Special Session Diary: Are Your Representatives Hard at Work?

6/21/18, by Rep. Beth O’Connor,

Editor’s Note:
Maine First Media asked Rep. Beth O’Connor if she would be willing to keep a diary of sorts, detailing the business of this week’s special session. The idea was to give you a little insight as to how Speaker of the Swamp Sara Gideon manages time, and perhaps shed some light on why the Gideon/Thibodeau Legislature failed to complete its work on time. As always, Rep. O’Connor went above and beyond. 

 

June 19th, calling to order the Special Session at the Coliseum on the Kennebec:

So far so good. The bells begin ringing at 9:55 am, and we actually start at 10:10.

The prayer is said, the National Anthem is played and the Pledge of Allegiance is recited.

On to a little pomp and circumstances with a merry band of legislators selected to call on the Governor to get the A-OK to start the special session.

We then went on to hear and vote on LD 925 a unanimous report which was a conglomeration of spending issues folded into one big old happy package. It was my opinion — and shared by Rep. Larry Lockman — not worthy of a unanimous vote.

Rep. Lockman offered an amendment to strip $10-Million of the Government’s IT department’s $120-Million in funding and instead allocate the spending to help lower our waitlist for our truly disabled citizens. Democrat Rep. Andrew Gattine jumped up to his highest stature and called to indefinitely postpone this amendment and all accompanying papers. We then voted on Rep. Gattine’s motion. It was amazing to watch as all the House Democrats and a few of the Republicans voted AGAINST getting more of Maine’s elderly and disabled population off the notorious waitlists for medical care.

I decided to offer another option by submitting an amendment to can the Small Business Advocate and associated duties in the Secretary of States office and reallocate that money to assist the truly disabled and decrease the waiting list for services. Once again, Leftist Rep. Gattine moved to indefinitely postpone the amendment and all accompanying papers. Much to my dismay, the disabled — who so many proclaim to want to help — will continue to be on waitlists for services. Again, Democrats voted against reducing the size of the waitlist.

We voted on a couple of other innocuous bills, and after a whopping two-hours, we broke at noon for lunch.

Unfortunately, I had to leave to take my son to the airport and then head straight into work in the market sector. However, the day continued at this snail’s pace with a complete lack of productivity. The House Democrats did pass funding for staff to expand medical welfare for the young and healthy and sent it to the Senate.

June 20th, Day 2 of the Special Session at the Swamp:

The bells don’t start ringing until about 10:20 am. We start with the usual prayer and opening ceremonies. At 10:30 am, I am tempted to take bets on how late we will start tomorrow.

First bill up is the Governor’s bill 1912. The bill would stop campaign fundraising at poll locations. On Primary Day last week, there was outrage across the state as privately funded candidates were limited in what they could say to voters, while candidates taking Welfare for Politicians were actively gathering $5 donations to qualify for more government handouts. Low and behold, Democrat Rep. and State Senate candidate, Erin Herbig moves to table the bill until “later in today’s session. The shenanigans begin (the bill would go on to be killed by Democrats by only three votes).

Next up an “emergency bill” to name a bridge goes under the hammer. I am glad there was no roll call, as I don’t think naming bridges is an emergency and would have ultimately had to vote no!

Next comes 1884 a Red Flag bill that would allow courts to steal guns away from Mainers. Amendment A, the majority report, is heavily defeated. So now they’re moving another crappy amendment that won’t amount to a hill of beans. But it feels good, so this passes initially 78-60 — I smell a veto in the air!

Maine loves medical marijuana — or so it would appear as the fix for the laws regarding it passes unanimously…a shining spot in the morning thus far.

11:30 am, so far so good, we’ve actually had a few votes this morning, but we are now playing hurry-up-and-wait for supplements from the Senate. Oh wait, 11:33 am, and we are temporarily recessed for “15 minutes,” I guess I spoke too soon. Here we are just returning again at 12:20 pm, that was a long “15 minutes.”And now just 10-minutes later we are breaking again at 12:30 pm.

We broke for lunch and were due back at 3:00. However, bells are still ringing at 3:40 and finally at 3:43 we are off to the races. It appears as though the Senate got busy and we do have a handful of supplements. We did work for about ten minutes, and we are now on break again playing the hurry-up-and-wait game. Remarkable….(cue the Little Rascals).

The downtime wasn’t all bad I got to pose for pictures with the notorious Rep. Lockman with a gavel in my hand.

Alrighty then. We were supposed to start back at 7:00 pm but it appears the Senate is still “hard at work.” Hopefully, they will soon be passing some paper back to us to vote on since it is now 8:55 pm. And you imagine if you showed up for work almost two hours late? As we wait, the excitement for the night is centered around one Representative who is trying to write tomorrow’s prayer. Several other lawmakers are conveying their two cents — I assure you, it will take more than a prayer to get some expediency in this process.

During the break, we’re hearing rumors, Speaker of the Swamp, Rep. Sara Gideon is holding the Tax Conformity bill and Transportation Bonds ransom. The Speaker and the rest of Democrat “leadership” are using tax conformity as leverage to get votes to add more money to the Welfare for Politicians pot. Democrats in both bodies want the Candidate Welfare, and we’re hearing Republican Senators also want. As Rep. Lockman says, Candidate Welfare (or so-called Clean Elections money) is the crack-cocaine of swamp creature politicians in Augusta.

I have decided that legislative time would never fly in the real world! It’s almost 10:00 pm and bells are finally ringing. Here we go! Two bills coming forward, one LD 1729 passes with a unanimous roll call — that bill is a whole other story of how the vote came to be, and like sausage, it isn’t pretty being made.

The next vote is tabled, and now they’re sending us home around 10:10 pm. That’s a 12-hour day paid for courtesy of you, the Maine taxpayers.

On the bright side, I finally figured out that Rep. Lockman is a firm believer that creating chaos will be fun. I believe he may have led me astray! But tomorrow is another day — perhaps day three of the supposed three-day extra special session will be more productive.

 

Rep. Beth O’Connor is a three-term Republican member of the Maine State House. She Represents Maine’s 5th district encompassing Berwick and part of North Berwick. Rep. O’Connor serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.


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