Free speech applies to all



Free Larry!

State Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst) had a speaking gig scheduled for Feb. 16 at the University of Southern Maine. A student group, having discovered some of Lockman’s political views, took exception.

As well they might. The representative has a long history of political controversy, much of it focused on ideas well outside the mainstream, uninformed by reality or science, and covering the gamut from abrasive to offensive.

Lockman used to insist that taxes were voluntary and tax collection enforcement unconstitutional. A Boston federal tax court found otherwise, deeming his arguments “frivolous.” Added the judge, “We feel very strongly about this case because of the impact upon the honest taxpayer.”

When state officials advocated for AIDS education funding, (“people are dying because of a lack of information”), Lockman disagreed. His response in a Lewiston Daily Sun letter to the editor on July 23, 1987, was “People are dying because of their addiction to sodomy,” which he labeled “a perverted and depraved crime against humanity.”

An opponent of abortion and once director of the Pro Life Education Association, he was widely quoted: “If a woman has [the right to abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t [in most cases] result in anyone’s death.”

There is more, but you get the gist.

So should he be permitted to speak at USM? Of course he should.

In his third term as a state representative, Lockman is entitled to his opinions, repugnant though they may be. Attempting to ban him from speaking is the kind of action that gives liberals a bad name.

For the USM talk, immigration is in his sights. “Alien Invasion: Fixing the Immigrant Crisis” is his title. If you don’t want to hear that stuff, there is always TV. We have met the alien invasion, and it is Lockman.

Better yet, you could make your own little protest and take the hour during which a talk like this is scheduled and use it to do some good in your community. Take a shift in a soup kitchen, at an immigrant center or in an anti-bullying program. Wear a button that says “This one’s for you, Larry.”

Back down in the real Maine, the Standing Bear Center for Shamanic Studies in Surry is hosting a series of “gatherings” called “The Time of the Warrioress” for “those traumatized by recent election result(s)… .” Get your inner shaman on and check it out. (Or there’s always TV.)

Meanwhile in Augusta, warriors and warrioresses continue the battles over recently passed citizen-made laws, battles that signal something of a shift in the legislature’s usual hands-off policy toward referenda.

The marijuana initiative, ill-suited to a referendum vote due to its complexity, had some obvious flaws that teed it up for some generally accepted tinkering despite fussing from its supporters.

The surtax on income over $200,000 is another matter. Meant to increase school funding, the 3 percent tax surcharge applies only to that portion of income over $200,000, not the entire income. Gov. Paul LePage wants to delay the proposal, which is now law, or kill it off altogether. Yes, he can try, but it just received the approval of a (slim) majority of voters.

It was a 3 percent tax surcharge hearing redux as the usual suspects turned out to make the same arguments they had made prior to the November vote. A spokesperson from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce hinted at an exodus of high-income residents if the law is implemented. The good news? Between alleged busloads of illegal voters coming in and alleged busloads of rich people moving out, turnpike income is going to be way up.

How productive will it be to argue the merits of this when the public has already made its decision? How many legislators are going to want to suspend the plan that won at the ballot box?

The governor also is floating a tax reform proposal that would broaden the sales tax base by including various services and recreational activities. Sound familiar? This is the next in a long line of proposals, including the governor’s in a previous session, that have been rejected every time.

Still, the golfers are worried. The executive director of the Maine Golf Association said his organization “strenuously objects” to adding a tax on its industry, as will ski resorts, barber shops and landscapers. And then there is the extinguishing of tax exemptions for land trust organizations. Teeth are gnashing.

The other referendum facing post-election review is the ranked-choice voting question, about which issues of constitutionality have been raised. Supporters do not like it, but Senate President Mike Thibodeau is probably right to have called for a “solemn occasion” to hear from Maine’s Supreme Court on the question. Better to know now than to have to sort the question out after an election.

As snow falls on snow, shovel your roof, clear all vents, feed the birds, check on your neighbor and keep an eye on your local legislator too. Visit www.maine.gov.

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