By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
This week continued to be the typical roller coaster of legislative activity. After bills are completed in committee, then proceed to the House and Senate, but the timing of the floor debate depends on the whether the parties have caucused on the bill to attempt reaching a unified consensus or if the necessary votes are in position to ensure greater success. It is a time that drives me crazy, but our lobbyist Michele MacLean seems to thrive on the chaos of determining when a bill will reach the floor.
This week we went into triple sessions — morning, afternoon and night! — in order to deal with the backlog of work. The budget was center stage this week and it passed in the House and the Senate last night. The final votes, 102-43 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, were just over the two-thirds majority needed to make the budget effective by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. It remains to be seen if the governor will sign or veto the budget. He had 10 days (not including Sundays) to sign or veto it.
The Senate vote on the merger bill (LD 837) was reportedly linked to passage of the budget, so the merger was approved under the hammer (without debate) just before the budget bill was approved. The environmental community did not protest too loudly after the first House vote last week (93-49) convincingly demonstrated support of the merger.
LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, finally came up Wednesday night. This, of course, was an important issue to Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), and Democrats honored his desire to wield his might in pushing through a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional. However, I was impressed with the lone dissenting voice of Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) who stood up and spoke against the measure.
“Cleveland did a fantastic job on the floor debating the bill,” Michele said. “He was very thoughtful in his approach. He clearly had spent an enormous amount of time researching this bill and the first version from the 124th Legislature. He opposed the bill because of its constitutional problems and felt compelled to speak about it on the floor.”
Cleveland’s commanding performance in chairing the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee has been equally impressive and I would encourage the membership to drop him a note and express thanks for his integrity and support. Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) was also strong in his opposition to the bill, and Sen. Richard Woodbury (I-Cumberland) stayed out of the party politics and voted against the measure based on facts. Never the less, the bill was passed with an 18-17 vote. In the House, there was only a brief debate and the bill was approved 87-57. But we have ensured a veto-proof vote and will petition Gov. Le Page to veto this bill.
LD 1302, the mining bill was approved in the House, but defeated in the Senate (as reported in last week’s newsletter). There have been rumblings of a compromise position being developed by Sen. Tom Saviello (D-Franklin) and Sen. James Boyle (D-Cumberland). We will wait to see if this compromise surfaces, but I believe the vote should stand and we will deal with modifications during the rule-making phase of the mining discussion next year.
Legislative leaders have indicated it is their intention to meet the statutory adjournment deadline of Wednesday, June 19. So the end of the session is in sight (and we’ll provide a wrap-up of all the legislation that affects MFPC members), but we can’t leave the State House until the last legislator goes home!