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N.H. House Majority Leader says he will fight efforts to further abortion restrictions in the next legislative session

osborne in the secretary of state's office
Rep. Jason Osborne

Republicans have racked up a number of legislative victories in the New Hampshire State House since gaining majorities in the House and Senate last election. That includes expanding the state’s school choice program, adding new restrictions on abortion and prohibiting local law enforcement of new federal guns laws.

NHPR’s Rick Ganley sat down with New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne to talk about what he hopes to accomplish in the next legislative session. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Editor’s note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

Rick Ganley: The House has had a conservative majority and has been able to move forward on abortion restrictions, school choice, and has been able to have some pushback on federal gun policy. What do you feel has been left undone? What should the public expect if Republicans do have a similar majority or even better numbers in the House?

Jason Osborne: Well, sure, there's always more to do, right? I think, as we go into next term, people are going to be very concerned about the economy, inflation, anything that we can do to bring people's cost of living down, whether that's health care costs, grocery costs, electricity costs. I'm sure everyone's seen recently, those are skyrocketing right now.

Rick Ganley: Are there specific measures you have in mind?

Jason Osborne: Well, it's tough because so much of that is driven by the world and the national economy. We're a very tiny state. So the number of things that we have in our toolbox to do is going to be pretty small. So it's going to be a lot of work to do.

Rick Ganley: Now, you and your caucus haven't always seen eye to eye with Gov. Sununu. Two issues that come to mind are redistricting and a parental bill of rights that some Republicans tried to pass this session. What's that working relationship been like with the governor and what are you hoping from him going forward?

Jason Osborne: Sure. Well, I mean, we are two separate branches of government, right? He's got his job to do and we've got ours. So I think that there's not as much disagreement on that parental bill of rights as people make out. And I think we will make progress on that. I don't think anyone can deny that parents should be involved in their own children's education. And so there's just some issues that need to be worked out with that bill in particular. There's a lot of concern around what about those marginal cases where there are some really bad parents involved that need to be kept away from their children, in cases where, for example, there's a court order.

Rick Ganley: What about those marginal cases? How would you protect them?

Jason Osborne: We'll just have to be, I guess, careful about how the language is worded. And which is why we didn't pass that bill last year. It wasn't quite ready for everyone. And, you know, that's why we have a large Legislature with so many members, so that we can make sure and catch those things and not let them slip through the cracks.

Rick Ganley: You've said in previous interviews that the abortion restrictions passed in New Hampshire last year are common sense and a good compromise. There will be efforts from many conservatives to further limit abortion in the state, given the [U.S.] Supreme Court's recent Dobbs ruling. If you're majority leader next year, would you fight efforts to pass more limits on abortion, or would you go along with the caucus?

Jason Osborne: I will definitely fight those efforts. Our job is to deliver the product that the people of New Hampshire want to see. And it's very clear that the vast majority of New Hampshire residents, and the vast majority of people across this country, expect to see some restrictions on abortions in the very late term of pregnancy. And not as much restrictions are wanted by people in New Hampshire as, say, in Arkansas or Alabama, for example, right? So I don't expect that Arkansas will, you know, have a 24 week restriction like we do here in New Hampshire. There might be something more like 15 weeks. But in New Hampshire, I do not see that 24 week mark moving for probably at least a couple of decades, if that.

Rick Ganley: But if you do have better numbers in the House, come next session, and you're having several members pushing for that and there are more restrictions in the offing, is that something that you would acquiesce to or is that something you would hold the line on?

Jason Osborne: Yeah, people have the wrong idea about Republicans, I think. You know, having to work with these guys I know that they're split basically right down the middle of basically pro-choice and basically pro-life. And of course, there's all kinds of gray areas in between, right? One thing I like to say is every single one of us, whether we're Republican or Democrat, are both pro-choice and pro-life. You know, those are values that we all hold as human beings. And it's the tension between those two values when it comes to pregnancy that is what causes all this problem for us. And that's why I'm very happy with the compromise that we've come to here in the state of New Hampshire. That's why I don't see that it's going to change. Even if you elected every single Republican running for office, it's not going to change. So I encourage folks to be happy with where we're at and comfortable that that's where it's going to stay.

Rick Ganley: The House majority leader is often a behind the scenes role. I think it's fair to say that, especially in recent weeks, you've been more pointed toward Democrats in the House, but also on national issues like abortion rights and gun control and towards Gov. Sununu. I'm wondering what impact you think that approach has on public confidence in elected officials, in the political process in general?

Jason Osborne: I'm sorry. I don't understand the question.

Rick Ganley: Well, some of the pointed comments that you've made, not only in social media, but also in general. There's a rhetoric there sometimes, and it may be in a joking fashion. But I'm wondering if you worry about that discourse in general, if that has some kind of effect on voters?

Jason Osborne: Yeah. I've got to tell you, I do worry about it. I know that I have a particular flavor that does not play with every audience, right? And so I try to stick to my audience and not stray too far away from it.

Rick Ganley: Is that the purpose of it, though, is to play to a particular audience?

Jason Osborne: Well, it's just it's more like being myself. And I know that that doesn't doesn't jive well with a certain segment of the population. I did have a couple of interesting phone calls this past week with some nice elderly gentlemen who were questioning my comments from the previous week and having to kind of explain to them what exactly I was trying to get across. And it was a very long conversation that it took to make that communication happen, that you just don't get in a one sentence Twitter comment. The world of Twitter is completely different than the real world of you and I just having a conversation right now.

Rick Ganley: Sure. I'm just wondering if there's a little bit of a tinge of a little bit of provocation there, or if it's something that is just, 'I'm expressing my opinion.'

Jason Osborne: Some of that. And I do like to, I guess -- Think of my profile right now. It says the emperor has no clothes. That's kind of like the attitude that I have. I don't stand for, you know, a lot of the BS that goes on in politics. I like to pull the curtain off of it, and hey, let's just be real and talk about the issue. The abortion topic, for example, I mean, this has gone on for decades and decades and decades of the posturing, and the name calling and crazy behavior on both sides. I'm just sick of it. And I just love the fact that we've come to a compromise now, and I hope that we'll be able to stick with it.

Rick Ganley: Last campaign season, you personally invested $50,000 to get more conservative legislators elected. Now, much of that money was spent on races here in New Hampshire. Are you planning to personally invest in this next election season as well?

Jason Osborne: I will not personally be investing in much of anything this cycle. I got some financial recovery to go through, like many people do, as a result of COVID and government policies with regard to COVID. And I hope I will be able to do much more in the future. But for right now, I have more time than money to invest in the fight.

Rick Ganley: Do you feel like it was money well spent?

Jason Osborne: Some of it was, and some of it wasn't, right? Campaigns are an interesting kind of business, right? You only get one shot to get it right. And then next time, the next cycle that comes around, the lay of the land is completely different. The way to spend the money is completely different. And just think about social media advertising. In fact, every single cycle that we've gone through the landscape for social media advertising has been completely different. The rules of the game are changing all the time. So what we do with our money this cycle is going to be completely different than what we did last time.

Rick Ganley: What's next for you, personally? What are your political ambitions? Where are they going?

Jason Osborne: I love the House of Representatives in New Hampshire. I can't imagine going anywhere else. People ask me all the time if I'm running for higher office. I don't know why in the world I would do that to myself. I've lived in the D.C. area before. I do not even want to think about going back there. The [New Hampshire] House of Representatives, it's a unique institution made up of normal people like me, right? I'm not a professional politician, obviously. You can probably hear that in this interview right now. And so there's 400 people just like me, just trying to solve problems and don't have the trappings of what you might have in the professional political world.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.

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