Joint Press Release from Senate & House Republicans

Legislative Republicans do not support an open-ended session that fails to focus on amending the Governor’s emergency powers and addressing coronavirus related legislation

STATEHOUSE/REMOTELY – Closely following the provisions in Maine’s Constitution, Legislative Republicans conducted a poll of their membership in response to calls from the Presiding Officers to reconvene a special session of the Legislature.

Legislative Republicans have repeatedly and publicly called for a return of the Legislature in order to re-establish the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. They have also asked for an agreement on the scope of work to be completed to address emergency pieces of legislation directly related to COVID19, such as the failures with the Bureau of Unemployment, and also oversee the spending of the CARES Act money.

After Democrat leaders refused to discuss limiting the agenda and scope of a legislative session, they called for a vote. Legislative Republican leaders polled the members of their caucuses and recorded more than 60 legislators against returning at this time without an agreement to amend the powers of the Executive during a period of emergency and other scope of work. That total far exceeds the total number of Republican votes needed to call the Legislature back in session.

There is currently a Declaration of Civil Emergency in place in our state. We have an obligation to a act accordingly and in the same way that Maine citizens have been forced to comply with restrictions.

“Conducting a lengthy special session without the presence of the public and their advocates ,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow, “would unnecessarily exclude Maine citizens from a fundamentally democratic process. The more work we take on in such a special session, the more business would be conducted without appropriate public input and participation.”

“Two months ago, we called to amend the Executive’s emergency powers to re-establish our co-equal branches of government,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “Without an agreement to address this issue and focus our scope of work specifically on the impact an ongoing state of emergency is having on Mainers, House Republicans will not support a special session. We cannot say, on the one hand, that groups over 50 can’t safely meet, and then convene 186 members of the Legislature to take up non-emergency issues.”

“All across Maine, businesses, organizations and individuals have sacrificed weddings, funerals, careers and lifetimes of investment in building a future for their families,” said Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake, “all because these things are not essential in a time of statewide emergency. It would be irresponsible for the Legislature to ignore the same restrictions to meet and deliberate beyond what is absolutely necessary.”

We believe, and have stated repeatedly, that the emergency nature of the COVID-19 outbreak warrants a brief special session to take important actions that should not be delayed further. At the same time, the danger of the outbreak necessitates strict safety measures including rigid time limits on any mass gathering.

Refusing to limit the session in the same way that Maine people have been limited, violates the principle of restricting activities to those that are essential in the name of safety. Now is not the time to spend days or weeks dealing with bills that can absolutely wait until the next regular meeting of the Legislature in January.

Legislative Republicans continue to be clear about their position. We need a brief, safe, meeting of the Legislature to address a small number of critical “emergency” issues that should not wait until the next regular meeting of the Legislature in January.

“In the midst of a civil emergency, we are not going to consider some 400 bills, totaling close to $1 billion in new spending, when Mainers are struggling to fight a pandemic,” said Assistant House Republican Leader Harold ‘Trey’ Stewart. “In light of the ban on large gatherings, the Legislature should only convene for the limited purpose of dealing with emergency items.”

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION GOVERNING PROCESS:

Pursuant to Article IV, Part Third, Section 1, the Legislature may convene at such other times on the call of the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, with the consent of a majority of the Members of the Legislature of each political party, all Members of the Legislature having been first polled.

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