NH House speaker wants to revisit court ruling on remote access

The New Hampshire Statehouse-File photo
The New Hampshire Statehouse-File photo(WCAX)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 2:23 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s House speaker wants to revisit a decision by an appeals court to vacate a judge’s ruling that upheld his refusal to provide remote access to legislative sessions to lawmakers at a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Lawyers representing Sherman Packard are planning to seek a rehearing on the case, according to court documents Wednesday.

Seven Democratic lawmakers sued Packard, a Republican, arguing that holding in-person sessions without a remote option violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions, and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials.

A federal judge ruled against them, saying the House could proceed with in-person sessions. But the Boston-based 1st Circuit Court of Appeals last week sent the case back to the judge with instructions to hold further proceedings to determine if the plaintiffs are “persons with disabilities within the meaning” of the ADA or the federal Rehabilitation Act.

In other coronavirus-related developments, a seat in the House left vacant by the death of Speaker Dick Hinch of COVID-19 will remain in Republican hands, following a special election.

Bill Boyd, a town councilor in Merrimack, won Tuesday, defeating former state Rep. Wendy Thomas, a Democrat. He received 2,531 votes; Thomas got 2,144 votes. Independent candidate Stephen Hollenberg received 104 votes.

Hinch died Dec. 9, a week after he was sworn in as speaker.

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