AUGUSTA – On Wednesday, a second proposal from Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon to reconvene the Legislature for a special session in August was denied by Maine Republican lawmakers after a vast majority again refused to participate in the poll. The new poll question was issued after legislative committees finalized nearly all unfinished committee work from the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature with a majority of strong, bipartisan votes last week, clearly outlining the scope of work for the session. Together, Democrats, Republicans and Independents had reported 162 bills out of committee. Of these votes, 74 percent were bipartisan and 48 percent were unanimous.
This failure to vote comes after months of public statements and press events from Republicans urging the Presiding Officers to call the Legislature into session, while also advocating for the roll back of successful public health strategies.
All Democratic, Independent and Tribal members of the Legislature voted in favor of reconvening the Maine Legislature in August at the Augusta Civic Center. The final vote was:
Democrats (55 Yes votes needed):
Republicans (36 Yes votes needed):
0 No Response
64 No Response
0 No Response
0 No Response
Statement from Senate President Troy Jackson:
“Once again, a majority of my Republican colleagues failed to match months of rhetoric with meaningful action. To be honest, I’m absolutely floored. At a time when so many Mainers are struggling, it’s unacceptable that elected officials would refuse the opportunity to provide some relief. In almost any other job, refusing to show up over and over again would be a fireable offense.
“When Republican lawmakers pulled a similar stunt two weeks ago, they provided a long list of excuses for why they wanted to block a special session. Yesterday, I spoke extensively with Senator Dana Dow on the phone about the scope of a possible special session and the poll question. I noted that for months many of his members, himself included, actively participated in committee meetings and voted to advance bills for consideration during a possible special session. So for them to turn around and say that they haven’t been included is disingenuous. For them to say they want to privately pick and choose winners and losers before agreeing to a special session is deeply concerning and disrespectful to all the committee members who put in the work.
“All across the state Maine people and small businesses have risen to the challenge of our times. People have put the health and well-being of their neighbors first. Workers and businesses have adapted to new markets and a new way to work. With bills to ensure Maine veterans get vital services, to rein in prescription drug costs, to address racial inequity, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and protect small businesses from being penalized for receiving federal emergency loans all in limbo, it’s unfortunate that the Legislature couldn’t do the same.”
Statement from Speaker of the House Sara Gideon:
“A vote to reconvene would have provided an opportunity to have a real discussion about the hardships Maine families and small businesses are experiencing and how the Maine Legislature can provide targeted relief in a way that bolsters our economy. Many of us have been vocal about the critical need to address the allocation of CARES Act funding, school readiness and the impact the pandemic is having on our small businesses. But this vote shows that only some of us were serious about taking action on those priorities.
“Mainers across the state are hard at work every day. They’ve adapted to continue their jobs amid a public health crisis. The results of this poll make it abundantly clear that there are 118 members of the Legislature ready to do the same, reconvene and complete the legislative work before us – I proudly stand as one of them. Unfortunately, we are at an impasse, as my Republican colleagues would prefer posturing over policy.”
Earlier this month, all but three legislative Republicans failed to record their vote in a poll put out by the presiding officers regarding a possible special session in August. All Democratic, Independent and Tribal members of the Legislature voted in favor of reconvening the Maine Legislature in August at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Maine Constitution grants the Presiding Officers the power to reconvene the Legislature “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” pursuant Article IV of the Maine Constitution. With that authority, Presiding Officers have the power and responsibility to determine how members are polled and validate the results of that poll.
When lawmakers last called themselves in for a special session in 2018, Speaker Gideon and then-Senate President Mike Thibodeau directed the nonpartisan parliamentarians to record the votes and determine whether there was the required support to reconvene for a special legislative session. Such a vote is a matter of public record, accessible to both members of the press and the public. Speaker Gideon and Senate President Jackson chose to implement the same polling process.
The Maine Legislature had unanimously voted to adjourn sine die March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing number of COVID-19 cases detected in Maine. Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate agreed to carry over all unresolved bills to a special session for consideration.