Friday’s work session on LD 1103 — Sen. Troy Jackson’s latest attempt to tie bonded labor, Tree Growth taxation and fire protection – lasted just two minutes and 49 seconds, but there was one memorable moment and it was not the vote.
Seven Democrats (see below) voted for the amended version, but Sen. John J. Cleveland, D-Androscoggin, broke ranks and voted against the bill, along with Rep. Bryan Duprey, R-Hampden, and Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst). Three other members of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee — Sen. Andre E. Cushing III, R-Penobscot, Rep. Amy Fern Volk, R-Scarborough, and Rep. Ellen A. Winchenbach, R-Waldoboro — did not vote Friday. The bill is a word-for-word resurrection of LD 314 from the 125th Legislature.
“It’s a sad day when Maine legislators approve a bill that’s clearly unconstitutional and discriminatory,” said Executive Director Patrick Strauch. “But the Democrats on the committee allowed Troy Jackson to use this issue as a political football.”
In MFPC’s initial testimony, when the bill was simply a concept, we opposed LD 1103 it because it is bad policy, unfair, unconstitutional, unnecessary and inappropriately connects fire protection, Tree Growth and bonded labor. When Sen. Jackson submitted LD 314 as an amendment, Executive Director Patrick Strauch requested an opinion on its constitutionality from Pierce Atwood.
“Rarely will a bill come before you that would violate three clauses of the U.S. Constitution: the Foreign Commerce Clause, the Supremacy Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. LD 1103 would do just that,” Strauch wrote in his letter. “It’s unlikely the law proposed would survive federal scrutiny, but even more importantly we don’t believe Maine legislators or citizens support discrimination or bills that attempt to legalize it.
Jonathan Block and Charles Einsiedler of Pierce Atwood pointed that LD 1103 discriminates against foreign commerce. It encourages landowners “to violate federal anti-discrimination laws.” It requires landowners to discriminate against bond workers — or face additional taxes — “simply because they are Canadian.”
Rep. Duprey clearly had considered carefully Strauch’s letter and the Pierce Atwood letter carefully. “I’ll be voting against the pending motion strictly because I believe the bill you’re passing violates the Federal commerce clause, the supremacy clause and the equal protection clause of the United States constitution,” Duprey told fellow committee members.
Then came the most interesting moment of the work session, when House chair Erin D. Herbig, D-Belfast, asked Henry Fouts, the committee’s policy analyst if he had anything to add.
“I was just going to flag that there are some potential legal issues if this bill were to pass,” Fouts said, “and I recommend looking into those before making a decision.”
Rep. Herbig responded, “OK. Could you perhaps go through that review, do that now?”
But Senate chair John L. Patrick, D-Oxford, never gave Fouts a chance to answer. Patrick jumped in to say, “This bill has been brought to the Legislature with supposedly problematic issues numerous times and was actually passed a couple of time and I think we can bring up the issue when we look at the amendment review. And we can also look at if there are problems amending it from the floor.”
Actually, although LD314 got through the House and Senate, Gov. Baldacci refused to sign it.
Despite Fouts’ recommendation, the vote was quickly called. Patrick, Herbig, Rep. Paul E. Gilbert, D-Jay, Rep. Scott M. Hamann, D-South Portland, Rep. James J. Campbell, Sr., I-Newfield, Rep. Andrew T. Mason, D-Topsham, and Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford voted ought to pass.