Divided Maine Legislature fails to find consensus on LePage

Maine Governor Paul LePage’s now viral message on Aug. 26 to Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), left via a short voicemail with the instruction to “share it [the message] widely” spurred on a fresh wave of conflict in the Maine State legislature this week.

The governor, who has been the subject of frequent calls for impeachment by Maine Democrats, faced renewed efforts by numerous legislators endeavoring to either encourage or force him to leave his post. A petition to impeach the governor circulated on social media, while even Republican lawmaker Sen. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) expressed concern about the governor’s behavior.

“I share your deep concerns regarding the governor’s behavior. What I do not know is whether it is due to substance abuse, mental illness or just ignorance. I certainly hope that his family and small circle of close staff are considering how best to address the issue. Things definitely appear to be out of control,” Volk said in a Facebook post following the incident.

The relationship between Maine’s two-term governor and Democrats has been tumultuous—with Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) going so far as to sue the governor in 2015 — a case that was ultimately dismissed earlier this year.

The governor has sharply divided an already tense legislature with his casual tone and controversial talking points, some finding them refreshing and others finding them both insensitive and brash. A similar divide exists among Maine citizens, who reelected LePage in 2014 without a majority of the popular vote.

For an instant, quibbling between the two sides seemed avoidable — with Majority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) and Speaker Mark Eves in talks for a tentative truce that would address the situation without typical partisan gridlock.

But differences in each side’s perspective on what action should be taken against the governor—with Republicans arguing for censure and Democrats for impeachment — ultimately forced the deal to dissolve before any consensus could be reached.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) was particularly alarmed by what he believes is Eves’ use of a measure beyond his authority. Eves conducted an email poll about the reconvening of a Special Session of the Legislature on LePage’s behavior this past week.

“Pursuant to Article IV, Part Third, Section 1 of the Constitution of Maine, it is my understanding that the authority to reconvene a special session requires a polling of the full Legislature, meaning both the House and Senate, with, presumably, the same question,” Fredette said in a letter to the Speaker on Sept. 2. Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond (D-Portland) were also copied on the letter.

“It is my understanding no such agreement has been made, that no such polling of the Senate is taking place at this time and that your unilateral action on conducting this poll question is beyond your authority under the Constitution of the State of Maine and further rules and precedent in the Maine House of Representatives,” he finished.

Though initially appearing open to resignation, LePage has since indicated he has no such intention. The governor has since apologized to the people of Maine for his comments.

 

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