Some 100 New Hampshire legislators gathered Thursday at the State House for a workshop on civility, politics, and communications. According to InDepthNH, Speaker Sherman Packard told the lawmakers that, while partisan polarization has increased recently, “I hope New Hampshire can rise above that.”

Packard is particularly hoping that will be the case for his appointment to chair the House Finance Committee, Rep. Ken Weyler (R-Kingston).

In a statement released Thursday, Packard defended Weyler from criticism over his behavior while overseeing the committee in 2021. That was when the Republican made questionable claims about the COVID-19 vaccine, including releasing a conspiracy-theory manifesto referencing “tentacled organisms” allegedly found in the vaccine.

“We have moved on from Rep. Weyler’s missteps last year, for which he admitted fault, and paid a price for that,” Packard said.

Packard’s view is that whatever his other foibles, Weyler’s institutional knowledge of the budget process and ability to help craft the document — which will almost certainly be the most contentious issue for the evenly-divided House in the coming session — is too valuable to give up. It is a sentiment shared by many in the House GOP leadership.

“Currently serving his 18th term in the House, [Weyler] has over 30 years of experience as a state legislator and has a long record of service on the House Finance Committee, including several terms as chair. He is a retired American Airlines captain, a veteran of the United States Air Force, and has a master’s degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“We need knowledgeable people who have put in the work needed to keep committees running on time and to ensure House deadlines are met. His vast experience in the state budget process will be of great value to the House this coming term and New Hampshire citizens will be the better for it.”

On Wednesday, Democrats issued a press release attacking Weyler’s appointment to the chairmanship. New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley referenced the 2021 document Weyler released and labeled him part of GOP’s “F-Tier elected leaders to take their caucus into the next election cycle.”

House Majority Leader Jason Osborne dismissed Buckley’s criticism, urging Democrats in the House to “ignore this pettiness from the party bosses, particularly one who just lost the ‘First in the Nation’ primary for their party.”