Senator Dana Dow
I am Senator Dana Dow of Waldoboro, Republican Leader in the Maine State Senate
One of the most important principles of a democratic government is that it must follow the same rules it requires its citizens to follow. “Do as I say and not as I do” is not a good rule.
That is why it is so disappointing that Democratic leaders of the state legislature are calling for a prolonged special session to address any and all things that they care to bring before the House and Senate.
Since March, when the Legislature adjourned, Maine has been under a “State of Civil Emergency” declared by Governor Mills in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes many restrictions on businesses, organizations and individuals that have had a disastrous and profound effect on the lives of Mainers, many of whom have lost their livelihoods, their lifetime investments, and their plan for retirement, all in the name of emergency and the danger of the coronavirus.
In proposing that the Legislature now return to Augusta for a long, drawn out special session that would deal with hundreds of bills that have no connection to any emergency, Democratic leaders are saying to Mainers, “We know you have suffered under these restrictions, but we are not going to follow the same rules.”
The safety of Legislators, staff, and their families must also be a large priority. The longer the session lasts, the greater the health risk is to those involved. This is why Governor Mills has restricted large gatherings to no more than 50 people, a decision that has done great harm to the wedding industry in Maine, among others.
In a statement, Senator Jackson claims, “The latest COVID-19 data indicates that we have a window to reconvene in a way that doesn’t jeopardize staff or communities all across the state.”
He says he knows what the status of COVID-19 activity will be next month when he proposes the legislature should meet. If he has medical information from the future that is not available to Governor Mills or the Maine CDC, it is important that he share it with the experts.
Will this window last the entire month of August?
Should the governor lift her 50-person limit on gatherings based on this new information?
Who could have imagined back in March that four months later we would still have shuttered businesses, some never to open again, hardworking Mainers who have gone without a dime of unemployment benefits for nearly 16 weeks and plans for the next school year to open are still undecided?
Of course Senate Republicans want to go back into session! President Jackson knows that – or at least I have personally told him numerous times.
We have been advocating to go back in for quite some time. What the Senate President is not telling you, however, is that Republicans have made it perfectly clear to him and Speaker Gideon that the priority right now is COVID-related legislation.
Troy Jackson is saying we don’t want to work. That’s just laughable.
My colleagues – I dare say all members of the legislature – receive calls every day from constituents who cannot get through to someone at the unemployment bureau. It’s tragic what this epic failure has done to Maine’s hardworking individuals and families.
Maybe President Jackson should focus his energy on helping constituents get the benefits they deserve and fix the disastrous unemployment debacle rather than taking cheap shots to try to gain a political edge.
In March none of us could have pictured this scenario as we see it right now. Back then leaders agreed to a quick wrap-up of the session because of COVID-19. But now, four months later, is not the time to go back in to deliberate turkey hunting, spaceports, or electric public school buses.
Facing a budget shortfall as high as $800 million, Republicans are not going to be trapped into going into session with an open checkbook.
Again, I am Senator Dana Dow of Waldoboro. Have a safe and happy weekend.