August 20, 2021

This is State Representative Kathleen Dillingham, of Oxford, with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

Recently, the Governor, and her administration, used the Department of Health and Human Services public health emergency issued July 1, 2021, to mandate that all healthcare employers require their employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and those employees who do not, will lose their jobs. That is an estimated 10,000 healthcare employees.

Several of my colleagues and I signed a letter asking the Governor to rescind her mandate.  Instantly, this request was categorized as being anti-vaccination.  This was done in an attempt to distract from the broad concern about the role of government in private sector employment and individual’s lives.  This is a lazy form of debate in which instead of addressing the actual concern, those in support of mandating vaccines try to dismiss the topic by changing the subject.  It is arrogant and displays an unwillingness to do the hard work of listening to opposing views.

I am vaccinated and my opposition to a government mandate on a private employer has nothing to do with the vaccine itself.  I chose to get vaccinated without threat of job loss by the government.  I believe all individuals should be able to come to their own determination about this vaccine. Government should make the case for vaccines, but not try to force the decision through government mandates and threats.

I recognize the need for government in maintaining our system of ordered liberty, of protecting the rule of law, and the freedom of associations that ensures a flourishing civil society.  But, a government unlimited interferes with that liberty.  It steps between you and your paycheck, it limits who you are allowed to associate with, it erodes the rule of law by acting arbitrarily.   

Our government was instituted to preserve our natural rights to life and liberty.  It was not instituted to make decisions on our behalf or in our best interest. If we can’t do that for ourselves then the entire notion of this experiment in protecting liberty through self-government is called into question.  The words of President Abraham Lincoln, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this Earth,” still hold the same promise as the day they were uttered but, with every overreach of government, our democracy is chipped away until one day it becomes government over the people.

A statement was released by the Governor’s office saying, “Maine has long required vaccination for healthcare workers for a number of diseases and the new requirement simply adds the COVID-19 vaccine.” 

What we have long had in Maine is the ability for private employers, including healthcare providers, to determine what they expect of their employees.  When government steps in, there is an ability for the people to register their support or lack thereof–for their voices to be heard.  In this instance, there was no hearing but rather the highhandedness of the administration telling Maine employers, and employees, that their government knows best, and either comply or be punished by losing your job. 

The Governor said, “With this requirement, we are protecting healthcare workers, their patients, including our most vulnerable, and our health care capacity,” as well as saying, “Every person has the right to expect that they will receive high-quality and safe care.”

The administration seems to be unaware of the impact their actions are having on the people they say they are so concerned about.

For well over a year, we have hailed these, and other frontline workers, as heroes, because of their willingness to serve us in the face of danger to themselves, and their families; never questioning their commitment to the health of their patients.

But now, government is stepping in and questioning the commitment of our healthcare workers to their patients.

If the remaining healthcare workers who have not chosen to get vaccinated are fired from their positions, what is the impact to our facilities already facing a healthcare shortage?  What about the years of experience and knowledge that may be lost?  What about the impact on their families and the mental health of those involved?

Further, what is all of this doing to our communities?  I can remember when the Governor took office that she said she wanted to ‘take Maine in a new direction.’  Well, here we are, having come through one of the most divisive and partisan sessions I can remember from my time in Augusta.  Bills were routinely killed along party lines with little to no discussion.  We have families and neighbors refusing to speak and see each other due to arguments over masks and vaccines.  We have citizens celebrating the death of individuals that they don’t even know, saying the vilest things but believing it is justified due to philosophical differences over government, COVID-19, vaccines, and masks.

I can’t imagine the direction she was referencing was the loss of our humanity, but, here we are, with little being done to bring us together.  

From my perspective, I still believe in this experiment of democracy and, over the coming months, I intend to highlight the limiting principles on which there should be broad agreement to keep our government in check, and protect our liberty.    

Looking across the legislative session just completed, the last 19 months of COVID, and to the future policies of democratic majorities, I hope Mainers will seek out those limiting principles, and ask themselves with each progressive policy change limiting individuals; Does the government have this authority?  Should the government have this authority?

The impetus to ask this question is the immediate assertion of the Governor that she can require your private employer to fire you from your private sector job.  We should broadly agree that the government does not have that authority, even if you agree with the ends the government is trying to achieve.  Beyond the immediate, the long-term success of our state and nation depends on the reassertion of the principles of limited government. Mainers deserve the opportunities afforded by free association and the liberty to pursue their own happiness.  We should never give up on government of the people, by the people, for the people.

This is Representative Kathleen Dillingham. Thank you for listening, subscribing, sharing, and following us on Facebook and Instagram. 


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