FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Augusta, ME) — Our main objective in serving is to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of all Maine citizens.
On March 17, the Maine State Legislature, gave Governor Mills an extraordinary amount of power and authority—perhaps more than has ever been granted to a Maine governor outside of wartime. This was a remarkable measure of trust from one co-equal branch of government to another. In return, our constitutional system of checks and balances warrants, at the very least, regular, in-depth communication from the Governor, concerning the progress of her use of these powers and its benefit to the Maine people.
The legislature provided the Governor with the authority to make executive decisions in a time of crisis, but we did not cede our own responsibility to act on behalf of our constituents. We, too, are inundated with requests from troubled citizens about issues like long-delayed unemployment benefits, for example. In response to our inquiries on their behalf, the Governor has forbidden the Department of Labor from interacting with legislators and staff who have questions from frightened and desperate Mainers looking for answers.
This is not respecting the constitutional role of the legislative branch. It is acting as if the Governor is the sole source of authority in state government.
On Tuesday, Governor Mills released a fourteen-page booklet and a nine-page checklist containing her plan for “Restarting Maine’s Economy.” This was the first any of us had even heard of these documents or their contents. It was released to the public less than 24 hours after she had informed us that the legislature could offer advice on reopening the state, not to the Governor or her staff, but to an online suggestion portal through the Department of Economic and Community Development.
In the most condescending way, she offered an entire branch of government a suggestion box. “It is unlikely that we will be able to incorporate every idea,” she told us, but she would take a look at some point.
Two weeks ago, the state press corps admonished the Governor for holding briefings with state legislators, either by herself or through her cabinet members. Since then, rather than simply making these briefings public—a principle she enforced against the previous administration when she was attorney general—she has not briefed the legislative branch on any of her actions or ideas, much less included us in her development of policies and actions.
While the Governor has shut out the legislature from her planning and implementations, she has also held back important information from the Maine people.
For weeks, the Mills administration refused to release detailed data on the growing outbreaks of COVID-19 in Maine’s nursing homes, citing vague “privacy reasons” not raised in other states. Not until the federal government ordered these facilities to release this information themselves did the Maine CDC begin providing it to the media.
When the Maine press asked for a list of the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 by city and town, something the CDC likely already has listed on a spreadsheet—or if not, it should—they were told it would take six months for the administration to organize and provide this data. It is very difficult to have faith in any governmental administration that cannot or will not reveal such basic information to its citizens or even explain why it will not do so.
As a former attorney general of our state and a past legislator herself, Governor Mills is keenly aware of the role of the various branches of government and the responsibility of maintaining transparency and accountability toward the people.
In response to her decision to ignore the constitutional role of the legislative branch or to act promptly and transparently on behalf of Maine citizens, we will soon decide whether it is necessary for the state legislature to convene in order to begin making state government more responsive and responsible to its citizens. The legislature has the authority to pass a Joint Resolution to end the State of Emergency that Governor Mills has declared, and we need to consider every available option.
Our main objective is always to keep Maine citizens safe and informed. We have faith in Maine people that we all get through this together.
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