Legislative Post # 15
IMAGES OF THE LEGISLATURE IN SESSION, APRIL 18, 2018
The House Opening the Session.
I wasn't allowed on the floor of the house to get close ups.
At Ease in the Senate Session, Senator Jackson
Calvin Hall with Senator Carpenter, at Ease
I was tempted to write FINAL OBSERVATIONS in the title line of this post, but after watching the last late-night sessions of the House and Senate, I changed my mind. They did adjourn, unless or until they come back for a special 1-day session. By the time you read this, you likely know about the confused, confusing, and contentious adjournment of the 2018 128th session of the legislature: more than 120 bills remaining in limbo with no decisions made. For 4 days, I have watched several times the on-line Senate and House sessions of April 18, the day of adjournment. I researched articles in the major media.
And I watched the video of the press conference with the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. Democrats complained about the actions of a group of Republicans in the House who were obstructing efforts to finish the work with filibustering, with stalling in important negotiations needed to finish the work. and with refusing to extend the session so the work could get done.
House Speaker Sarah Gideon told WABI TV, "one group of people in the Legislature continues to obstruct the bipartisan majority in both chambers who are intent on getting back to work and doing the business our constituents sent us here to accomplish. Ensuring our businesses and hardworking Mainers are treated fairly by our tax code, making health insurance available to 70,000 people, combating the devastating opioid epidemic in our state - these are the serious issues that demand serious debate.”
In a radio address, Senate minority leader Troy Jackson said the move to extend the session "was not an issue of partisanship – the vote was unanimous in the Senate." "When it comes to minimum wage, ranked-choice voting, marijuana legalization, and Medicaid expansion, Maine people have spoken loud and clear. We aren’t going to turn our backs on Maine people."
I searched for a press conference with the Republican leaders and haven't yet found it, so I visited the Facebook Page of the Aroostook Republicans. There I found Republicans blaming the Democrats for obstructing efforts to finish the work by tabling bills and taking long recesses. A link there to
the Maine Wire has this to say: "The House was at ease for lunch at 12:30 p.m. and was set to reconvene at 3 p.m. Session did not resume until 4:52 p.m. Despite calls by Democrats to extend session because they had important work to do, the House was at ease again last night for nearly three hours – from 6:52 p.m. to 9:46 p.m. – so legislators could eat pizza. Combined, the House wasted at least seven hours yesterday when it could have been running bills with bipartisan support."
I, too, was wondering what was going on during those long recesses, so I asked my Senator. He replied, "There is always a lot of 'dead' times toward the end of the session. That's when leadership and the Appropriations Committee are putting together the spending/tax package."
Bills that need funding may need to be tabled until bipartisan agreement is reached about how to fund them. This explanation is confirmed in the Maine Wire. "Legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle had been working over the past week to strike a deal on issues such as tax conformity, Medicaid expansion and pay increases for direct service workers, however no deal was reached by adjournment."
Leaders are working during those long recesses, not just eating pizza. Bills needing funding necessarily get tabled until funding issues are settled, and funding doesn't get settled unless or until negotiated agreement is reached. Other bills not requiring funding may also get caught up in time- consuming negotiations and get tabled while negotiations occur outside of scheduled session time where votes are taken, both in committee and in Chamber sessions. The Maine Wire does not make that connection, but Ken Fredette, the minority leader in the House understands it because he is involved in those leadership negotiations. And it was him and his minority caucus who succeeded in delaying progress by making new demands after agreement was reached. I think that is called "refusing to negotiate in good faith."
So I have gained a new respect for the difficulty of legislating in this political climate and system. As I leave Augusta to go home, I salute the many hard working, conscientious, and sincere legislators I witnessed doing the peoples' business. A hearty THANK YOU for your service and endurance.