The Do-Nothing Democrats in Augusta have two months and twenty days remaining before the Legislature must adjourn and still have not taken action on any of the problems facing Mainers. Here’s a review of legislative priorities the Democrats have considered instead.
Selling the Governor’s House: L.D. 858, An Act To Partially Fund Tax Breaks for the Wealthy by Eliminating Certain Gubernatorial Benefits. Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), who failed to attend the public hearing to present her bill, told the Bangor Daily News that she presented it because she thought Republican Gov. Paul R LePage “ought to know what it’s like for many Maine people who struggle to afford health insurance or a place to live.” Gov. Paul R. LePage, who spent a portion of his youth homeless, probably knows a thing or two about struggling.
Stealing the Governor’s Pension: L.D. 490, a resolution that would prevent governors from collecting pensions unless they serve two terms, is seen by many as a clear attack on the current Governor. The Governor poignantly hoisted his Democratic critics with a Tweet from his vacation home in Jamaica: “News Flash from Jamaica: If Democrats have my hospital bill on my desk by Saturday, I will give up my pension. Ya Mon!#mepolitics.”
Attacking Bruce Poliquin and Charlie Summers: L.D. 947, An Act To Ensure the Effectiveness of Constitutional Officers, introduced by Sen. Christopher K. Johnson (D-Lincoln), would prevent sitting Constitutional Officers from seeking federal or statewide office. The bill, which has six co-sponsors, would prohibit Secretaries of State, State Treasurers, and Attorneys General from becoming candidates for a federal office or for Governor and is implicitly intended to prevent candidacies such as those of former Secretary of State Charles E. Summers and former State Treasure Bruce Poliquin.
Attacking Charter Schools: The Democrats have sustained a campaign of wonton attacks – rhetorically and legislatively – against Maine’s public charter schools. The Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Rebecca J. Millet (D-Cumberland), voted to cut funding for Maine’s two operational charter schools less than 48 hours after National Charter School Day. Democrats are also pushing several proposals that would undermine the financial support of charter schools. Outside the Legislature, Democrat Mayor of Portland Michael Brennan is threatening to withhold funding from a Portland-based charter school.
St. Patrick’s Day Drinking at 6AM: Democratic Leadership confronted a most serious crisis in Maine: drinking at 6 o’clock in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day Sunday. LD 216, “An Act To Extend the Hours for the Sale of Liquor on Sunday When St. Patrick’s Day Is on a Sunday,” was sponsored by Rep. Barry Hobbins (D-Saco). The bill to extend drinking hours from 9:00 AM to 6:00 AM initially met a cold reception from Governor LePage and Republicans who were frustrated by Democratic stalling on the governor’s hospital proposal. LePage eventually signed the bill with a smile.
Controlling Teenage Girls: The Democrats, under the auspices of cancer prevention, have introduced a bill to supplant parents as the shepherds of what is good for their children. LD 272, An Act to Reduce Youth Cancer Risk, prevents 16 and 17 year olds for using tanning beds. While, as the Bangor Daily News points out, tanning beds do pose health risks, Democrats have decided that it is the state’s job to tell Maine parents how they ought to raise their children.
Closing Fireworks Shops: Since the law legalizing consumer fireworks went into effect on January 1, 2012, there have been 17 retail fireworks stores opened in Maine, with three more in progress. According to industry estimates, the stores now employ roughly 100 Mainers full time, year round. They are hiring an additional 400-500 seasonal and part time workers. Yet Democrats in the Legislature want to pull the rug out from underneath these workers and business owners. And if you think this is a minor bill that only impacts a few Mainers, guess again. Our neighbor to the North has observed the rapid mutability of our business laws and is taking note.
Raising Taxes, Tolls, and Fees: Democrats animating desire this session may be fairly summarized by the Maine People’s Alliances cultish chant, “Keep Maine Healthy, Tax the Wealthy!” The Majority Party has submitted dozens of bills designed to redistribute wealth from Maine’s dwindling class of “wealthy” individuals. At the same time, however, they have pushed fee and toll increases which come directly from the pockets of Maine’s middle and lower class workers. House Democrats rammed through LD 405, “An Act To Increase Municipal Agent Fees for Licensing and Registration of Motor Vehicles,” with a partisan, 84-52 vote. The bill authorizes a 50 percent fee increase for new motor vehicle licenses or registrations and a 67 percent increase for renewals. This measure was followed by a bill to hike tolls on I-295.
Anti-Business Wage Controls: House Democrats have passed a proposal to increase Maine’s wage controls. The bill, LD 611, is sponsored by Rep. Scott Hamann (D-South Portland) and pushed by the controversial Maine People’s Alliance. If it becomes law, the bill will increase the minimum wage by $1.50—or 17 percent—over three years, bringing it from $7.50 to $9 per hour. The bill would also set the wage control on autopilot, indexing it to inflation each year for the first time in Maine’s history. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce estimates that LD 611 would give Maine the fourth highest minimum wage in the nation by 2016, despite its 42nd-ranked GDP per capita.