, Vice-Chair of the Granite State Taxpayers, and Co-Chair of the House Republican Alliance. He is a past member of the Mont Vernon School Board and the Mont Vernon Police Advisory Commission. He has contributed to a couple of Democratic candidates over a decade ago and since then has contributed to the Republican campaigns and candidates, such as the NH Republican Committee (06/14/06, 05/24/07), John McCain (09/07/08), Republican National Committee (09/15/08), Robert Giuda (07/13/09 & 03/15/10), and Ovide Lamontagne (03/31/10).
O'Brien is a member of the New Hampshire Bar and the Massachusetts Bar, former Executive Director of the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation, and a former equity partner at Finneran, Byrne, Drechsler & O'Brien (Massachusetts). Additionally, he was a professor of law at the New England School of Law and General Counsel of several companies. In 2013, O'Brien and his wife, Roxanne, have been married for 40 years and have three grown children.
Controversy over closing NH House Gallery
O'Brien temporarily closed the New Hampshire House gallery to the public during a debate about the state budget on March 31, 2011, after union protestors began yelling "shame on you" and "don't harass the middle class" and thus prevented debate from being heard. Because the gallery was filled with the disruptive observers, O'Brien closed the proceedings to the public entirely, opening them again that day after the State Police had established a procedure of screening for disruptive members of the public. When asked why he closed the proceedings, O'Brien responded "I think thugs will not rule New Hampshire."  O'Brien recessed the House for 10 minutes to allow state police time to clear the gallery which holds over 100 people.
Assistant Democratic Leader Gary Richardson of Hopkinton, who had established an untraditional, but disruptive practice of challenging Speaker O'Brien's rulings most every day that the House was in session, and losing those challenges, asked O'Brien to allow the public back in. Richardson cited a provision of the New Hampshire Constitution, which states, "The doors of the galleries . . . shall be kept open to all persons who behave decently." O'Brien refused until the State Police could arrange to make sure people would behave decently. The House then voted 217-146 to keep the proceedings closed, with 48 Republicans joining the Democrats in opposing the closing.
O'Brien claimed that the proceedings were not conducted secretly, since they were streamed on live video and the press was present. "The House of Representatives has the right to conduct itself with decorum without being interrupted by members of the public," O'Brien said. Richardson responded, "The Constitution doesn't talk about streaming video. [It says] the doors of the gallery should be kept open."  In Merrimack County Superior Court, Judge Richard McNamara heard arguments about closing the gallery and was told that it was open again. He did not issue an order warning O'Brien not to close the gallery again and the case was dismissed against the Democratic plaintiffs, who choose not to contest or appeal the dismissal.
Controversy about college student voting requirement
Remarks by O'Brien to a Tea Party related group — explaining that a reason for a proposed law imposing more rigorous voter ID and residency requirements to be able to vote in New Hampshire elections, is that college students dominate certain local elections and "take away a town's ability to govern itself" and are "foolish, voting as a liberal" because they lack "life experience" — were widely reported in March 2011.
Mr. O'Brien was caught on tape explaining the bill was "necessary to stop students from basically doing what I did when I was a kid: voting as a liberal."
Controversy over the Affordable Care Act and slavery
In August of 2013, Mr. O’Brien spoke at a rally in New Hampshire of the Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, where he likened the Affordable Care Act to an 1850 pro-slavery federal law. In his remarks Mr. O'Brien called the healthcare act, popularly known as Obamacare, "a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back…to slave states.” He later defended this characterization in an interview in the Wall Street Journal.
President Obama referred to Mr. O'Brien's remark in a September 26, 2013 speech on the Affordable Care Act at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md., saying “You had a state representative somewhere say that it’s as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act. Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back.”
After Republicans lost control of the House, O'Brien did not run for a leadership position or seek to serve on a committee. Instead, he transitioned towards running for New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district against Democratic Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster in the 2014 elections. However, in August 2013, he announced that he would not run. Instead, he became CEO of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based U.S. subsidiary of the German software company Brainloop.
- "Bio : Rep. William O'Brien (R-New Hampshire) biography". Congress.org. 1951-07-20. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
- Kevin Brennan (February 8, 2013). "Former N.H. House Speaker Mulling Kuster Challenge". National Journal. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
- "Nullify Now". Tea Party Tribune. March 19, 2011.
- Campaign Contribution Search
- New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation
- "Nashua Women to Feature O'Brien". March 14, 2011.
- Concord Monitor, 1 April 2011
- Associated Press - March 31, 2011 12:45 PM ET
- Concord Monitor, 1 April 2011
- Nashua Telegraph 31 March 2011
- Peter Wallsten (March 8, 2011). "In states, parties clash over voting laws that would affect college students, others". Washington Post.
- "NH GOP Seeks To Disenfranchise Students Who 'Just Vote Their Feelings'". Talking Points Memo.
- "VIDEO: 'Foolish' college kids 'just vote their feelings,' New Hampshire speaker says". The Washington Post.
- Ballhaus, Rebecca. "Explaining ‘Fugitive Slave Act’ Claim Highlighted by Obama", Washington Wire, September 28, 2013
- Ben Leubsdorf (August 24, 2013). "Ex-N.H. House speaker Bill O’Brien takes new job, ends nascent campaign for U.S. Congress". Concord Monitor. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
- Representative O'Brien's page on official New Hampshire House of Representatives website
- NH House Speaker Bill O'Brien Acceptance Speech