|Follow the Science; Follow the New Federal CDC Guidance |
Mainers have sacrificed a lot and remain committed to a safe reopening; Governor Mills should do the same
STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY – House Republicans today called upon Governor Mills to fully conform to yesterday’s guidance from the Biden Administration and the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “For over a year, the Mills administration and Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, have urged Mainers to follow the science,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “Mainers have sacrificed a lot over the last fourteen months and have done what has been required of them. The Governor, and her advisors, have said that they believe in the latest science and public health protocols. They should fully adopt federal CDC guidance without delay.”
May 13, 2021, the Governor and Administration officials publicly reaffirmed their commitment to the latest science, but stopped short of fully conforming to new federal CDC guidance. The Governor signaling that she is unlikely to completely follow federal CDC guidance is a break from what the Administration has previously said is guiding their policies:
“This change aligns with the latest science and makes sense for Maine at this stage, with more people getting vaccinated.” – Governor Janet Mills.
“We’ve continuously adapted our public health protocols as the science evolves and as vaccination increasingly protects Maine people from COVID-19,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
“These changes reflect the most recent science on how the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted,” said Nirav. D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY – Maine House Republicans received a budget briefing today from the Governor’s Chief of Staff and Finance Commissioner. They were told by the Governor’s Office that further details and printed documentation should be available by Friday.
Preliminary response to the Governor’s Press Release:
“While we are pleased that the Governor has moved off of her previous opposition to increased revenue sharing and is now proposing some tax relief for low-income and elderly Mainers, we continue to believe that there needs to be tax relief for everyone,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “Every Mainer has been impacted by the pandemic over the last 14 months. Meaningful income and property tax relief is achievable due to the substantial federal relief that is flowing into Maine. The more that can be directed to Maine citizens, the more quickly our economy will recover and add jobs.”
“I question why with over $940 million in new revenue available, the Governor is still proposing to borrow money.” said House Republican Appropriations Lead Sawin Millett. “I am encouraged that she expressed support for bipartisan budget decisions that require two-thirds support. The earlier decision by Democrats to reject bipartisanship in favor of a majority budget has clearly generated public backlash and poisoned the atmosphere at a time when cooperation is needed. I hope the damage can be repaired going forward for the good of all Maine people.”
STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY – Legislative Republicans have released a detailed list of priorities that should be included in a Supplemental Budget and subsequent funding bills. With hundreds of millions in additional tax revenue projected and more than a billion dollars coming from the Federal government, Legislative Republicans are now able to present an outline of their priorities for utilizing one-time money and other resources to supplement the biennial budget passed last month. Top three priorities:
REAL TAX RELIEF
- Income Tax Relief – $10,200 exemption for taxpayers that did not already receive one for unemployment income (using projected additional funds)
- Increase the Homestead Exemption Reimbursement to Municipalities from 70% to 100% – provides direct property tax relief to homeowners
- Increase Revenue Sharing from 3.75% to 5%
“Mainers deserve to know what Republican priorities are and how they relate directly to Maine citizens trying to recover and prosper in the month and years ahead. Additional funds should go back to the people directly. The following list is not exhaustive and will be updated as more information and fiscal analysis becomes available. It is the product of members working at the State House.
Republican members, through their policy committees, have spent countless hours helping develop this list of priorities. It protects the taxpayers by funding needs not wants. Income and property tax relief goes directly to workers, property owners and municipalities rather than new government programs. Other financial support goes to frontline workers, and programs that serve citizens impacted by the pandemic. One-time spending can also be used for economic development grants. The investments we are supporting will benefit Maine as a whole.”
Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake and House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham –
OTHER PRIORITES (Partial list, others to be added HERE as costs are determined)
HEALTHCARE AND INSURANCE
SUPPORT FOR TELEHEALTH SERVICES:
LD 649 – An Act Expand and Promote Telehealth Services
LD 1007 – An Act To Increase Availability of Health Care through Telehealth
LD 1194 – An Act To Reduce Health Care Worker Shortages
LD 1391 – An Act To Amend Telehealth Laws Regarding Out-of-state Telehealth
INCREASING REIMBURSEMENT RATES FOR WORKERS
LD 684 – Resolve, To Amend MaineCare Reimbursement Provisions Governing Supplemental Payments to Nursing Facilities with High MaineCare Use (EMERGENCY)
LD 1112 – Resolve, To Classify Employee Health Insurance as a Fixed Cost for MaineCare Reimbursement in Nursing Homes
LD 1197 – Resolve, To Require Continued MaineCare Reimbursement to Nursing Facilities for Bed Hold Days during Hospitalizations and Therapeutic Leaves of Absence
LD 1204 -An Act To Address the Shortage of Direct Care Workers for Children with Disabilities in Maine
REDUCING HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS
LD 365 – An Act To Protect Consumers from Surprise Medical Bills
LD 750 – An Act To Increase Transparency of and Lower Health Care Costs
LD 751 – An Act To Allow Employers To Shop for Competitive Health Plan Options
LD 614 – Resolve, To Extend Funding to Maine Veterans’ Homes during the COVID-19 Pandemic
LD 658 – An Act To Provide Funding for 3 Veterans Services Officers in the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services
LD 693 – An Act To Make the Pilot Program Providing Mental Health Case Management Services to Veterans a Permanent Program
ENSURING TRANSPARENCY & REDUCING GOVERNMENT WASTE
LD 315 – An Act To Require State Departments To Report on Rule Changes within State Government since the Beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic
LD 584 – Resolve, To Establish the Commission to Study the Reduction of Unfunded and Outdated Municipal Mandates
LD 817 – Resolve, To Establish the COVID-19 Review Commission (EMERGENCY)
LD 1155 – An Act To Require Election Transparency and Audits
LD 1241 – An Act To Establish More Transparency, Due Process, Education and Understanding between the Department of Health and Human Services and Certain Maine Businesses
LD 1496 – An Act To Establish the Board of Canvassers for Certifying Election Results
LD 564 – An Act To Save Money by Eliminating the Requirement That the Annual Reports of State Agencies Be Printed
LD 1073 – Resolve, Establishing the Commission To Research Effective Strategies and Efficiencies of Legislatures
LD 1108 – An Act To Promote Legislative Oversight of Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds
ECONOMIC AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND RECOVERY
LD 149 – An Act To Facilitate Licensure for Credentialed Individuals from Other Jurisdictions
LD 784 -An Act To Amend the Law Governing Approval Authority Over and Oversight of Certified Nursing Assistant Educational Programs
LD 942 – An Act To Waive Professional and Occupational Licensing Fees for Calendar Year 2020
LD 1047 – An Act To Create an Alternative Minimum Wage Applicable to Student Employees Who Are under 20 Years of Age and to Employees Who Are under 18 Years of Age
LD 1381 – An Act To Establish a Sales Tax Holiday To Help Maine Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic
LD 1403 – An Act To Protect Maine Businesses, Nonprofits, Educational Institutions and Municipalities during the COVID-19 Pandemic
LD 1507 -An Act To Establish a Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program and Allocation (EMERGENCY) (GOVERNOR’s BILL)
CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE)
LD 313 -An Act To Advance Career and Technical Education Opportunities in Maine
LD 516 – Resolve, Directing the Department of Education To Review Career and Technical Education Courses and Provide Guidance on High School Credit Equivalencies
LD 975 – An Act To Create and Additional Pathway to Certify Industrial Arts Teachers To Foster Career and Technical Subjects in Maine Schools
LD 1468 -An Act To Support All-terrain Vehicle Trail Improvements
LD 280 – An Act To Increase Funding for Snowmobile Trails and Capital Equipment Grants
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM & PUBLIC SAFETY
LD 12 – An Act To Require Annual Information Reporting by the Maine Information and Analysis Center
LD 242 – An Act To Support the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission
LD 346 – An Act Requiring the Use of Propane and Natural Gas Detectors
LD 521 – An Act To Modify the Rule-making Process for Establishing County and Municipal Jail Standards
LD 546 – An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Maine Juvenile Justice System Assessment and Reinvestment Task Force
LD 679 – An Act To Establish a Statewide Electronic Warrant System
LD 1140 – An Act To Establish a Sales Tax Exemption for the Purchase of Firearm Safety Devices
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
LD 802 – An Act To Ensure Decommissioning of Solar Developments
LD 911 – An Act to Prohibit the Reception of Foreign Waste Plastic in Maine Ports
LD 1208 – An Act To Amend the State’s Electronic Waste Recycling Law
LD 866 – An Act Concerning Advance Refrigeration Technology
LD 1202 – An Act to Establish a Wood-fired Combined Heat and Power Program
LD 129 – Resolve, To Protect Consumers of Public Drinking Water by Establishing Maximum Contaminant Levels for Certain Substances and Contaminants
LD 780 – An Act Regarding Uncontrolled Hazardous Substance Sites
ROADS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
LD 1235 – An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Connect Maine with a World-class Internet Infrastructure. Replace with ARPA money rather than borrowing
LD 1107 – An Act To Create Needed Broadband Infrastructure in Rural Maine through the Establishment of a Satellite-based Broadband Grant Program
LD 1484 – An An Act To Enhance the ConnectMaine Authority’s Capacity To Provide World-class Internet
LD 182 – An Act To Expand the Definition of “Essential Worker” To Include Retail and Food Service Workers
LD 635 – An Act To Repeal The Requirement To Obtain a Permit before Hunting with a Noise Suppression Device
LD 884 – An Act To Ban the Surveillance of Firearm Purchases
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Focus is on helping all Maine citizens recover and prosper going forward
This past week, Democrats once again demonstrated why they are out of touch with the needs of working families, small businesses, people with pre-existing conditions, and those who are covered through the private and small group insurance markets.
This is Rep. Josh Morris, of Turner, with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.
This week, the legislature reconvened in special session and met in person for only the fifth time this year. It is disappointing that as Mainers are getting back to work and more schools begin to open, that our State Capitol building remains empty, and closed to the public. The majority party continues to waste taxpayer money on renting the Augusta Civic Center.
As this new special session of the legislature began, Democrats supported increasing insurance premiums and limiting choices for individuals and families buying health insurance. This was done along party lines.
Republicans have supported majority-sponsored bills when they contain provisions that help everyone improve their access to quality and affordable health insurance. But, as they have demonstrated time and again this session, Democrats will not support Republican proposals, no matter how beneficial to Maine.
As a result of stopping these Republican bills, LDs 352 and 443, Democrats will make struggling small businesses, and their employees, pay more for health insurance. Maine’s small businesses will also have fewer insurance options, with benefits determined by the state.
I sponsored both these bills to preserve lower insurance rates and enhance consumer choice. These proposals protect the effectiveness of the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association (MGARA), which is responsible for an 11 percent decrease in individual insurance premiums since 2019.
Any time health insurance premiums go down, without affecting quality or access to care, that is a good thing.
By voting against these two bills, Democrats will reverse the trend toward lower premiums and replace it with a four percent increase. This will happen because the Governor is combining individual and group insurance plans. Current law states this can only be done if an independent study shows doing it will not result in an increase to consumers.
Guess what, the independent studies show that combining the plans will increase costs. Democrats support merging it anyway.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Projected premium increases are there in ‘black and white’ in two independent actuarial reports by Gorman Actuarial and Milliman Actuarial. The Maine Bureau of Insurance and MGARA contracted with those two firms to conduct the study called for by law.
By Democrats voting against these bills, beginning in 2023, the average monthly premium for an individual policy will rise $25 per month. For a family of four purchasing health insurance on the individual market, that’s an additional $1200 a year. That’s the average. Someone with a pre-existing condition or other underlying concern is likely to pay more.
If insurance premiums increase, younger and healthier people tend to drop coverage leaving older and less healthy people in the market or the “pool”. When younger and healthier people drop out of the market, premiums go up for everyone else in the market. It hurts people who need insurance most, especially people with pre-existing conditions.
My other bill ensured that small businesses and employees would continue to be able to have access to a myriad of insurance options and choices in the insurance they buy.
By stopping LD 443, Democrats are limiting the number of plans available to a small business and their employees to just twelve plans selected by The Maine Bureau of Insurance.
My proposal allowed employers to keep the insurance plans they currently offer to their employees. By stopping this bill, Democrats are forcing a reduction in benefits and putting the Bureau of Insurance in charge of your choices.
Maine’s small businesses will now have to choose between offering fewer benefits to their employees or making cuts in other areas, such as wages, to cover the increased costs of plans that are less tailored to their needs.
That means people will pay more for less. I hope Democrats will reconsider their position and support struggling small businesses, their employees and people with pre-existing conditions covered by individual and small group insurance plans.
Two independent actuarial firms determined rates will be up. The Democrats are choosing to ignore the experts opting instead to pursue an inefficient, anti-choice, government run health care policy.
House Republicans will continue to support access to quality and affordable health insurance. We will oppose anything that increases your costs, limits your choice, and complicates healthcare even more.
This has been Rep. Josh Morris with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.
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|Struggling small businesses, and their employees, will see higher costs, a reduction in benefits and limits on choice|
AUGUSTA CIVIC CENTER-Today, along party lines, Democrat legislators defeated two bills designed to preserve lower individual and small group market insurance rates and enhance consumer choice. Two bills (LDs 352 & 443), sponsored by Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner), would protect an individual insurance market that has experienced an 11 percent reduction in premiums and increase coverage options. Democrats effectively voted to increase premiums by four percent. People with a pre-existing condition would pay even more. Small businesses, and their employees, would also experience a limitation on choice and reductions in benefits (LD 443).
“I offered LD 352 because current law is being ignored,” said Rep. Morris. “The effectiveness of the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association (MGARA) has resulted in an 11 percent decrease in individual market premiums since 2019. Democrats would reverse that trend and replace it with a four percent increase. People with a pre-existing condition would pay even more. The negative impact of merging individual and small group markets is backed up by two recent actuarial reports by Gorman Actuarial and Milliman Actuarial.
If the individual and small group markets are merged, beginning in 2023, the average monthly premium for an individual policy will rise $25 per month. For a family of four purchasing health insurance on the individual market, that’s an additional $1200 a year. That’s the average. Someone with a pre-existing condition, or other underlying concerns, is likely to pay more.”
“I sponsored LD 443 to remove language that limits the number of plans available to a small business to just 12 clear choice design plans selected by Maine Bureau of Insurance. It allows small businesses to keep the insurance plans that they currently offer to their employees. If we do not pass this bill, small businesses, and their employees, will see a reduction in benefits.
Failure to pass LD 443 will force Maine’s small businesses to have to choose between offering fewer benefits to their employees or making cuts in other areas, such as wages, to pay for the increased costs of plan designs.”
Statement from Maine House Republicans:
We are pleased that the Governor responded so quickly to our question regarding the outdoor mask mandate. We continue to call for the public release of the scientifically measurable goals and objectives that the Governor and her administration are using to evaluate whether to lift other restrictions.
House Republicans Question if the Mills Administration has a Plan to End the Outdoor Mask Mandate
New Hampshire and 12 other states have ended their mask mandates
STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY – Maine House Republicans have observed 13 states, including New Hampshire, end their mask mandates. Dr. Fauci has indicated that the CDC and Biden Administration is likely to update the mask mandate saying, “the risk for people engaging in outdoor activities is ‘minuscule,’” and “what the country is going to be hearing soon is updated guidance from the CDC.”
Maine House Republicans are now calling on the Governor and Dr. Shah to provide the timetable and scientific metrics being used for guidance pertaining to outdoor mask requirements as well as other restrictions currently in place. House Republicans are renewing their request for greater transparency from the Administration and Center for Disease Control (CDC). The public should be informed on what benchmarks need to be met in order to lift the outdoor mask mandate and if the Biden Administration moves away from mandating masks while outside, will Governor Mills and Dr. Shah follow suit?
“With 55% of Maine’s eligible population having received a first vaccine dose, more than 83% of people 70 and over fully vaccinated, Mainers have stepped up to get their shots at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “This has been the result of personal choice – not government mandates. Our caucus is asking Governor Mills and her administration to share with the public what benchmarks they believe need to be met in order to safely lift the outdoor mask mandate, other restrictions, and end her state of emergency.”
“Maine has been in a state of emergency since March of 2020 and the Governor just issued her fourteenth emergency order extension,” said Assistant House Republican Leader Joel Stetkis (R-Canaan). “Hospitalization data provided to the public through the media is skewed to create an impression young people are a problem by grouping together everyone under 50. How does this make sense when no person in Maine under 20 has died with COVID-19 and hospitalizations for people under 30 are rare? Every death is tragic, but this assessment of risk is far more narrow than what anyone would have imagined over a year ago when this all began. We need to follow the science.”
Current rates do not put our hospitals at risk of overflowing. Testing is widely available and Maine’s timetable for vaccinations is months ahead of schedule. House Republicans acknowledge that the threat is not completely gone, but Mainers have done their part to mitigate that threat and proven themselves time and time again. The public release of the scientifically measurable goals the Governor and her administration are using to evaluate restrictions is long overdue and should be shared with the people of Maine.
Democrats Vote Against ALL Emergency Powers Bills
Move signals that they see no role for the legislature during emergencies
STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY- Democrats on the State and Local Government Committee today unanimously voted against 14 bills submitted to address a Governor’s emergency powers. All committee Republicans voted yes on bills submitted to strengthen and address deficiencies in the Emergency Powers Statute (Title 37-B MRSA).
“I am disappointed that Democrats on the committee did not believe we need to address the antiquated emergency powers statute in order to ensure coequal, legislative involvement during a prolonged emergency,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “It is unfathomable that Democrats on the committee think that the legislature has no role to play when Maine people need them most. Over the past year, our members have heard more from the public on amending the emergency powers law than any other single issue.”
“The Legislature’s ability to represent people is not supposed to be suspended by a long-term emergency,” said Rep. Randall Greenwood (R-Wales). “This pandemic has highlighted a serious flaw in the law governing emergency powers. The legislative branch has effectively been shutout for over a year.”
BILLS THAT DEMOCRATS OPPOSED IN COMMITTEE:
LD 14 – An Act To Require a Two-thirds Vote to Extend a State of Emergency
LD 131 – An Act To Amend the Governor’s Emergency Powers
LD 608 – An Act Regarding the Governor’s Emergency Powers
LD 628 – An Act To Protect Businesses and Civic Organizations from Actions Taken Pursuant to an Emergency Proclamation
LD 729 – An Act To Provide Transparency Regarding State Contracts during a State of Emergency
LD 955 – An Act To Narrowly Tailor Emergency Powers of the Governor and Other Public Officials
LD 980 – An Act To Establish Balance in the Governor’s Emergency Powers
LD 985 – An Act To RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Require Legislative Approval of Any State of Emergency Lasting Longer Than 60 Days
LD 1019 – An Act To An Act To Promote Transparent Emergency Management
LD 1039 – An Act To Safeguard the People’s Voice in a State of Emergency
LD 1137 – An Act To Limit the Governor’s Emergency Powers by Requiring a Two-Thirds Vote of the Legislature To Continue an Emergency Order after 90 Days
LD 1142 – An Act To Prohibit the Unequal Restriction of Essential Businesses during a State of Civil Emergency
LD 1220 – An Act To Require a Two-Thirds Vote of the Legislature Every 2 Weeks To Maintain a State of Emergency Declared by the Governor
LD 1237 – An Act To Allow the Governor To Declare a Limited State of Emergency for Federal Aid Purposes
State legislators are sent to Augusta to do the hard work of legislating. That requires hearing other people’s opinions, weighing out facts, pros and cons, and then negotiating solutions designed to benefit everyone. If the people sent to Augusta are not willing to put in the hard work, time and effort, they should not be there in the first place.
This is Rep. Lester Ordway, of Standish, with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.
The recent vote to adjourn the Legislature, after meeting a total of three days this year, is an affront to the citizens of Maine and demonstrates an unwillingness to cooperate, negotiate, and legislate. Signaling that the work of the Legislature was officially done in March, instead of June, nullified the ability of elected Republican legislators, who represent over 400 Maine towns and cities, from participating in the construction of an $8.4 billion state budget.
To pass their so-called “majority budget,” they used a procedural trick that has only occurred three times in the last 70 years, and for good reason. Politics is supposed to involve the art of negotiation.
The Legislature will now be called back into Special Session on April 28th to finish the work it claimed was completed. That unfinished business includes over 1,600 bills and additional spending proposals that will not require good faith negotiation with Republicans and Independents.
The legislative process is designed to produce biennial state budgets that achieve two-thirds support from members of both parties. This support is the result of thoughtful discussion and give and take. The effort by Democrats to completely remove Republicans from this process is not good for Maine or its politics.
Democrats allege that they circumvented Republicans to prevent a government shutdown in June, which is absurd. Just weeks before, both parties negotiated a Supplemental Budget that passed unanimously in the Senate and 139-1 in the House. Never once have I heard one Republican colleague even mention a government shutdown.
In secret, Democrats drafted a one-page partial budget before all 16 policy committees had issued their recommendations to the Appropriations Committee. This partial budget was shared with Republicans just 15 minutes before it went for a vote.
This secret partial budget was voted on before the Consensus Forecasting Commission and the Revenue Forecasting committee issued their budget and revenue projections. At the time, the legislature had not received details on the American Rescue Plan, the federal relief funds that Maine will receive, which meant that Democrats pushed through an agenda without any sort of care or attention to facts, data, or direction on how funds can be spent.
This is politics at is worst. The Maine people suffer when one party decides that it does not want to engage in proper legislating. Rather than consider alternative views and negotiating a bipartisan budget, Democrats abandoned the traditional budget process.
I was sent to Augusta to represent everyone in my district—regardless of what political party they are in. Ramming legislation through, without thoughtful discussion, is toxic and runs counter to the goals of our Constitution and representative government.
Citizens deserve better from the people they send to Augusta. I, for one, want to include everyone in discussions on how taxpayer money is spent. The best solutions occur when everyone is at the table prior to passage of laws that affect everyone. That is what representative government is supposed to do.
House Republicans will continue to push for the legislature to fully return, with all safety precautions, to the Capitol building for committee work and legislative sessions.
This has been Rep. Lester Ordway with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.
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This week saw the Democrats pass a majority budget and then vote unanimously to end the legislative session for the year. I’m Representative Sawin Millett with this week’s Republican radio address.
Ending the regular legislative session for the year came after only four meetings of the legislature and in spite of the more than 1600 pieces of legislation left unfinished. Every single Republican voted to continue to do our work.
Why is the legislature out of session with so much work to do? It isn’t because Democrats think the work is finished, it is so that they will no longer have to work with the minority to pass legislation. This was a procedural move to stop any member that isn’t a Democrat from having influence on how the state spends your tax dollars.
It is certainly the case that Democrats hold a majority in the Maine House and Senate, as well as the office of the Governor, but on Tuesday, all three told anyone who isn’t a Democrat their voice doesn’t matter.
This is plainly seen in Governor Mill’s statement that she will call the legislature back, and in the announcement made by the Speaker of the House immediately following his vote to end the legislative session for the year, that the legislature would be calling itself back into session.
Think about that. Democrats with Governor Mills’ support, dissolved the legislative session over Republican and Independent objections and in the next breath announced the Legislature would return in a month to finish the work they just voted to end.
This is the most cynical form of government whereby legislative Democrats and the Democrat governor collude to ensure that only Democrat legislation will get to move forward when we return to a new session of the legislature in a month’s time.
It is unfortunate rank and file Democrats bought into the narrative spun for them by Senate President Jackson, the Speaker, and the Governor, that Republicans would force a government shutdown. Nothing could be further from the truth. Budgets in the previous legislature and the one passed three weeks ago did so with bi-partisan support. Two of them almost unanimously. This is the norm that Mainers, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike, have come to expect and should be proud of.
When we set the budget calendar three weeks ago it was done collegially and in good faith. It was the usual approach, a process by which we take our time to deliberate and account for all revenues to ensure your tax dollars are spent responsibly and effectively. On Monday last week without warning that bi-partisan agreement was thrown out by Democrat leadership and the Governor with their announcement a budget had to be passed before revenue forecasts and economic projections were received. This meant that the budget handed out 15 minutes before it was voted on had no deliberation on the needs of the Department of Health and Human Services, no deliberation on the needs of the Department of Education, no deliberation on the needs of State Police and Sheriffs, in short with no deliberation at all.
It is hard to believe these claims that Republicans cannot be trusted, when at the direction of Democrat leadership a surprise budget summary worked on in secret was presented to Republican and Independent members and voted on three days later. The bi-partisan budget schedule was replaced with a wholly concocted narrative about urgency and predictability as a cover. The truth is, this was done entirely to silence non-Democrats and remove them from any future negotiations.
Nothing in their one page “budget” proposal constitutes an emergency needing action in less than a week. The Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission released their report two days after this incomplete budget was forced through, and the Revenue Forecasting Committee will report by the end of April. The only reason not to wait for the budget committee to finish its work, the only reason to ignore the details of the American Rescue Plan federal relief funds, was so the Governor and Presiding Officers could ensure the passage of future Democrat proposals without compromise. This drastic step was taken to deny input from Republicans and Independents. Its only purpose is to serve as a power grab by those Democrat who feel bipartisanship challenges their ability to pass whatever they want.
That isn’t how Maine works. Sure Democrats were elected to a majority. In the House they control about 53% of the seats. They were not elected to silence the voices of those represented by the remaining 47% in the House all of whom voted against this power grab.
Republicans will continue to advocate that we need to be in session and need to do the work before us in person and open to the public. That is why every Republican and every Independent voted against dissolving the legislature on Tuesday night and why we support returning to work as soon as possible. The Presiding Officers in the legislature and Governor Mills got what they wanted, the ability to pass Democrat legislation without compromise. Why are we now waiting for another month to take up the more than 1600 bills the Democrats left unfinished?
Republicans will continue to support legislation that is good for Maine, but we will stand in unified opposition when the Democrats’ new found power is used to drive up taxes, create joblessness, and burden the people of Maine further with government bureaucracy.
This kind of single party takeover of your government should trouble everyone, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats know that we can, and must do better.