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Mea Culpa: Democrats recant votes, comments on human trafficking bill

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ben grant

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant

AUGUSTA – Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant apologized on Thursday for remarks he made about Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) and her bill to help victims of human trafficking.

“I made several ill-conceived remarks last week about Representative Volk’s proposed legislation,” Grant said in a prepared statement. “Since that interview, I have looked into the matter further and now understand that the issue of human trafficking does occur in all 50 states, including Maine.”

“I also understand that there are proactive steps that advocacy groups have presented to State Legislatures to ensure that the law deals with this issue aggressively,and also fairly to the victims,” he said. “In light of this, today I issue this public apology to Rep. Volk. I should have done my homework first. I apologize to Rep. Volk and to those working on this important issue.”

On Friday, Grant told Maine Public Broadcasting Network that human trafficking is not an issue in Maine and that Volk only introduced the bill to “soften her edges.”

“This is a Republican party and a conservative legislator who is desperate to try to realign a gender gap that their party faces at the polls, and a representative who needs to kind of soften her hard edges,” he said.

Those comments drew quick condemnation from Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett, who on Tuesday called for Grant to apologize and called his remarks a “shocking display of ignorance.”

“Chairman Grant impugned the motives of Rep. Volk with no evidence, and he owes her an apology,” said Bennett.

“While he’s examining motives, he should consider whether leaders in his party considered wine tasting more of an emergency than human trafficking because they didn’t want a Republican woman to lead the charge on an important women’s issue,” he said.

The office of Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) also issued a semi-apology on Tuesday for rejecting Volk’s bill.

“I certainly support the merits of this bill to help victims rebuild their lives,” Alfond in a prepared statement. “Since our initial vote, Rep. Volk has made a very strong case for the sense of urgency and need for this bill,” he said. “The Legislature has a process for approving, denying, and appealing bills, and Rep. Volk is doing exactly what she should be doing by making the best case she can.”

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Penny Morrell of Concerned Women for America of Maine

Also on Thursday, shortly after Grant issued his apology, two Maine women’s groups held a press conference in the State House’s Hall of Flags to urge Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) to reconsider their decision to kill Volk’s bill.

“We are here today because the Democratic Majority on the Legislative Council voted against a bill to help victims of human trafficking,” said Penny Morrell, director of Concerned Women for America of Maine. “We are urging Senator Alfond and Speaker Eves to reconsider this bill on Nov. 21.”

“I’m glad to learn that Senator Alfond may reconsider his decision and allow Rep. Volk’s bill to move forward in the Maine Legislature,” she said.

 

Bills that Eves, Alfond and Democrats on the Legislative Council did approve include Eves’ bill to expand Medicaid and Alfond’s bill to amend laws governing wine-tastings.

Steve Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter
SERobinson@themainewire.com

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson was the editor of The Maine Wire from 2013 through 2014. A native of Dexter, Maine, Robinson is a graduate of Bowdoin College, and is currently a Producer for The Howie Carr Show in Boston.

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