Tumultuous election barely alters legislative landscape

michele-column-sigAfter an overwhelming election season filled with commercials, mailers, door visits, debate forums and record spending by candidates and PACs, the political landscape in Maine today is essentially what it was prior to the election. The presidential election, along with five somewhat controversial statewide ballot questions and one bond package definitely energized turnout with Maine again leading in voter participation. (Maine turnout was 69.6 percent compared to 58.6 percent nationwide, according to the U.S. Elections Project.)

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree easily won reelection for her District 1 seat. District 2 saw record spending with the outcome secured once again by Congressman Bruce Poliquin.

All members of the Maine Legislature were up for re-election. During his last two years in the Blaine House, Gov. Paul LePage will again be working with a Senate led by Republicans and a House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats. 

Leadership for both houses has been selected, but must be confirmed with a vote of a Joint Convention of the House and Senate members after they are sworn in December 7th. It is anticipated that the speaker of the House will be Sara Gideon working with Democratic Majority Leader Erin Herbig and Assistant Leader Jared Golden, while Republican Minority Leader Ken Fredette will return as will Assistant Leader Ellie Espling. The Senate president will again be Mike Thibodeau and Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing also are returning. Senate Democrats elected new leadership with Troy Jackson as Minority Leader and Assistant Leader Nathan Libby.

Constitutional officers — Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Auditor — also will be selected by a majority of the Legislature at the Joint Convention on December 7th.

It will be some time before we see bill titles and committee assignments for the upcoming session, but Gov. LePage has already indicated his agenda is to pursue legislation reducing taxes (including property taxes), lowering energy prices and improving the state’s education system. What remains to be seen is if he attempts to repeal or thwart any of the successful ballot questions that he strongly opposed, including marijuana legalization, increase of minimum wage and the income tax rate hike for incomes over $200,000.

It is safe to predict that the upcoming session in Augusta will have elements of controversy and political intrigue, which we will be talking about soon.