NOTE: LWVME follows several bills through the Maine Legislature each session. Members attend public hearings, work sessions and occasionally offer testimony.
By Polly Ward
Helen Hanlon and I attended the work session for the Committee on State & Local Government (SLG) on February 11. We were primarily interested in LD 6, Resolve, To Implement Recommendations of the Government Oversight Committee To Strengthen the Ethics Practices and Procedures for Executive Branch Employees.
The process today was particularly interesting and somewhat unusual. We sat through a long public hearing on naming the State dog and a couple of other bills before the work session convened. Members immediately went into caucus, R’s and D’s separately. When they returned, they moved the first bill on the work session calendar (LD 6) to last. Following the other 3 bills on the work session agenda, they finally addressed LD 6. Beth Ashcroft was there from the Government Oversight Committee. SLG members asked a few questions and then went into caucus again. When they came back, an Ought to Pass (OTP) motion was made. There were 7 votes for the motion, 4 against and 2 members were absent. With one exception and one independent voting for the OTP motion, the votes were strictly along party lines. They are awaiting a fiscal note and have reserved the right to bring the bill back if they have concerns about the fiscal note.
An interesting day but frustrating, too, because who knows what discussions happen behind closed doors. We attend these public hearings and work sessions so we can monitor the process and be involved in legislative decision-making. Closed door caucuses separate legislators from the public and deter parties from working together — inhibiting public dialog and transparent decision-making. But we will continue to attend public hearings and work sessions to shine a light on the process and advocate for issues that fall under our mission.
Public Hearings and Work Sessions are held at the Statehouse in Augusta and are open to the public. Look for anyone wearing a League of Women Voters button and be sure to say hello.