Legislature’s actions raise eyebrows

The Maine Legislature blew into town last week, stirred the pot and left. They made short work of the two agenda items that brought them in and made hash out of the rest.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center was joyful. “Great news!” they exulted in a message the subject line of which was “Victory at the State House!” “Conservatives recently succeeded in defeating Ranked-Choice Voting … .” Three cheers for them! They stood up against the will of the people and killed a measure passed at the polls last November!

Calling ranked-choice voting (RCV) a “bad idea foisted upon us by the Maine People’s Alliance,” the Maine Heritage Policy Center seemed to have missed the part about how RCV was endorsed by public vote. Yes, the measure has a problem of constitutionality with some elections, but there are remedies for that that fall well short of getting rid of the electorate’s preferred method of voting.

If you are as excited by overturning a popular vote as these conservatives are, let them know! Send money! Show them you support their notion that they know better than us. Help them continue to determine our future rather than leave it to us, the lowly voters, too weak of mind to know when we are being conned or to be able to figure out an RCV ballot when it stares us in the face. If it stares us in the face.

Or you could send that money to the effort to rescue ranked-choice voting through a people’s veto. Last week’s legislative action pushes implementation of RCV out to 2021 — or was it 3021? — if, by that time, the state has amended the constitution to fix the problem. With the majority of the Legislature voting against RCV last week, how do you think that one’s going to go? Time is short. Supporters must collect over 61,000 signatures in 90 days. If you think the will of the voters should be respected, help them out.

Local Sens. Brian Langley and Kim Rosen joined their Republican colleagues in squashing RCV. With them were Hancock County Democratic Reps. Brian Hubbell and Louie Luchini. Reps. Ralph Chapman and Walter Kumiega voted against the measure. Rep. Richard Malaby was not present for the vote.

Care to know which of the current roster of gubernatorial candidates for 2018 went along with ignoring the will of the voters? That would be Sens. Eric Brakey, Garrett Mason and Mike Thibodeau. Rep. Ken Fredette concurred. The two candidates willing to support the voters were Democrats Mark Dion (senator) and Rep. Jared Golden.

There was another matter on which clarity eluded the Legislature, and that was implementation of the state’s new marijuana law. Votes in the special session made what one legislator called “important tweaks” to the law. Tweaks they may be, but just as with RCV, there are legislators who don’t care for the legalization idea at all. It passed, but short of the two-thirds vote needed should the governor veto the bill. Odds are he will.

Gov. Paul LePage nominated five judges, withdrew the nominations, then reinstated them, all without a word of explanation. Now you see them, now you don’t, now you do. All were confirmed. And with that, at 10:25 p.m., legislators vanished into the night, not to be seen, collectively, until Jan. 3, 2018.

The Legislative Council met two days after the special session to consider which of 268 bills they would let in for debate in the winter. The council consists of the 10 members of leadership, and since the parties each control one chamber, the council is split five and five.

And that, coincidentally, was the result of the majority of votes on bills. Just 63 were let in. Langley won approval of one out of four, as did Malaby. Luchini went one for two. Hubbell had one proposal, which was not admitted.

Rosen and Chapman each went 0-for-3, and it must be said that Chapman, in the spirit of “go big or go home,” had his three bills all rejected unanimously. Rest assured, this had nothing to do with the representative quitting the Democratic party. Nope. Politics do not apply. The five Republicans voted against most of the Democratic bills, but in Chapman’s case, the Democrats did too because … because … oh, never mind. Appeals will be made.

Legislature, hold that line! It’s going to be a difficult session anyway. The fewer the bills, the better.

The summer amusements have left town, the temperature is dropping, and the W word will soon be upon us. When the Legislature arrives in Augusta in January, it will do so with a roster of candidates for state and federal races that will make for some itchy dynamics under the dome. Every word and deed will come with an eye to next November.

The Legislature gave itself three years to figure out ranked-choice voting. That’s a low bar. It seems like their expectations are no higher than ours.

Correction: An earlier version of this post contained an error. Rep. Kumiega submitted one bill for consideration of the Legislative Council. It was approved.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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