CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The fate of so-called right-to-work legislation is uncertain this week in the GOP-controlled New Hampshire House, potentially handing new Republican Gov. Chris Sununu an early defeat on one of his priorities.
House Speaker Shawn Jasper is warning the union-targeting legislation might fail Thursday due to long-standing opposition from a handful of Republicans. A pending overnight snowstorm also could alter attendance, a key factor in any close vote. In the final hours, Republican leaders are making an aggressive push to flip votes, even suggesting the party may not help Republicans who don't support the bill in the next election.
"We will create a campaign fund, and for those folks who support the governor, who support the platform — which speaks to right-to-work legislation — we will help those folks get re-elected in this next election cycle," Jeanie Forrester, chair of the state Republican party said Wednesday at a press conference aimed at fellow Republicans.
Right-to-work laws prevent unions from requiring non-members to pay fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining. Opponents say such laws weaken unions and diminish worker protections, while supporters say they give workers more freedom and make states attractive to businesses.
Now with a Republican governor in charge, New Hampshire has been viewed as a top target for passage from Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, and the National Right to Work Committee. Kentucky and Missouri already have passed similar legislation this year.
"Everybody is getting a lot of pressure from a lot of angles," said Republican Rep. Fred Doucette, a vocal right-to-work opponent.
Doucette is among a group of House Republicans who oppose right-to-work, arguing it's being pushed by out-of-state groups and won't benefit New Hampshire workers. The GOP holds 223 of 400 House seats, meaning just a few dozen Republican detractors could kill the legislation.
Sununu is wading in, urging representatives who are on the fence to get behind the bill. He argues right-to-work is a key part of making the state more attractive to businesses. He said he feels "pretty good" about the vote.
Still, some of the Republican messaging has been muddled. Jasper said it's not an issue worth tearing his caucus apart over and appeared to offer cover to opponents.
"I don't think this is an issue that should define a good Republican versus a bad Republican," he said.