AUGUSTA – Maine Republican Party Chairman Richard M. Cebra on Monday called on Senate President Justin L. Alfond (D-Cumberland) to convene the Conduct and Ethics Committee in response to a growing pattern of irregularities and disruptions during State House hearings.
“The Legislature currently has some very serious issues to consider that will have a profound impact on all of our citizens. Maine taxpayers deserve to have their elected representatives act in a professional manner,” Cebra said in a statement.
According to Republicans, several legislative committees have been plagued with lapses in proper parliamentary procedure and egregious breaches of decorum.
Sen. Gary Plummer (R-Windham), ranking Republican on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said his committee frequently deviates from established procedural rules at the behest of the Majority Democrats.
One instance occurred, according to the GOP, when a Maine State Chamber of Commerce official was brought in to testify at a work session: “During questioning, the Committee Chair, Senator Stan Gerzofsky (D-Cumberland) abruptly ruled that time had expired, prompting Representative Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) to state he would likely have more questions for the witness. Senator Gerzofsky replied, ‘Not in this work session.'”
Plummer said Gerzofsky has frequently shouted down and demeaned other committee members, and even the Commissioner of Public Safety, in order to advance his personal and ideological agendas.
“There is a fine line between leadership and authoritarianism and sometimes it seems as though that line has been crossed,” Plummer said.
Cebra is also calling on Alfond to investigate an incident at last Wednesday’s public hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee. In that case, two Democratic legislators – Sens. Margaret Craven (D-Lewiston) and Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville) – demonstrated their serious commitment to the Maine people by wearing fake clown noses.
“When this happened, I was in disbelief,” said Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford). “I told them they were making a mockery of the public hearing. One individual who was testifying decided to stop because they knew they weren’t being taken seriously,” he said.
“People who come to these committee hearings to testify need to be treated with respect, and we failed to measure up to that standard due to the behavior of these two senators,” he said.
No one at the Democratic Senate office was available to comment on this story.
Although many political observers believe Alfond is unlikely to allow officials from his own party to be investigated for ethics violations, House Speaker Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick) has demonstrated a commitment to upholding the rules of decorum.
For example, during last week’s House vote on a bill from Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst), Eves delivered a note to Lockman condemning his statement that the Maine State Employees Association is a “corrupt money laundering scheme.”
In case you’re keeping track, using the word “corrupt” earns you censure from the Democratic Party, while wearing a clown nose earns giggling applause.