Monday, July 8, 2013

Monitoring the legislature by Rep. Michael McClellan

The Maine Legislature has completed most of its work as July begins. We will come together one more time on July 9 to deal with remaining items. The last two nights we met in June (26th and 27th) led to late nights in Augusta, finishing close to midnight twice in two days. The Majority leadership appeared to be unorganized as the various legislators were forced at times to sit for hours with no work presented. On the second day in which we began at 11 a.m, we were told to arrive with the intent to work through lunch. (I assumed to completion.) We arrived to begin and within 20 or so minutes went into a break. This happened throughout the day and by 2 p.m. people were beginning to leave given this day had not been originally scheduled. Many left for meetings and work. Needing 101 votes to approve any mandate or defeat a governor's veto the dwindling numbers began to threaten the ability to do anything. Late in the evening a roll call was done and 95 representatives pushed their green button signaling attendance. This resulted in more delays as the majority must have been concerned about offering up bills that would lose due to lack of voters. Even as many of us sat tired from the two-day marathon, there was both irony and humor present in the position the leadership had put themselves in by waiting this late to present work (late by waiting until this date and late in waiting to this hour). Eventually, even though they were able to get six people to return, we ended the night with remaining work pushed to July 9.

I have now been in the majority and minority. My observations this session were that the new majority does not like to share information until they have too. Often, there was little negotiation allowed. The past legislature put many of its important work items upfront, this one waited until the very end. Your taxes are going up, and you likely will not feel like you got any value. Some of our neediest people still won't be covered in healthcare. The new budget, passed overwhelmingly, seems to suggest you don't pay enough taxes and Maine doesn't spend enough of your money. I have thought over the past days that a good bill would be one that created a law that said each of you should spend a day in Augusta monitoring the legislature. If you did, you might choose to get more involved as we spend your money.

I can't close without mentioning two days that to me, say it all. They were the day we discussed stopping all smoking on college campuses and we also discussed legalizing marijuana; and the day we defeated a bill that would have said underage girls needed to involve their parents when getting an abortion (unless the parents were abusive) and the next bill was to stop under 18-year-olds from drinking caffeinated drinks. Someone once said elections have consequences. The beginning of the 126th Maine Legislature seems to have shown that to be true.

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