Mixed results on legislative front

The 128th Legislature is gone, but the melody lingers on. The passage of a budget means the oxygen has leaked out of Augusta, but some work remains. The rest of us are paying little attention.

It’s summer.

In just one year, most Hancock County legislators will term out. Only Rep. Brian Hubbell (Bar Harbor) and Sen. Kim Rosen (Bucksport) will be eligible to run again. Reps. Walter Kumiega (Little Deer Isle), Ralph Chapman (Blue Hill), Louie Luchini (Ellsworth) and Richard Malaby (Hancock), and Sen. Brian Langley (Ellsworth) will exit stage left.

If there is a lesson learned by the time a legislator reaches his or her senior year, it is that less is more. Our local legislators were circumspect about the number of bills they submitted, but their rates of success varied.

The statistics can be misleading. Some bills that are killed actually live on within another legislator’s bill or a committee bill, or have their language incorporated into the budget. Some are killed at the sponsor’s request if information surfaces during the session that suggests an early death is the best course.

Kumiega submitted eight bills. Three were enacted, four were killed. A bond proposal to “Strengthen Maine’s Groundfish Permit Bank” is pending final action along with the rest of the bond proposals for the session.

Chapman was the loss leader, going 0-for-10. One of his bills did pass the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. When the bill came back to the House, the veto was sustained. Chapman was frustrated enough with the session that he quit his party a few weeks before the session ended.

He aimed his discontent at House Democratic leadership, boycotting the budget and heading home before the final votes were taken. In a column for the Penobscot Bay Press, Chapman attributed the failings he identified to “party leadership, specifically the presiding officers … .”

Tagging Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Speaker Sara Gideon with a “poor mix of appointees to the Appropriations Committee” and “serious mistakes in their appointments to the [budget] conference committee,” he predicted “a state shut-down or a repudiation of the voter enacted legislation” of a tax surcharge for education funding. He was right on both counts. Seeing it as a “choice between two unacceptable outcomes,” he did not cast a vote for or against the budget.

Luchini submitted 17 bills. Nine passed, but just three were signed by the governor. Four were enacted without the governor’s signature. One was vetoed, but the veto was overridden. One is awaiting funding on the Appropriations Table. Eight of his bills were killed.

Hubbell, newly assigned to the Appropriations Committee this term, submitted seven bills. Five were killed, but his bond proposal for Maine community colleges is still awaiting action, and his education policy bill was largely incorporated into the budget.

Malaby, the only Republican in the House delegation, had the most bills in the hopper. Of his 16 proposals, only four have been killed so far. Five went to the Appropriations Table for funding; their fate is not yet known. Four were requested to be carried over to next winter, one way to keep a bill alive for further effort. The other three were passed, two without the governor’s signature.

Hancock County’s two senators, both Republicans, exercised restraint with bill proposals. Because their districts are larger than House districts, senators often have many more bills than reps. But Langley and Rosen were judicious. Both chair busy policy committees, Education for Langley and Criminal Justice for Rosen, a good reason not to have too many of their own bills in play.

Four of Langley’s 17 bills are dead, one by gubernatorial veto sustained by the Legislature. Six were enacted and signed by the governor; one became law without the governor’s signature, one survived a veto. Two went to the Appropriations Table, two were requested to be carried over, and his bond proposal is pending further action.

Rosen had 15 proposals. Eight passed and were signed by the governor, giving Rosen the highest “pass” rate. Four are dead, three went to the Appropriations Table.

In addition, Langley and Rosen each submitted 14 legislative sentiments. That puts them in the middle of the pack. These documents, which recognize citizen accomplishments, the long-lived or the long-married, have long been high on the list of legislative actions recommended to be discontinued for efficiency’s sake. The Legislature has flat out refused, finding too much value in the warm feeling sentiments create among constituents.

Hancock County House members submitted very few sentiments. Kumiega had three, Hubbell two, Luchini one, and Chapman and Malaby did not submit any.

There is one more year to go for the 128th Legislature. As senior members, the Hancock County delegation is focusing on committee work and the areas in which they have developed expertise. That is a sensible approach. A legislator cannot do justice to too many bills at a time, and a bill untended is a bill defeated.

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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