AUGUSTA – A Hampden lawmaker on Saturday condemned his colleagues following a highly partisan decision Friday to close debate on a bipartisan bill that would have protected state workers’ paychecks from the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA).
“In my 5 terms, I have never seen so much blatant partisanship by the majority party in a committee,” said Rep. Brian Duprey (R-Hampden).
Duprey made his comments in a letter sent to Sen. John Patrick (D-Rumford) and Rep. Erin Herbig (D), co-chairs of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED) of which Duprey is a member.
Duprey said in the letter that Patrick lied to him prior to Friday’s work session on L.D. 786, a bipartisan proposal introduced by Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst).
“Senator Patrick gave me his word that Rep. Lockman would be allowed to not only offer his amendment, but to be able to make the [Ought To Pass – Amended] motion,” wrote Duprey.
“Two minutes before the work session I was told that there was no way that Rep. Lockman would be allowed to make a motion or speak about his amendment,” he said. “This is the second time I have been given the word of committee chairs and then they have turned right around and screwed me.”
The amendment in question would have stripped aspects of L.D. 786 that union leaders and pro-union Democrats found particularly onerous for MSEA, including stipulations that the union hold annual elections and apply for recertification yearly.
Lockman had negotiated the amendment with Rep. Terry M. Hayes (D-Buckfield), the lone Democratic co-sponsor of his bill.
But according to Duprey, Democrats on LCRED were not interested in debating potential compromises during the work session.
“Fellow Committee members should ALWAYS be given the time and respect of the committee to be able to offer amendments for debate on any bill, tabling motions, reconsiderations, etc. without fear of the majority party using strong arm tactics to stifle debate,” said Duprey.
Duprey said Patrick and Herbig owe Lockman an apology for their overtly partisan attempt to block his bill and that there should be an immediate change of attitude towards Republicans on LCRED.
“We should address this issue so we can move forward in a constructive way,” said Duprey.
Patrick and Herbig’s actions on LCRED effectively killed L.D. 786 – a top priority for union leaders who enjoy big influence over Democrats. Had they allowed the Lockman-Hayes amendment, L.D. 786 would have reversed a 2007 decision to have the state withhold union dues and fees from state workers’ paychecks, even if those workers do not want to belong to the union.
Despite the outcome of Friday’s work session, state workers will continue to fight against the MSEA. Some are proposing a ballot initiative to accomplish what L.D. 786 would have, although the push would be expensive. In Ohio, for example, organized labor spent more than $20 million to repeal labor-law reform legislation two years after it passed.
Lockman said that even if his bill had passed the unions would likely have mounted a similar repeal effort. But the Amherst Republican remains committed to fighting for state workers.
“Sooner or later, justice will prevail,” said Lockman.
By S.E. Robinson
MAINE WIRE Reporter