Paul LePage Refuses to Swear In Senator-Elect Susan Deschambault
On Tuesday, March 29, a special election was held to elect a new senator for District 32, which includes Biddeford, Kennebunkport, Arundel, Dayton, Lyman, and Alfred. The election was held to fill the seat vacated by former Democratic Senator David Dutremble, who resigned earlier this year for personal reasons. Democrat Susan Deschambault of Biddeford defeated her Republican opponent, Stephen Martin of Biddeford, 57% to 41% to earn this seat. On Friday, Deschambault and her family arrived at the State House for her swearing-in but Governor Paul LePage refused to go through with the ceremony. As a basis for his refusal, the Governor cited the rejection by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on Thursday, March 31 of his nominee to the Unemployment Insurance Commission. By law, the Governor has five business days to certify the results of an election by a swearing-in ceremony. Once she is sworn in, Deschambault will serve the remainder of Dutremble's term, and the Senate's party composition will remain at 20 Republicans and 15 Democrats. Deschambault may face former legislator Joanne Twomey as a primary opponent when she runs again for a full two-year term.
As End of Session Approaches, Stage Set for Negotiations between the Parties
With three weeks remaining until the statutory adjournment date, Democrats and Republicans are outlining their top priorities for the remainder of the session. While both parties remain focused on trying to stop Maine's opiate and drug addiction crisis, more partisan issues are starting to surface. This past week, Appropriations Committee Democrats outlined some key spending priorities. The Republicans responded that they would block that spending unless the Democrats support a minimum wage proposal that would appear on the November ballot as a competing measure to the minimum wage ballot proposal by citizen-initiated petition. These discussions have set the stage for potential negotiations between the GOP, the Democrats, and the LePage administration in the final weeks of the Legislature.
Bill to Allow Casino in Southern Maine Fails in Legislature
A bill that would have allowed a resort-style casino in Southern Maine was defeated by the House and Senate over the last two weeks. The bill, LD 1280, which was introduced last session and carried over to this session, aimed to establish a competitive bidding process for the right to build a casino in either Cumberland or York counties, subject to voter approval at the county level. Last week, the House voted 83-61 to defeat the proposal, and this week it failed in the Senate 18-16. Governor LePage has also spoken in opposition to the legislation, meaning that even if the bill could be saved at the legislative level, it would likely face a veto from the Governor's office.
LePage Proposes to Increase Salary for Governor and Legislators but Reduce Overall Number of Legislators
Governor LePage introduced legislation this week that would increase the salary for Maine's governor, increase the salary of legislators, and reduce the overall size of the Legislature. The bill proposes to increase the Governor's annual salary, which is currently $70,000 (the lowest in the country), to $150,000 effective in 2019, the year after Governor LePage leaves office. The bill would also increase the salaries of Maine's legislators by 25%, but only if the Legislature agrees, in a separate resolution, to a constitutional amendment that would reduce the number of legislators from 35 to 25 in the Senate and 151 to 100 in the House of Representatives. The constitutional amendment would also require approval by Maine's voters. With the Legislature moving into double and maybe triple sessions five days a week to complete the business before it, the Governor's proposals may face an uphill battle to receive the attention they warrant.